For the first time in nine years, the Cardinals’ first baseman will be someone other than Albert Pujols. Pujols, who manned the position longer than Keith Hernandez (seven seasons) and the longest since Sunny Jim Bottomley (nine seasons), makes way for a second-year man (at least with the Cardinals), the newly young Lance Berkman. Although Fans don’t expect Puma to replicate his 2011 rebirth (5.0 WAR), they still peg him for 3.8 as he returns to first base, the position to which he had withdrawn between 2005 and 2010. Though he proved that his outfield defense wasn’t that costly, the fact remains that he’ll be a better first baseman than right fielder. But with Albert Pujols’s defensive decline, the Cardinals won’t lose much if anything on the fielding side of the ball with Berkman. It’s the offensive regression that Fans incorporated into their projection. Berkman hasn’t seen much playing time this spring, easing in gently and giving prospect Matt Adams and likely understudy Mark Hamilton some reps. A Puma spotting in the outfield in 2012 may not be so far fetched, however, depending on the injury situation, which could find the Cardinalsat some point without both Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran.
Rating relative to last year: slightly worse
Comparison within division
Source: Fangraphs.com Fans projections
The Reds’ Joey Votto is the class of the majors, league and division at first base, with a projected 7.5 WAR. After him, it’s Berkman, then everyone else. The Cubs (Anthony Rizzo, Jeff Baker), Astros (Brett Wallace) and Brewers (Travis Ishikawa, Taylor Green) may all give multiple players significant playing time at first base in 2012.