Here we are again fam. Last time I gave you an update we shuffled the board quite a bit to give due recognition to guys who were showing up and shaming the ones who aren't. For instance, Adolis Garcia is still raking. That man has got power for days, he might break the top 40 next time we meet. Baddoo has continued to trend down with his average dropping below .200 for a bit, though he's had a few signs of life over the past few days. He probably needs some time at AAA to continue his development as he fell a lot harder than I would have guessed. But it's still early and he's likely to be very hot/cold. This week, I want to focus on a few more guys making a name for themselves in the "outfield". And especially highlight one named Jared Walsh. As an Angels fan I have a lot of say on this, Pujols had to go. I knew it, you knew it, we all knew it. We all would have complained for the rest of the season that the Angels weren't playing the young talent just like we do daily with the Rockies while Pujols struggled to hit over .230 (Jared is currently over .300). Jared is not a RF, he belongs at 1B where he's a plus glove. Ohtani needs all the ABs at DH he can possibly get (speaking of him, is he going to get RF eligibility too? hahaha. He's already subbed out there twice). These guys are the team's future and they need to be on the field... Pujols was taking ABs away from their development and the time was now to let them fly. Anyway... let's hit that run down:
For so long, first base was where teams parked their top sluggers. Historically, it's been the best hitting position on the field, often with a dedicated player to fill the corner spot. But as the careers of some likely Hall of Fame players near an end, and as the nature of the position and the game both change, is the prototypical, iconic slugging first baseman an endangered species?Thus far this season, first base production is nearly at an all-time low. Through Sunday, MLB first basemen had combined for a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) mark of 99. If that holds, it will be their worst collective performance since 1948 and the third-worst of all time. The metric is useful for this sort of evaluation because it adjusts for ballpark factors and run-scoring environments, allowing one to compare the relative strength of a position from year to year and era to era. A wRC+ mark of 100 represents a league-average offensive performance.Since 2018, the position has endured one of the softer periods in its history. First basemen have averaged a 113 wRC+ since the DH came into play, tops in the game. But after sitting in the 110 range for most of the 21st century, first base production dipped to a 105 wRC+ in 2018 and 2019, finished at 108 in last year's short season, and stood at 99 after Sunday's games.At a time when the game has never needed offense more - MLB's batting average sits a woeful .234 - first basemen were hitting .228 and slugging under .400 through Sunday. Where did the sluggers go? Icon Sportswire / Getty ImagesLongtime stalwarts at the position, such as Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, and Albert Pujols - whom the L.A. Angels released last week - are nearing the end of their respective careers. It's not clear who might form the position's next group of sluggers; catcher is the only position-player group to get fewer wins above replacement from players 25 and younger this season. Freddie Freeman remains the top star at the position, but he'll be 32 in September. Paul Goldschmidt turns 34 that same month. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. looks like he could be an elite talent for years - but will he remain at first base? Guerrero and Texas Rangers first baseman Nate Lowe are the only 25-or-younger players excelling as batters at the position. The Angels' Jared Walsh is hitting well, but he's already 27.Not only does MLB seem to have a talent shortage at first base, but clubs are also using the position differently - and valuing it less.In the last three free-agent classes, Carlos Santana and Daniel Murphy were the only first basemen to receive more than a one-year deal, according to Spotrac, and each only signed for two years.Clubs are also spending less draft capital on the position. There was just one first baseman selected in last year's abbreviated draft: University of North Carolina product Aaron Sabato, who went 27th overall to the Minnesota Twins. Just three first basemen were top-100 picks in 2019, and the same was true in 2018. Three first basemen were selected in the first round in 2017, but two of them - Keston Hiura and Evan White - have struggled mightily in their brief major-league time.Of course, players can always slide down the defensive spectrum like many stars have - including Cabrera and Pujols, who debuted as third basemen. But there's been a lack of direct investment in the position in recent years.That lack of investment might be taking its toll. Shortstop, a once-traditionally weak-hitting position, continues to close the gap. In the 1970s, shortstops averaged a 73 wRC+ through the decade, while first basemen combined for a 112 mark. Since 2010, shortstops have posted a 90 wRC+, while first basemen are at 108. Most positions are moving toward league-average hitting in a convergence of offensive productivity, and the gap between the best and worst hitting positions is shrinking. (Pitchers are the exception as they continue to decline in relative performance.) That makes some sense; with fewer balls put in play due to record strikeout levels, teams can trade glove for bat at most positions. The relative offensive bar is then raised for first basemen.Some teams are simply struggling to find anyone to play first base. The Cleveland Indians' first basemen have produced a .173/.239/.240 slash line and a 34 wRC+. Should that wRC+ stand, it will be the worst team performance at first base in major-league history. The Detroit Tigers' first basemen have combined for a 50 wRC+, and White's struggles in Seattle have staked the Mariners to a wRC+ mark of 58. Cleveland, Detroit, and Seattle first basemen have hit like early 20th-century pitchers - before pitchers fell into negative wRC+ territory for good in the 1980s. Dylan Buell / Getty ImagesSome teams are also treating first base as a utility spot. In the modern game, roster flexibility is king as teams try to jam their rosters with as many arms as possible. A record number of players played at least one game at first base over the six seasons before the shortened 2020 campaign, according to Baseball-Reference.com, while 2018 and 2019 were the first two seasons in which fewer than 20% of players played 75% of their games there. This year, 101 players have already logged time at first - more than three per team. It's possible this year's offensive outage is just a blip on the radar, that more stars will soon emerge at the position, just as Pujols, Votto, and Cabrera did in the early 2000s. But the game and position are changing, the demands are different, and the iconic first base slugger might soon be the outlier rather than the norm.Travis Sawchik is theScore's senior baseball writer.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
The Angels rally behind Jared Walsh's four hits to beat the Astros 5-4 on Monday in Houston.
Jared Walsh continued his scorching hitting pace, going 4-for-4 while driving in two runs and hitting a homer as his Los Angeles Angels edged the Houston Astros, 5-4.
Welcome to the fourth edition of theScore's MLB Power Rankings for the 2021 season.1. Chicago White Sox Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 19-13 7-3 +53 4 (+3) The White Sox earn the top spot without any clear favorite due to their MLB-best plus-53 run differential. Chicago's offensive rating of 18.1, according to FanGraphs, is the league's fourth-best despite long-term injuries to Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez. Meanwhile, the team's pitching staff ranks in the top four in fWAR thanks to brilliant performances from Carlos Rodon and Lance Lynn. The former owns a 0.58 ERA and has allowed just one home run over 31 innings.2. Boston Red Sox Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 22-13 6-4 +36 5 (+3) Xander Bogaerts might finally be getting the appreciation he deserves. The 28-year-old is off to a career-best start through 33 games, slashing .349/.396/.589 with seven home runs, 10 doubles, and a league-leading 45 hits. It's looking increasingly likely that the longest-tenured Red Sox player will opt out of the final three years and $60 million of his contract after the 2022 season and join a stacked free-agent class of shortstops slated to include Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story.3. San Diego Padres Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 19-16 6-4 +19 2 (-) San Diego owns MLB's best ERA at 2.89. That's why the Padres are second in the NL West, as the club just isn't hitting right now. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Trent Grisham are the only qualified Padres position players with an OPS above .800. Ha-Seong Kim, Jurickson Profar, and the team's entire catching corps have disappointed thus far. If San Diego is going to fulfill its potential this season, Tatis and Grisham need a lot of help fast.4. Oakland Athletics Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 21-15 5-5 -10 3 (-1) The A's are still rolling. Bob Melvin's squad has lost just one series (to the Orioles, of all teams) since its season-opening six-game losing streak. The Athletics aren't doing anything spectacular. Instead, they're playing solid all-around baseball, and it's paying off. Their minus-10 run differential might indicate some regression, though.5. Los Angeles Dodgers Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 18-17 2-8 +32 1 (-4) Injuries have decimated the powerful Dodgers, and even their unparalleled depth is being tested. The defending champs lost three of four to Milwaukee before the Cubs swept them at Wrigley Field, and they nearly blew a 13-0 lead to the Angels on Saturday. Despite all of that, the Dodgers are only 2 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West, and they own a plus-32 run differential. The odds are good they'll weather this storm. Sarah Stier / Getty Images Sport / Getty6. New York Yankees Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 18-16 7-3 +13 14 (+8) Giancarlo Stanton isn't hearing many boos in the Bronx lately. The much-maligned slugger is helping to right the ship in New York with his sizzling stretch. He's hitting .413.464.762 with six home runs and four doubles over his last 15 games, pushing the Yankees to a 10-5 record over that span.7. San Francisco Giants Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 20-14 5-5 +27 7 (-) After all the offseason hype tied to the Padres and Dodgers, the Giants are the first NL West team to reach 20 wins, and they boast the NL's second-best winning percentage and run differential. A home-heavy schedule has helped (they're 12-4 at Oracle Park). So has outstanding starting pitching from some surprising contributors, and resurgent offensive campaigns from veterans Evan Longoria and Buster Posey.8. St. Louis Cardinals Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 21-14 8-2 +23 15 (+7) The Cardinals sit atop the NL Central after winning 12 of their last 16 games, and the ageless Yadier Molina leads their offense. He's produced five home runs and a .997 OPS over 21 contests, while Nolan Arenado paces the club with 23 RBIs. Ace Jack Flaherty is a perfect 6-0 in seven starts, and closer Alex Reyes has authored a 0.53 ERA with 10 saves in 16 appearances during his first season in the role.9. New York Mets Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 16-13 7-3 -3 9 (-) Rat or raccoon? The Mets' five-game winning streak may have received less attention than the tunnel drama between Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil, but New York is finally playing up to preseason expectations. Lindor broke out of his early-season funk while posting a 1.043 OPS during the streak, Pete Alonso got on base at a .400 clip, and Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker have been fantastic behind ace Jacob deGrom with their combined 2.25 ERA. Carmen Mandato / Getty Images Sport / Getty10. Toronto Blue Jays Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 17-16 6-4 +25 8 (-2) The Blue Jays somehow continue to stay above .500 despite an avalanche of injuries. George Springer is on the IL again and catcher Alejandro Kirk has joined him, along with a bunch of high-leverage relievers. Despite all the bullpen's health issues, the group's 2.92 ERA is fourth-best in the majors. Meanwhile, Toronto's offense is beginning to look like the juggernaut it was projected to become. The club has scored at least seven runs in four of its last 10 games.11. Tampa Bay Rays Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 19-17 6-4 +1 11 (-) Mike Zunino was one of the league's worst offensive players during the shortened 2020 campaign, but he's rebounded significantly in 2021 without lighting the world on fire. The catcher has already surpassed his 2020 home run total, and he's one of three Rays regulars with an OPS over .750. If Zunino can sustain his current production, Tampa Bay's chances in the hyper-competitive AL East will keep improving.12. Houston Astros Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 18-16 5-5 +33 13 (+1) The Astros managed to survive the Bronx and a hostile first series against the Yankees following the sign-stealing scandal. Houston can now focus on finding some consistency with Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez heating up. The 2019 AL Rookie of the Year has recorded multi-hit games in four straight contests and six of his last seven, resulting in a 1.033 OPS this campaign.13. Milwaukee Brewers Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 19-16 4-6 -6 6 (-7) A recent six-game losing streak put a damper on the Brewers' good start to the season. Milwaukee will struggle to compete for a division title without a healthy Christian Yelich, who's on the IL with a back issue again, and a productive Keston Hiura. The latter is in the minors after posting a .513 OPS over 26 games. The pitching trio of Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta will need to continue carrying the team.14. Philadelphia Phillies Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 18-17 6-4 -8 17 (+3) The Phillies are staying within shouting distance of first in the NL East while dealing with a barrage of injuries, a lack of anything resembling production from the center-field spot, and one of the league's worst bullpens. The bullpen's latest collapse happened in Atlanta on Saturday when Philadelphia's relievers blew leads in the ninth and 12th innings. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zack Eflin can be incredible, but the Phillies might remain NL East bridesmaids if their bullpen stays broken.15. Atlanta Braves Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 17-17 5-5 -12 10 (-5) The state of Georgia breathed a huge sigh of relief when Ronald Acuna Jr. suffered just a bruised finger from being hit with a 97-mph pitch on Saturday. A long-term injury would have been a crushing blow. Instead, the Braves can move past the scary moment and build on a solid week while trying to get above .500 before June. Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty16. Cleveland Indians Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 18-14 7-3 +15 22 (+6) The Indians are second in the AL Central, but that standing doesn't fit a team that's already been no-hit twice this season. Cleveland has won seven of its last 10 games, even though the club's 86 wRC+ over that stretch ranks 26th in MLB. How are the Indians managing to be successful? Jose Ramirez slugged .600 with 10 runs scored during those 10 games, while the trio of Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and Aaron Civale have combined to strike out 141 hitters in 134 2/3 innings this season.17. Chicago Cubs Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 17-17 7-3 -5 21 (+4) Kris Bryant's revenge tour hasn't been able to elevate the Cubs. The 2016 NL MVP has slashed .308/.397/.650 with nine homers over 32 games in what could be the impending free agent's last season on the North Side. Chicago's starting pitching is really holding the team back. The rotation's 5.32 ERA is the worst in baseball.18. Cincinnati Reds Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 15-16 6-4 -4 16 (-2) After losing seven straight, the Reds recovered to take a series on the road from the Dodgers before nabbing four wins against tough competition in the Cubs, White Sox, and Indians. While Nick Castellanos continues to hit with authority (.632 slugging percentage), Jesse Winker's play is standing out. The 27-year-old's .354 batting average leads the NL, while his 1.044 OPS ranks only behind Bryant.19. Seattle Mariners Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 18-17 5-5 -15 19 (-) Yes, the Mariners are in third place in the AL West and one game above .500. But they've also posted a minus-15 run differential, and the team has played .500 ball over the last two weeks. The Mariners are young and raw too, as catcher Luis Torrens showed with his mental error that allowed a run to score on Saturday. Still, there's talent and hope in Seattle for the first time in a while, even if these Mariners are starting to regress. Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty20. Kansas City Royals Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 16-17 1-9 -31 12 (-8) The Royals plummeted following a seven-game losing skid after starting the season 16-9. Kansas City scored just 18 runs during that period, including being shutout in back-to-back games against the Indians and White Sox. Despite the team's recent struggles, left-hander Danny Duffy is turning heads with a 1.26 ERA over six starts.21. Minnesota Twins Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 12-20 5-5 -2 18 (-3) Byron Buxton's injury couldn't have come at a worse time. Minnesota's hottest hitter is expected to miss several weeks after slashing .370/.408/.772 through 24 games. The Twins only managed 12 wins over 32 contests with Buxton producing like an MVP, so the next little while could be painful for them. At least they're still in a division with the Tigers.22. Miami Marlins Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 15-18 5-5 +20 25 (+3) Young hurlers Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Trevor Rogers are keeping the Marlins hovering around .500 despite a woeful offense that's missing Jazz Chisholm. Only four teams have hit fewer homers than Miami's 31. The good news? Every NL East club has been average to start the season, and the Marlins are the only one with a positive run differential.23. Los Angeles Angels Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 15-18 3-7 -27 20 (-3) The unexpected release of Albert Pujols overshadows a very tough week for the Angels, who have gone 3-7 over their last 10 games. Los Angeles also lost Alex Cobb to the IL with a blister, leaving a hole in its rotation. Going from Pujols to Jared Walsh at first base should help, and Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani will keep doing what they do. But it's starting to again feel like another wasted season is beginning for the Halos. Perhaps they should have bit the bullet on Pujols' contract earlier.24. Washington Nationals Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 13-17 5-5 -17 24 (-) During the same week when Pujols was unceremoniously dumped, Max Scherzer was on the mound proving that not all megadeals end miserably. The right-hander has been excellent early this season, posting a 2.33 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and 61 strikeouts over 46 1/3 innings. Scherzer has been worth an MLB-best 35.5 WAR among pitchers since signing a seven-year, $210-million contract in 2015. Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty25. Texas Rangers Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 18-18 7-3 -4 29 (+4) Adolis Garcia has emerged as a bright spot for the rebuilding Rangers. The outfielder leads all rookies and his team with nine homers. Garcia is one of many good young pieces who will make the Rangers fun to watch, even if they aren't in contention.26. Baltimore Orioles Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 15-19 5-5 -16 26 (-) John Means is an ace. The right-hander is coming off a masterpiece no-hitter against the Mariners when he struck out 12 batters and was a wild pitch away from a perfect game. Means' 1.37 ERA is the third-best in the majors, and he's allowed two or fewer runs in six of his seven starts. At 28, Means is a bit older than the rest of the rebuilding Orioles' core. Baltimore could build around him, or use Means as an intriguing trade chip with three-plus remaining years of team control.27. Arizona Diamondbacks Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 15-19 3-7 -15 23 (-4) It's been a rough start to the month for the D-Backs. Arizona has recorded one win in May, which came over the lowly Rockies. Asdrubal Cabrera is the only qualified hitter in the D-Backs' lineup with an OPS over .700 this month. At least Madison Bumgarner is rediscovering his old form. The team's ace has allowed eight hits and three runs over his last four starts.28. Pittsburgh Pirates Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 14-19 2-8 -30 28 (-) The Pirates lost eight of 10 after playing surprisingly well in April. The team will also be without rookie stud Ke'Bryan Hayes for a while after he was transferred to the 60-day IL with a wrist injury. Pitchers JT Brubaker and Richard Rodriguez - who hasn't allowed a run in 12 appearances - are providing encouraging results.29. Colorado Rockies Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 12-22 3-7 -24 27 (-2) The Rockies' old buddy Arenado and the Cardinals completed a sweep of Colorado, ending a series between teams heading in opposite directions. Colorado has now lost eight of its last 11 games to drop to the NL West basement. However, it hasn't been all bad news for the Rockies, as Raimel Tapia is emerging as a breakout candidate. The 27-year-old outfielder is currently on a nine-game hit streak, boasting a .417 average over the span.30. Detroit Tigers Record Last 10 RD Previous Rank (Change) 10-24 2-8 -68 30 (-) Winning will be pretty difficult for AJ Hinch's club if it can't score. The Tigers are only averaging 3.3 runs per game, and their minus-68 run differential is the MLB's worst by a significant margin. As the old adage goes, a team can't score if it can't get on base. Detroit's hitters have combined for a league-worst .277 OBP, with only three of the squad's regulars - Robbie Grossman, Jeimer Candelario, and Niko Goodrum - posting marks above .300.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.