Padres Editorial: NL West 2015-Ranking the First Basemen

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Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers: Adrian Gonzalez

Darn it, it still hurts to see Adrian playing for the Dodgers. But then, I suppose Dodgers fans will feel the same way about Matt Kemp for the next few years.

Gonzalez is hard to categorize as a hitter. With the Padres, he was a slugger, a lock for 30+ homers and 100 RBI, while hitting around .280. With the Red Sox, he was a contact hitter with some power, hitting as high as .338 and leading the AL in hits, but with home runs totals in the teens and 20s. With the Dodgers, the average has come down a bit and the homers have settled in the mid-20s, but he’s driving in tons of runs in a loaded lineup. In fact, he led the NL in RBI last year with 116.

But no matter what style of hitter Gonzalez is from year to year, he is always a hitter. His career slash line is .292/.364./499. He has hit 262 homers and driven in close to 1000 runs. He has received MVP votes in seven different seasons, but has never finished higher than fourth. He is consistently very, very good.

What sets Gonzalez further apart from those ranked below him is his defense. Gonzalez led all major league first basemen in assists last year with 118, the fourth time in his career he has topped that category. Padres fans remember how he made the 3-6-3 double play look easy, how he anticipated and fielded bunts so well that he frequently was able to throw out the lead runner. Fans of teams with average fielding first baseman tend not to notice first base defense too much, unless it’s really bad. Fans of teams with excellent defensive first baseman like Gonzalez realize that they have something special.