September 10th, 2023
The All-MLB Team, created in 2019, has provided the answers to an oft-asked question following every season: Who were the best players at each position this year?
The All-MLB Team is split into a First and Second Team, with each team featuring one selection at catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base and DH, as well as three outfielders (regardless of specific outfield position), five starting pitchers and two relievers.
The teams are chosen through a voting process in which 50% of the vote comes from fans and 50% comes from a panel of experts. The nominees will be announced in November, and the winners will be unveiled in December.
Throughout the rest of the regular season, we will be breaking down the top players at each position and separating them into three groups: favorites, contenders and dark horses. Today, we continue our position-by-position series by covering the first-base candidates.
Here are eight first basemen who could make the 2023 All-MLB Team presented by MGM Rewards.
All stats are updated through Saturday.
Freddie Freeman, DodgersWhat can’t Freeman do? He has a stellar .335/.413/.573 slash line, is on pace to become the first player to record 60 doubles and 30 home runs in a season (he’s at 54 and 25) and has been worth 6.1 bWAR this season, which is tied for the fourth-best mark in baseball. On Friday, he broke the Dodgers’ franchise record for single-season doubles, and he has an outside shot at surpassing Earl Webb’s AL/NL record of 67 doubles in a season.
All those stats are backed up by the advanced metrics as well, as Freeman is in the 98th percentile in wOBA (.414, his best mark in a full season), in the 99th percentile in expected batting average (.319) and 100th percentile in sweet-spot rate (47.9%). If it weren’t for the presence of former teammate Ronald Acu?a Jr. and current teammate Mookie Betts, Freeman would probably be in line for his second NL MVP Award in four seasons.
Matt Olson, BravesAlthough Olson cleared the 100-RBI plateau in 2022, it was a bit of a down year for the slugger as he finished with his lowest full-season batting average (.240) and on-base percentage (.325). Those struggles look to be a thing of the past now; he leads MLB with 48 home runs and 118 RBIs. Olson’s already become the fifth Brave to hit 45 home runs in a season (joining Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones) and is on pace to break Andruw’s franchise record of 51.
Olson is having his best season in terms of expected WOBA, a Statcast metric based on quality of contact, K’s and BB’s. He’s making hard contact at the highest clip of his career (57.7% hard-hit rate), walking more (14.2% walk rate) and is on pace to finish with an OPS+ of at least 150 for the second time in three years.
Yandy D?az, RaysComing into the season, D?az was known as a contact savant who had yet to figure out how to turn his hard-hit rate into home runs. That’s changed this year, as D?az has already set a new career high in homers (19) while turning in a .318 batting average — which is the second-best mark in the American League and would be a personal best over a full season. D?az has been remarkably consistent throughout the year, posting a batting average of .300 or better in every full month. While he still isn’t the best defender (he’s on pace for his seventh straight season with negative Outs Above Average), D?az’s bat more than makes up for it.
Pete Alonso, MetsDeath, taxes and Alonso hitting 40 home runs. Alonso cleared the 40-dinger mark on Sept. 3 by going deep twice against the Mariners, and he has an outside shot at reaching 50 for the first time since his 2019 rookie year. His .534 slugging percentage is seventh best in the NL, and this would be his third straight season with a better than .500 slugging percentage. A 2019 All-MLB selection, Alonso is three big flies away from tying Howard Johnson (192) for fourth in franchise history.
Nathaniel Lowe, RangersLast year, Lowe earned a Silver Slugger on the back of a career-best .302/.358/.492 slash line and personal highs in home runs (27), RBIs (76) and hits (179). The 28-year-old has built upon that this season as he leads the American League with 37 doubles, is on pace to top 80 RBIs and has a .372 OBP, which is second best on the Rangers behind Corey Seager. Lowe has also gotten better with the glove; he’s been worth two Outs Above Average this year after registering a below-average OAA in each of his first four seasons.
Christian Walker, D-backsThere’s no denying the impact the D-backs’ farm system has had on their 2023 squad as the lineup is filled with budding young stars who rose through the team’s Minor League ranks. But the heartbeat of Arizona’s offense might be Walker, a former Orioles castoff who has become one of the best sluggers in baseball. Walker ranks 11th in OPS in the National League (.855) and is in the midst of another 30-homer, 90-RBI season. After going through a bit of a slump in July, he hit .302 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in August and has already mashed two homers in September. Plus, after winning a Gold Glove in 2022, Walker leads all first basemen with 11 Outs Above Average.
Triston Casas, Red SoxHere’s the list of players with a higher OPS since the All-Star break than Casas’ 1.042: Freeman, Olson, Seager, Mookie Betts and Shohei Ohtani. The 23-year-old shook off a slow start that had him batting .133 through the end of April to put himself in the AL Rookie of the Year conversation. Casas leads all qualified AL rookies in OPS (.852), is second in home runs (23) and walks (66), and is third in slugging (.488).
Josh Naylor, GuardiansOh, what could have been for Naylor and the Guardians? On July 31, with Cleveland just one game out of first place, Naylor was hitting .306 with 15 home runs and had 79 RBIs, the fourth most in MLB. But on that day, he felt discomfort in his right side, which ended up being an oblique strain that would sideline him for 29 games. During that period, Cleveland hit the fewest home runs in baseball (22) and went 13-16, a testament to Naylor’s presence in the Guardians’ lineup. He has six RBIs in six games since returning from the injured list on Sept. 3.