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Organizational droughts: First base

When was the last time your team developed a star first baseman? We have lists.


Welcome to the second installment of organizational-development droughts, brought to you because of lukewarm demand. In our last installment, we looked at how long it's been since a team developed an ace starting pitcher. Today we look at first basemen.

Ground rules: By "developed," I mean drafted, or signed as an international free agent. Someone like Daric Barton, who came over to the A's in a trade as a minor leaguer, wouldn't qualify. Also of note, Daric Barton was worth over five wins in 2010. Man, even if the genie isn't letting you wish for a million wishes, you can still find something better than that, right?

Additional ground rules: I knocked the requirement down to four wins. A four-win first baseman is probably still something close to an All-Star, and the lower standards allowed only five players to sneak in.

Additional additional ground rules: I used Baseball Reference's WAR just because I'm used to Play Index, and it's easier for me, not because I have a preference for one formula over the other. Math hurts my delicate little brain, and so do opinions. It's just easier this way.

To the first basemen!


Still with the team

Rockies - Todd Helton (4.4 WAR, 2007)
Phillies - Ryan Howard (5.2, 2006)
Twins - Justin Morneau (4.6, 2010)
Reds - Joey Votto (5.7, 2012)

Morneau was one of players who snuck in with the lower requirement. If you're a fundamentalist, you can take Kent Hrbek with 5.6 in 1984 instead. But if an MVP season -- even a controversial MVP season -- didn't qualify, maybe the standards were too high in the first place.

There are usually five to 10 four-win first basemen every season. It's kind of odd that only four of the current first basemen who have achieved the feat are still with their original team.


Recent past

Rangers - Mark Teixeira (2006, 4.4)
Astros - Lance Berkman (2008, 6.8)
Angels - Kendrys Morales (2009, 4.4)
Red Sox - Kevin Youkilis (2010, 5.4)
Brewers - Prince Fielder (2011, 4.6)
Cardinals - Albert Pujols (2011, 5.4)

Morales was another one who snuck on, which was just a little surprising. Wally Joyner was the next in line, but just barely. The Angels have had just four different four-win seasons from a first baseman, and just 14 three-win seasons in their 52-season history. The most valuable first-base season in Angels history? Albert Pujols, last year.


Not-so-recent past

Mets - Dave Magadan (1990, 4.6)
Giants - Will Clark (1991, 5.2)
Mariners - Tino Martinez (1995, 4.5)
Cubs - Mark Grace (1997, 4.2)
Pirates - Kevin Young (1999, 5.5)
White Sox - Frank Thomas (1997, 7.3)
A's - Jason Giambi (2001, 9.1)
Indians - Jim Thome (2002, 7.4)
Royals - Mike Sweeney (2002, 5.0)
Blue Jays - Carlos Delgado (2003, 5.9)

Oh, Mets. You make these lists fun. The second-best homegrown season by a Mets first baseman was Ike Davis in 2010. Laugh if you want, but a decade or two of John Olerud and Keith Hernandez make up for a lot.

Kevin Young had his season when he was 30, the Pirates gave him a big contract, and then he was terrible. I can't even joke about this stuff until the Pirates finish over .500, so hopefully they can figure something out soon.


Distant past

Braves - Hank Aaron (1971, 7.3)
Tigers - Jason Thompson (1978, 5.6)
Dodgers - Steve Garvey (1978 4.6)
Orioles - Eddie Murray (1986, 4.1)
Nationals/Expos - Andres Galarraga (1988, 5.7)
Yankees - Don Mattingly (1989 4.2)

If you're not ready to consider Hank Aaron a homegrown first baseman -- it just sounds weird -- you have to go back to Earl Torgeson for the Boston Braves in 1950.

Jason Thompson is one of the more underrated players I can think of, and he was one of the only plausible comps for Justin Upton when it comes to young semi-stars who were traded early.

Also, on Andres Galarraga: Don't you remember him as an enormous baseball player? Like, really, really tall and imposing? His nickname was the Big Cat, after all, a nod to his surprising agility for a gigantic person. Before Galarraga, there were exactly two players in history who were as tall and weighed as much: Jumbo Elliot and Pete Varney.

Since then? Seventeen different players have been that big, including six players just this year. It's almost as if players are getting bigger …




Expansion teams, ahoy! Turns out this stuff is hard.

The Padres have had plenty of good first basemen -- Adrian Gonzalez, Wally Joyner, Ryan Klesko, Fred McGriff -- but the best season from a homegrown Padre was John Kruk's 3.8 mark in 1987. Even the franchise's career home-run leader, Nate Colbert, came over in the 1968 expansion draft. Also, I just like writing "Padres career home-run leader, Nate Colbert."

The best seasons by a homegrown Diamondbacks first baseman:

1. Chad Tracy, 3.7 (2005)
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 3.3 (2012)

That's some mighty fine first-baseman hoarding by the '05 Diamondbacks, although Tracy played 51 games in the outfield to make room for Tony Clark, who was also worth over three wins in 2005).

As for the Marlins, they've had just one first baseman at three wins in team history. The 10-best first basemen in Marlins history, homegrown or otherwise:

Rk Player WAR/pos Year
1 Derrek Lee 3.0 2002
2 Carlos Delgado 2.8 2005
3 Derrek Lee 2.8 2003
4 Gaby Sanchez 2.7 2011
5 Derrek Lee 2.0 2001
6 Derrek Lee 2.0 2000
7 Kevin Millar 1.8 2000
8 Wes Helms 1.7 2006
9 Hee-Seop Choi 1.5 2004
10 Jeff Conine 1.3 1997

This would help explain why they've never won a division title. Of course, there's a pretty good chance that they've won more championships than your favorite team over the last two decades, too. So they're laughing about Jeff Conine all the way to the bank. The trophy bank.

reminder: figure out a less awful ending to that paragraph before publishing

The Rays don't exactly "win" the category -- they haven't even been around 20 years, so there has to be some sort of adjustment -- but it's at least worth noting their commitment to not producing a homegrown 1B. They've never had one. At all. Jorge Cantu played 27 games at first for the Rays. He was worth -0.6 wins. The next homegrown Rays 1B will the first.

Also, the best! That's nice. No pressure for the new guy. Whenever they show up, which will be never if you use sabermetrics to extrapolate the data. Pretty sure the Rays and radioactive-spider-bitten James Loney don't mind at all right now, though.