Will Ryan Howard be the best first baseman the Phillies have ever had? Time will tell that, and if Howard can stay as a Phillie beyond the big three year contract he just signed. For the short time that he's been in the league, Howard has hit for more power than anyone else and faster. He has also struck out more than anyone else in baseball in the last two years combined. For the measuring purposes of a Hall of Fame player, Howard has taken a high road with his statistics. He is hurtling toward the mark that is generally accepted as a Hall of Famer in such a short time. This stat can be found at the baseball-reference website and if Howard continues to hit at this pace, he'll be a ringer for the Hall in only 5 more years.
That being said, I wish Howard could reduce his strikeouts and get a few more base hits. Trying to lop 50 strikeouts off his yearly total and turning them into base hits would be ideal. To do this he needs to think more like a Pete Rose at the plate. Rose was a master of the base hit, he made contact and slapped the ball through the infield at will, if Howard can adopt this into his repitore a little bit, he'll become a really great player. When teams put the shift on, take the ball down the third base line and take the base hit or when needed try to move the runners with a hit other than swinging for the fences.
The Phillies have a couple of guys that can go in as the first base backup, Coste, Dobbs, and Matt Stairs are up to the challenge should the need arise.
Phillies depth chart:
(My #1 in the NL East for First Base) Ryan Howard - Rhino is ahead of the curve and piling up the accolades early in his young career. If he can keep it up over the next few years, we are seeing a Hall of Famer.
(My #3 in the NL East for First Base) Casey Kotchman - looked very good for the Braves last year. He has above average power, and collected 74 RBI's with only 39 strikeouts for the Braves. He has potential and is in the middle of my picks for best first baseman in the NL East.
Martin Prado- signed by the Braves as an amateur free agent in 2006 a solid backup for the Braves also platooning with Greg Norton at first backing up at first base for the Braves.
(My # 4 in the NL East for First Base) Jorge Cantu - 29 HR's and 95 RBI's last year, he could be my # 3 pick in this round up but I've got to go with the younger Kotchman as my #3. Cantu though is 'can do' for the Marlins- the fish finished above .500 last year. Cantu could play a bigger role this year for them.
A familiar name, Wes Helms will be back with the Marlins this year, he'll give Cantu a run for his money at first to start, or be a good backup as he was with the Phillies.
New York Mets
(My #2 in the NL East for First Base) Carlos Delgado - Delgado will make you pay when you let a pitch go up in the zone, he seems to hit well at Citizen's Bank Park. He had 38 homeruns last year and 115 RBI's for the Mets. He finally showed fans he's the real deal- what will he do this year? He's my number 2 pick for first basemen in the NL East in 2009.
Delgado stayed healthy all of last year, there was only a few times when there was someone else at first: Marlin Anderson is an ex-Phillie and good all around player. Anderson had 26 innings at first last year and Daman Easley had 30 innings. Both are competent back ups.
(My #5 in the NL East for First Base) Nick Johnson - Nick bottoms out my list for first baseman. His average is in the low 200's last year he's coming back from injury and again it may be a long year for the Nats. Every good player they get, they seem to trade away.
Ronnie Belliard is the backup for the Nats, he's ok and a seasoned veteran. Perhaps the Nats are going places this year with adding Adam Dunn.
That's my list for first baseman, stay tuned to the blog for next week's second base preview of the NL East. Don't forget to read Jeff's picks for his best position players on his own blog here!