Who Will Be At First Base For The Long Haul?

Updated: April 18, 2017

When the Angels signed Albert Pujols some may have thought that he would man first base for the long haul. However, his declining health in recent memory has spurred Manager Mike Scioscia to mainly utilize him at DH. Pujols played some first this past weekend to perhaps keep him active. This may occur now and again, but will by no means become a trend.

Due to Albert’s aging, GM Billy Eppler decided to sign Luis Valbuena to a two-year pact before Spring Training kicked off. Valbuena gives the ball club instant versatility since he can play first and third. He also grants the Halos with a tool that have not had in recent memory: a left-handed power bat. Therefore, a key piece to the puzzled was found so it appears. Scioscia even seemed to indicate in the preseason that Valbuena would be getting a lot of the playing time at first this year. Alas, the left-handed bat remains on the shelf for now because of a hamstring injury.

As a result, the team had to look a little deeper to fill the temporary void at first base. C.J. Cron was next in line and earned a lot of the playing time in Spring Training. In a similar way, Cron was also awarded with a starting gig on Opening Day. This was largely due to the stellar spring he put up. Cron has not been all too productive this year, though. He ranks third on the team in batting average, yet the middle of the order bat only has 1 RBI so far. That is not going to cut it. He has definitely had various opportunities to contribute this year in those situations, too, so there are no excuses.

Cron is known for slow starts when 2015 and 2016 are looked at. Now, last year he eventually picked it up and finished the campaign with a respectable 16 round-trippers and 69 RBIs. He started to look like the guy everyone thought he could be. Another below average start for C.J. leads one to wonder if he is truly reliable. The season is still young, but the barely noticeable production early on is becoming harder to watch.

Cron still does carry the ability to be a solid first baseman in this league. Yet the slow starts are what they are. They cannot be denied. What is also hard to deny is that he is still a bit clueless with left-handed pitching. He has always been okay with righties. Conversely, his power numbers against southpaws are beneath what is expected from a guy with pop in his lumber. Greater balance is needed to gain stronger trust in C.J.

The funny thing is that when Valbuena’s career line is given a closer look the same thing is actually true. The difference is not as wide as Cron’s, but Valbuena actually fares better against righties interestingly enough. It is feasible that when Valbuena returns he will get a lot of playing time because of his greater experience in the league. Consequently, time is ticking for Cron because he had a chance to really prove himself this month. He has not been terrible, yet has not been superb at the same time. It thereby makes the first base situation curious.

Jefry Marté is another guy in the mix who is every bit as versatile as Valbuena. Marté is not only solid at the corner infield positions, yet is a capable outfielder as well. The offseason additions of Cameron Maybin and Ben Revere denote that his chances of playing left field are gone, however. Last year and in the preseason his ability to swing the bat were not in question. He has gotten a little less playing time this season, though, provided that Cron is the primary candidate for the time being. Marté is therefore harder to analyze because his stat line is not the best sample size when it comes to determining the kind of player he can be for the Angels. The Dominican product should not be forgotten about. That is for sure.

It is truly an enigma to figure out who will get the most playing time once Valbuena returns. All three carry value in some capacity. The biggest trait they all possess is that they all have above average power. Although that is valid, there is only so much space on a 25-man roster. Something is going to have to give. It will be interesting to see how things shake out in the upcoming weeks with respect to the first base scenario.

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