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2015 in the NL West: First base

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How do the teams in the National League West stack up against each other at each position on the diamond? Let's start with the good news...

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I'm using the projected numbers from Fangraphs at each position to determine the rankings.

1. Diamondbacks: 5.5 WAR (#1 overall)

Everyday starter: Paul Goldschmidt (5.4)
Backup: Mark Trumbo (0.0)

The Diamondbacks are not just projected to have the best first-base in the NL West, they're projected to have the best in the entire league. No, scratch that: the entire major-leagues, with the next best being the Tigers' combo of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, who are expected to be worth a total of 5.1 WAR. Of course, as far as we're concerned, it's all about the Goldies. Jordan Pacheco is another possible back-up, but given the likely glut of potential outfielders, and Trumbo's defensive indifference, we might as well use him at first. Albeit only for the game a month Goldschmidt can be pried out of the line-up, and GDTs become particularly sullen.

2. Giants: 3.9 WAR (#5)

Everyday starter: Brandon Belt (3.6)
Backup: Travis Ishikawa (0.0) + Buster Posey (0.2)

Trailing well behind in the "best 1B in the division" contest, we find a player nicknamed "Baby Giraffe". This is such an embarrassment, I hope Belt has a Hall of Fame worthy career, purely so his descendants can forever cringe, at seeing it engraved on his Cooperstown plaque. As a first-baseman... Well, he's no Goldschmidt, but Belt has proven himself perfectly respectable, especially at minimum wage. However, he was a Super Two so hit arbitration last year: and there's a big gap this season, $3 million offered by the Giants, while he wants 50% more, at $4.5 million. Should still be good value: just not as good value.

3. Dodgers: 3.5 WAR (#6)

Everyday starter: Adrian Gonzalez (3.4)
Backup: Scott Van Slyke (0.1) and Yasmani Grandal (0.1)

Gonzalez may not be the best first-baseman in the division, but he certainly will be the most expensive, earning a whopping $21,857,000 this year - albeit with a chunk ($3.9m) of that paid by the Red Sox. Hard to say he doesn't deserve a good payday based on past performance: since 2009, only three 1B have been worth more WAR than Gonzalez (Cabrera, Votto and Pujols). But he will turn 33 in May, and Father Time is closing in. He's under contract to Los Angeles for three more years beyond this one, and another $66.57 million is due there, Seems unlikely he'll still be as good value by the time the contract ends and he's 37.

4. Rockies: 2.0 WAR (#21)

Everyday starter: Justin Morneau (1.7)
Backup: Wilin Rosario (0,2
)

Interesting how every other team bar the D-backs uses their catcher as a backup, to some extent, at first-base. It's not just our current lack of a catcher either: it's not something we ever saw Montero do. The last Arizona catcher to appear both there and first in the same season was Chris Snyder in 2009 - and that was an emergency in an extra-innings game, after an injury to Mark Reynolds required Chad Tracy to go first to third (it was also Trent Oeltjen's major-league debut). Morneau will be a year older than Gonzalez, but Colorado won't be on the hook for that much, at $6.75 million for 2015. Still, he's not exactly Todd Helton, is he?

5. Padres: 1.9 WAR (#23)

Everyday starter: Yonder Alonso (1.9)
Backup: Tommy Medica (0.0)

It's a radically retooled San Diego offense in 2015, but Alonso appears to have survived the cull, and will be looking to rebound after a disappointing 2014 that was curtailed entirely in August by surgery to repair a torn tendon. He should be ready to go by spring training, but has never quite lived up to potential which had him a top forty prospect before 2012. Even for Petco, the.719 OPS he has posted over the last three seasons is not what you want from an everyday 1B, and since he turns 28 a couple of weeks into the season, he doesn't much deserve the "prospect" label any longer. If he doesn't produce in 2015, there may be another change on the way for the Padres.

Conclusion

If there's any doubt how important Goldschmidt is to this team, we just need to look what happened after his season was ended by a Pittsburgh pitch on August 1. The Diamondbacks won just 16 of 53 games the rest of the way. While there may well have been an element of phoning it in there - much though that was strenuously denied by the team - you'd be hard pushed to think of anyone we need fit, healthy and productive more than Paul. As we'll see in the rest of this series, positions where we project to be average, never mind the best in the division, are hard to come by. We certainly can ill afford any slack from the spots of strength on the 2015 Diamondbacks.

One thing that I found interesting was how little depth is present here, across the entire division. While the everyday starter is expected to get between 75% (Colorado) and 95% (Arizona), the balance isn't expected to produce much above replacement level. That isn't a particularly NL West situation either: a handful of backup 1Bs are expected to be worth more than half a win for their teams in 2015: Martinez, Adam LaRoche, Steve Pearce, Edwin Encarnacion and Chris Carter. Somebody like the 2013 version of Eric Chavez, worth 0.7 WAR, was very much the exception, not the rule.