Following the departure of Prince Fielder after the 2011 season, the Brewers have had a revolving door at first base. Corey Hart (2012), Alex Gonzalez (2013), Yuniesky Betancourt (2013), Lyle Overbay (2014), Mark Reynolds (2014), Adam Lind (2015), Chris Carter (2016), Jesus Aguilar (2017-2019), and Eric Thames (2017-2019) have all spent time at first base for the Brewers. Aguilar was traded to Tampa Bay last season and Thames was not brought back, leaving yet another uncertainty to the Brewers’ infield roster.
In order for the team to be competitive in 2020, the Brewers need to find a good player or player combination to man first base. This is especially important given the uncertainties and third base and short stop going into the season. Below is a list of the candidates the Brewers have available to play first base in 2020:
2019- .285/.343/.505, 22 home runs, 75 RBI’s
The Brewers experimented with Ryan Braun playing some first base during the 2018 season. However, Braun only played 18 games at first during the 2018 season. He has spent the majority of his career in the outfield, including 2011 when he was the NL MVP. Braun’s few games at first in 2018 was a result of the emergence of Aguilar, who was an All-Star that year. In addition, Braun struggled to find comfort at first base.
Ryan Braun is currently listed on the Brewers’ depth chart at first base and in the outfield. Many fans speculate the signing of Avisail Gracia means that Braun will be playing more games at first base. Garcia is a younger, faster defender with a great arm. Yelich may even move to left field so that Garcia’s defense is better utilized in right field. In any case, it appears that Braun will be splitting time between first base and the outfield this season.
2019- .208/.342/.406, 22 home runs, 61 RBI’s (with Toronto Blue Jays)
Justin Smoak was signed by the Brewers to a one-year contract with a team option for 2021. Smoak is an above average defender whose lowest fielding percentage was .993 and highest was .999 (in a season in which he played 134 games at first). He is however, a below average hitter who has hit over .240 just twice in his career. He was an All-Star in 2017 when he hit .270/.355/.529 with 38 home runs and 90 RBI’s.
Smoak is a left-handed batter, as opposed to the right-handed Ryan Braun. It is possible that these to players platoon at first base this year. Interestingly, however, Smoak had a higher batting average against left-handed pitchers last season (though with fewer home runs). This creates an interesting situation because Braun is notoriously better against left-handed pitchers as well. Playing time between the two will most likely come down to defense and who is swinging the hotter bat.
2019- .278/.353/.460, 22 home runs, 55 RBI’s (with Seattle Mariners)
Omar Narvaez was acquired by the Brewers in a trade for minor leaguer Adam Hill. He is slotted to be the Brewers’ starting catcher this season. As Brewers’ fans have seen in the past, Craig Counsell has routinely used catchers as first basemen. Yasmani Grandal played 20 games at first base for the Brewers last year. Narvaez has only played one career game at first base, back in 2017 with the White Sox.
With both Braun and Smoak on the roster, it is unlikely that the Brewers use Narvaez at first base very often, especially if Braun and Smoak are both hitting decently. Last season, Aguilar’s slump and eventual trade left just Thames to man first with no right-handed alternative beside Grandal. Braun bats right-handed and Smoak left-handed, so Narvaez is only listed third on the first base depth chart.
2019- .231/.313/.355, 5 home runs, 40 RBI’s (AAA San Antonio)
Nottingham saw a taste of the big leagues last year as he appeared in nine games for the Brewers, one of them at first base. He is currently slated as the third catcher on the depth chart and the fourth first baseman. It is likely that Nottingham will start the season in the minors again this year.
2019- .174.248/.250, 2 home runs, 9 RBI’s (62 games with St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers)
Jedd Gyorko was signed by the Brewers to help fill the void at third base. He has spent most of his career primarily split between third base and second base, though he has appeared at first base in 35 games throughout his career. His best season was arguably 2016 when he hit .243/.306/.495 with 30 home runs ad 59 RBI’s. In 2017, he hit .272/.341/.472 with 20 home runs and 67 RBI’s. He is currently listed second on the depth chart for third base behind Eric Sogard.
Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion.
Head over to our shop if you are interested in purchasing some Overtime Heroics gear