We continue our look at the best Mariners of the 2010s as we build the best team we can. After taking the obvious route with the catcher position, today we try to find a single qualified first baseman.
After naming Mike Zunino to the Mariners All-Decade Team, we move down the line to see who will win the first base job. And unlike the catcher position, there were several players vying for the spot. Unfortunately, none of them were all that good.
During the decade, only 16 players played first for Seattle and only 3 had an fWAR over 1.0. But before we get too deep into the candidates, let’s remember the guidelines we are working with. First, it only takes 1 game at the position in a Mariners uniform to be eligible for this team. However, only the production from their time in Seattle will be taken into account.
Second, our primary focus will be on statistical analysis. Numbers matter, but so do memorable moments and fan favoritness is also factored into the equation. We aren’t restricting ourselves too much here and most of these positions are open for debate.
With these guidelines in place, we can start looking at the candidates. Using just fWAR, the best Mariners first baseman of the decade was actually Edwin Encarnacion. Of course, the issue with his candidacy is that he appeared in just 65 games for Seattle.
That 65 game stretch was still more valuable than the other 15 names combined, thanks to some truly horrible performances from the likes of Casey Kotchman. Despite the limited opportunities, Encarnacion still ranks 5th in HRs (amongst Mariners 1B), 6th in runs, 2nd in BB%, 1st in OBP, slugging percentage, and wRC+.
Believe it or not, the second most valuable first baseman of the decade also played for Seattle in 2019. Yes, that is right, Austin Nola was the second-best first baseman of the decade by fWAR. But again, we run into the short sample problem.
Nola only appeared in 79 games, but still has the 3rd highest wRC+, 2nd highest OBP, and 3rd in slugging percentage. It really was a dark decade for Seattle.
The third highest fWAR belongs to Daniel Vogelbach, who very well could win this on fan favoritness and memorable moments alone. After all, he did go to an All-Star game, which is a huge plus.
Justin Smoak led the decade in games played and PAs, but lacked a defining moment or production anywhere near the top to the leaderboard. And while Smoak has blossomed into a nice player since leaving Seattle, none of that production counts for our purposes.
Strictly speaking, Encarnacion, Nola, or Vogelbach should be the decision. But with the super small sample sizes from Encarnacion and Nola, I just have a hard time naming them to this team. Vogelbach has been around longer and has more memorable moments.
But Morrison played more games and also put up similar numbers to Vogey. The decision is a tough one, and you can pick either player. But we need to pick a player to put at first base, so let’s get this over with.
Mariners All-Decade Team First Baseman: Logan Morrison
So honestly, you can pick either Vogelbach or Morrison and it would make sense. Heck, pick Encarnacion or Nola if you want. The simple truth is that first base was a difficult position to fill for the Mariners in the past decade.
Hopefully, 2020 will be the start of a glorious decade for first baseman in Seattle, and the team believes they have that guy in Evan White. They believe in him so much, they gave him an MLB deal before he ever appeared in a big-league game.
Hopefully, the front office’s valuation is correct and White can finally bring some stability to one of the least stable positions in all of MLB.