Where does Ryan Zimmerman rank among MLB 1st Basemen?

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In November of 2018 Will Leitch of MLB.com wrote an article about the Top 20 First Basemen and ranked Ryan Zimmerman #15. This put Zim in front of guys like Josh Bell, Justin Bour, and Brandon Belt. This astounded me. I remember the pretty incredible 2017 campaign for Zim wherein he batted .303 in 144 games. But here we are in 2019, and the 34-year-old is coming off an 85-game .264 average season with one year left on his Nats contract.

It has been chronicled heavily on the podcast( Click here to download) of Mike and I’s disdain for the rope that the Nats give to Zim. So it begs the question: Is Zim the worst first baseman starting in the MLB this upcoming season? Or am I just a know-nothing jilted fan talking out of my ass? Let’s take a look.

The first thing to do is start with the nerds. Let’s take a look at the projections:

2019 projections

As you can see the bottom is what Ryan did in 2018, and the five lines above that are possible projections by various sources. The consensus appears to be that he will have a pretty similar season to 2018 numbers-wise, obviously a bigger sample size with him in theory playing more than 85 games in 2019.

Personally, I like Composite’s projections, so let’s use them as an example:

.266 avg, 21 HR, 57 R, 68 RBI in 406 at-bats.

I want to start in the NL East, and look around the other first basemen inside the division. This is based on MLB.com’s projected depth-chart as of today:

Braves-Freddie Freeman

Phillies-Rhys Hoskins

Marlins-Pete O’Brien

Mets-Todd Frazier (but really Pete Alonso)

Immediately place Freddie Freeman and Rhys Hoskins WAY above Zim in pretty much any sort of category. Now we are left with Pete O’Brien (who sounds like the guy that helps me with my taxes) and the shell of Todd Frazier with one of the top Mets prospects Pete Alonso waiting on the wings.

Here’s the Pete Alonso mixtape in case you were wondering:

Don’t bother looking up Peter O’Brien, just know that he may one of the few Zim has beat. So far the only first baseman I would rank lower than Zim is O’Brien.

Current Ranking of Zim: 4th (of 5 Teams)

Now let’s dive into more of the National League starting with the NL Central:

Cubs-Anthony Rizzo

Reds-Joey Votto

Brewers-Jesus Aguilar

Pirates-Josh Bell

Cardinals-Paul Goldschmidt

The Central is LOADED with First Base talent. Immediately place Rizzo and Goldy above Zim. Votto is up there too, especially for Fantasy Baseball owners. That leaves a non-household name in Aguilar, and Bell.

Aguilar has CRAZY pop, 35 dingers last year, and in 2018 really broke out. His potential immediately vaults him above Zim.

Bell is an interesting case because I would put him in a similar boat to Zim, and the projections do as well. Bell underachieved last year coming off a pretty solid 2017. I think the power numbers will be better than Zim, as well as the average.

Current Ranking of Zim: 9th (of 10 Teams)

I’ll zip through the NL West

D-Backs-Jake Lamb

Rockies-Daniel Murphy

Dodgers-Max Muncy

Padres-Eric Hosmer

Giants-Brandon Belt

Murph and Muncy are easily placed above Zim. Hosmer is probably looking at a 20+ bombs .270+ avg season as well, so put him up there too.

Jake Lamb had solid power numbers in 2016 and 2017, and last year wasn’t able to do much only playing in only 56 games due to injury. His power should be back, so he should double (maybe triple) Zim’s homer numbers. Belt is very very close to Zim. I will actually give Zim the SLIGHT edge for Zim because I think he can beat Belt out this year.

Current Ranking of Zim: 13th (of 15 Teams)

The American League! Let’s go to the AL East, where things may surprise you a bit.

Orioles-Chris Davis (You could make a case for Mancini)

Red Sox-Mitch Moreland 

Yankees-Luke Voit

Rays-Yandy Diaz

Blue Jays-Justin Smoak

For all the hype the AL East gets, the position of First Base isn’t loaded here. I would put Zim above Chris Davis, but lower than Mancini. Moreland and Yandy Diaz aren’t great options either.

Let’s go ahead and say Mancini represents the O’s in this scenario. Zim ranks higher than Diaz and Moreland to me.

Current Ranking of Zim: 16th (of 20 Teams)

On to the AL Central:

White Sox-Jose Abreu

Indians-Jake Bauers/Carlos Santana

Tigers-Miguel Cabrera

Royals-Ryan O’Hearn

Twins-CJ Cron

The ghost of Miguel Cabrera is still better than the ghost of Ryan Zimmerman, so I’ll give him the edge.

The Cleveland situation is a tad unfair because the Indians plan to platoon between Bauers and Santana, but Santana is still better numbers-wise than Zim.

As for Ryan O’Hearn and CJ Cron, O’Hearn is young and projecting for a .250-type season. Cron is coming off a 30 bomb year that earned him a spot with the Twins after being released on waivers by Tampa Bay. So put Zim over O’Hearn, but slightly behind Cron.

Current Ranking of Zim: 20th (of 25 teams)

Our last division is the AL West:

Astros-Yuli Gurriel

Angels-Albert Pujols/Justin Bour

Athletics-Matt Olson

Mariners-Ryon Healy

Rangers-Joey Gallo

Here’s a fun shift the Astros did on Gallo

Gallo, Olson, and Gurriel are easily picked higher than Zim on any sort of fantasy or real life rankings. Pujols and Bour will probably share some time at first, but gotta think Bour will get more actual starts there and Pujols nears the end of his career.

Honestly, the only guy you could put lower than Zim here is Healy. A strong 2017 lead into a mediocre 2018 for Healy.

So after all of that here is where we stand:

Final Ranking of Zim: 24th (of 30 teams)

Looking through the Nats pipeline, there isn’t a lot of excitement at the first base position either once you get past Zim and Matt Adams. I was wrong, Zim is not the WORST first baseman in the MLB, but it still doesn’t look great.

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