With Prince Fielder taking off for the Motor City, he becomes yet another premiere first baseman to leave the National League. Fielder now joins the likes of Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez –to name a few– to leave for the AL in recent years. This leaves only Joey Votto, Lance Berkman and Ryan Howard as proven elite first baseman in the NL. Now 2012 will give this crop of young, talented men patrolling first, a golden opportunity to prove that they are elite players in the making.
A group headlined by Ike Davis and Freddie Freeman have a great chance to elevate themselves to a top-tier status. Each has proven themselves to be legitimate everyday players over the past few seasons, but up until now have had no chance at All-Star appearances, Silver Sluggers, Golden Gloves or other accolades. Pujols or Fielder usually swept those awards across the board. Now with Howard likely out for a few months, the youth movement will have a wide open opportunity to earn these prestiegeous honors.
Let’s take a look at some of these youngsters who have the potential to break into stardom in 2012:
Ike Davis: Recently ranked the second best first baseman in the National League only to Joey Votto, Ike Davis is destined for a major season in 2012. After a promising rookie campaign, Davis –as we all known– began to rake to start the 2011 season before an unfortunate collision in the Mile-High City that brought his would-be breakout year into one of disappointment. 2012 should feature what should have been in 2011: somewhere in the ballpark of 30 homers and 100 RBIs and a near-.300 average for the 24-year old slugger. That coupled with Gold Glove-caliber defense, and Davis seems like the leading candidate to emerge into the elite young talents.
Freddie Freeman: After finishing his 2011 rookie campaign with a game-ending double play to place the final nail in the Atlanta Braves season, you can be sure Freddie Freeman will be back with a vengeance come 2012. Like Davis, Freeman has above average power, exceptional plate discipline, great defense and the capability to hit .300. Once Freeman fully grows into his body and bulks up a bit, he will likely become a very dangerous hitter, if he isn’t already.
Gaby Sanchez: Though not quite on par with Davis and Freeman, Sanchez still has potential to have a major year in Miami. We Met fans have seen what this guy can do, quickly becoming one of the biggest Met-killers in the NL East. In 2011, Sanchez delivered a .266 average with 19 homers and 78 RBIs, not exactly eye popping by any means, especially at age 27. But with Jose Reyes now leading off, Sanchez will be sure to get many more chances to drive in runs, likely boosting his RBI totals. He could be a big surprise in 2012 for the Marlins.
Yonder Alonso: Now a member of the San Diego Padres, Alonso will get his first crack at being an everyday MLB player. Whether he ends up playing first or left field in 2012 still remains to be seen, but the fact is he can flat out hit. In the small sample we saw of him in Cincinnati last season, Alsonso hit .330 with 5 homers and 15 RBIs in only 88 at-bats. Drag that over a full year, and you are looking at a 30 homerun and 90 RBI season. Granted that was a small sample size and the fences are much larger at Petco, but if the 24-year old Cuban slugger can over come these issues and put it all together in 2012, look out.
Paul Goldschmidt: Already showing that he has 30 home run and 100 RBI capabilities in the minors, Goldschmidt proved he can put up those numbers in the show as well. in his small opportunity in 2011, the 24-year old Delaware native batted .250 with 8 homers and 26 RBIs in 156 at-bats those figures are on pace for about 32 dingers and 105 RBIs. In a full season in 2012, don’t expect Goldschmidt to bust out for those kind of numbers, but 20-25 home runs and 80 RBIs isn’t out of the question by any means.
For quite some time, when talking about elite, NL first baseman, the list was dominated by Albert Pujols and most recently Prince Fielder. Now with both of them leaving for the AL, these above first baseman have a golden chance in 2012 to show that their names deserve to be thrown in with the likes of the best in the game. They have the potential and the talent, but the question is can they put it all together next season? Well, stay tuned for that answer.