Every year FanGraphs produces MLB-wide positional rankings, with one of their incredibly talented and insightful writers giving analysis on the state of each team's positional situation. It is interesting, somewhat fluffy, and for those more partisan among us, it can be... infuriating.
Perhaps that's too strong a word, but it can bug a superfan. As a pseudo-impartial writer, I try to avoid this. But damn it, first base is going to be excellent for the Cleveland Indians this year.
FanGraphs utilizes its Steamer projection system in these overviews as well, and as with most projection systems, it is somewhat conservative in nature. This flies in the face of everything I believe, as the dual mentalities of undying optimism and reckless enthusiasm make me assume excellence every season out of players. Not just Indians players you understand, all players. Shoot, I figure Javier Baez is going to figure out how to not swing at all the sliders all the time, and hit like .280 with 25 home runs and assume the superstar stature that his public reputation suggests after his feats in the postseason. So I'm obviously going to naturally come out in opposition to pretty much any projection system.
Eno Sarris, generally fantastic writer and crafter of the first base power rankings, actually agrees with my sentiment, at least in part. According to Steamer, Edwin Encarnacion is "only" going to hit 30 home runs this year, and Santana is going to regress quite a bit from his career year. We both think this a bit wrong. Edwin averaged 38 dingers per season the last four, so even with going from a fly ball haven to a comparative offensive suppressor in Progressive Field you’d think he’d hover in the 35-ish range. One could say he's also going to get about 18 games a piece against the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, plus the Kansas City Royals could be easy pickings if Ian Kennedy doesn't perform and most of the other retreads they signed end up stinking.
As much as I don't like people ragging on the AL Central for being a subpar division because I think they're wrong, lately they're probably not that far off the mark. There’s a lot of bad pitching there, plus at least one park that hands over home runs like delicious candy. As for Santana, he’s fully healthy and was just getting started last year. He’s shown power in the past, hitting 27 home runs twice. At 29 years old he’s set to match the career-best in everything he did in 2016. Sometimes projections can seem silly.
The Indians ended up seventh on the rankings. This is slightly flustering. Obviously top-10 is nice, and after a while you're just splitting hairs, but that's exactly what the offseason is here for. Right above the Indians on the FanGraphs rankings are the San Francisco Giants, headlined by Brandon Belt. I like Belt well enough and wrote a few years ago that getting him out of San Francisco would be a great move for the Tribe. But Sarris even says the Indians have the best backup first baseman in the majors. As good as Buster Posey is, his value comes in large part part from his being a dazzling catcher who can hit. Last year Santana logged a 133 wRC+, Edwin a 135, just three points behind Belt at 138. Posey was at 116. If he were a first baseman he'd be merely pretty good. A bit of a Joe Mauer syndrome of sorts. To me, it seems like if you have Carlos Santana backed up by the best power hitter in the American League, that needs count for something. It's first base. Belt's defensive capabilities can't be that overwhelming compared to Santanacion even if he is a smidge better offensively.
I also think between the two of them they rate higher than Miguel Cabrera and Andrew Romine who came in fourth. But even typing that means Miggy will be his usual immense self this year.
Maybe I'm putting too much stock in unquantifiable things, like contract years and whatnot. Maybe last year was the best we'll ever see or could possibly expect out of Santana. But I do think he could do a 3.5 to 4 win season, which would move Santana to fourth or fifth by himself. There is a shot for glory and a boat load of money for him, and at least the first thing for Encarnacion.
I hate power rankings because they just exist to rile up, but dammit I'm riled.
Outside of a team that could have either Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant at first, it's hard for me to get over placing them behind anyone. Except the aforementioned Miggy. Or Votto. Or Freddie Freeman I guess. And Paul Goldschmidt. So I got to 5th. That's fine with me.