With the Cardinals acquiring first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, the question has been brought up of who the best first baseman in the NL Central is. Well, the NL Central has the cream of the crop when it comes to first baseman. With Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Anthony Rizzo and Jesus Aguilar, there is no one else close to competing. Sorry, Josh Bell — although he nearly cracked the top 10 in OPS for first baseman, he is not yet worthy of being mentioned here.
The First Baseman in the NL Central: Elite
The NL Central now owns four of the top five first basemen when it comes to OPS. Right off the bat, you can eliminate Aguilar from the conversation. His breakout 2018 season is fantastic, and if he can keep it up we can revisit his chances of competing for the top spot, but one good season is the reason he will be eliminating. This brings it down to three of the top first baseman in the entire league.
The new Cardinals first basemen is the rightful owner of the best OPS of 2018. To no surprise, he had a phenomenal 2018. So this is the reason the question was brought up in the first place.
Rizzo is a great first baseman, even edged out Votto by 9 points in OPS this past season. However, his his career statistics do not put him in the same category as Votto and Goldschmidt. Thus brings the question, who is the best? This argument could also be considered who is the best first baseman in baseball, but that would involve adding Freddie Freeman.
Since entering the league in 2011, Goldschmidt has been one of the best in the league. He has placed second in MVP voting twice, as well as a third place finish. He also has been a four-time Gold Glove winner and won the Silver Slugger three times. After six straight All-star appearances, it is fair to assume him as one of the, if not the, top first basemen in the league.
Goldschmidt has hit over 30 home runs in half of his eight seasons, as well as over 100 RBIs in three seasons. He also has a career .398 OBP. His ability to get on base along with his power is hard to top.
The Cardinals have a potent lineup that should allow him to reach those numbers yet again. Playing for a team that normally makes the playoffs, rather than the hope to make it, should allow him to excel more than he ever has before. If the Cardinals continue to play at an elite level, Goldschmidt could finally nab the coveted MVP award.
Votto, the 2010 MVP winner, has had a consistent career of getting on base. He may well be regarded as the best when it comes to said stat. His “down” year in 2018 is a big reason this question was brought up.
Since finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2008, Votto has only improved. He has become a six-time all-star, a Gold Glove winner and an MVP. Votto has a career .427 on-base percentage, the best since entering the league. Although Goldschmidt has edged him out as a fielder, he is consistently named as a finalist. It also cannot be forgotten he was just two points away from being a two-time MVP after losing to Giancarlo Stanton in 2018.
What makes Votto so valuable is the style of baseball he plays. Having a keen eye at the plate and playing conservatively plays well for the long run. Power fades throughout a player’s career. It is just a fact that when players age through their thirties they will see a decline in power. Votto has power, but it is not the backbone of his game.
Who Would You Take?
When looking at the numbers from last year, it would appear Goldschmidt is the superior first baseman. No one would be considered crazy or necessarily wrong if they made this statement. He is a phenomenal player with Hall of Fame potential, there is no argument there.
But when it comes to who would be the more beneficial player to a team and a better overall player, Votto seems to be the best option. One thing is for sure, Votto’s style of play will keep him at an elite level longer than Goldschmidt, although Goldshmidt’s can make him more of a factor to a strong lineup in the moment.
If I had to pick one today I would take Votto. Who would you take?