2016 saw 9 different Cardinals get the opportunity to play first base. Of those 9, the 5 players who recorded at least 9 innings at first all showed signs of promise and hesitation.
Matt Adams, Brandon Moss, Matt Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko, and Matt Holliday came together to hold down the fort over at first, but there were definitely some bumps and bruises along the way. So, how did the Cardinals first basemen perform in 2016?
Matt Adams frequented first base most this year for the Cardinals. He appeared in 86 games at first, starting 69 of them. In 601.2 innings logged, Adams committed just 7 errors. Offensively, Adams faced some trouble during the season as a whole. After improving in 2014 and 2015, Adams returned to his 2013 levels of striking out— nearly 1 in every 4 plate appearances. He slashed his was to a .249/.309/.471 split, nothing too impressive, and hit 16 home runs with 54 RBIs.
After an injury riddled 2015 season, both coaches and fans were expecting Adams to reproduce the type of slash line that Matt had previously accomplished in 2013 and 2014, but he fell short of that .284/.335/.503 mark. As for now, Adams is a fine first baseman capable of hitting and playing defense, but if an opportunity presents itself for the Cardinals to upgrade this off season, don’t be surprised.
Similar to Adams, Moss struggled at the plate to consistently make it on base. He hit .225 with an OBP of .300 in 2016. He also struck in over 30% of his plate appearances, but was walked frequently— 8.4% of the time. But for all the trouble Moss had with getting on base and striking out, his booming bat kept him in the lineup.
Adams recorded a slugging percentage of .484, and took 28 pitches deep— second only to Jedd Gyorko for most home runs by a Cardinal in 2016. Adams recorded 67 RBIs in the 128 games he appeared in, 64 of which saw him at first base. Behind Matt Adams, Moss started the most games at first in 2016, racking in 40 nods, while totaling 397 innings. Overall, Moss’ power was needed by the Cardinals in 2016, but his troubles in striking out and getting on base are definitely noticeable.
In 2016, Matt Carpenter worked as a utility man for the Cardinals, splitting his time between first, second, and third. Matt started 35 games at first and was brought in to play there an additional 10 times. He totaled 312 innings at first, while allowing 4 errors. He was also voted to the All Star Game for his 3rd time, and was the go-to lead off man for the Cardinals lineup.
Carpenter hit his was to a .271/.380/.505 slash line, recording the highest OBP of any qualified Cardinal this year. Along with having success at getting on base, Carpenter was a main producer of runs for his team, driving in 68 and hitting 21 home runs. Carpenter was arguable the Cardinals most consistent and productive batter in 2016, but Matt’s primary position isn’t first base and he most likely won’t see too much time there next season.
Like Carpenter, Jedd was a utility infielder this season, getting starts at first, second, third, and shortstop. But as for first base, Gyorko only saw 8 starts during 11 games in which he was featured at the position. Jedd failed to produce an error in those 64 innings at first, and contributed greatly to the Cardinals offense in 2016. With a slash of .243/.306/.495, Jedd smashed 30 homers and tallied 59 RBIs and 58 runs scored. But first base isn’t home for Jedd, so don’t expect to see him there too much in the future.
Before being sidelined with a broken left-thumb from mid-August to the end of September, Matt was the starting Left Fielder for the Cardinals. Since his debut for the Cardinals in 2009, Holliday has been a face of the organization and backbone of the lineup. But in 2016, Holliday saw his first appearance in his professional career at first base. He logged 61.2 innings over 10 games— 9 of which he started— at first, while committing 0 errors.
At the plate, Holliday saw signs of aging, recording record lows in both AVG and OBP at .246 and .322. But Holliday continued to show power for the Cardinals, slugging 20 home runs and 20 doubles while compiling a slugging percentage of .461. Matt also drove in 62 runs, while scoring 48 of his own, while reducing his strike-out rate from 2015. But Matt is now a free agent, and we most likely saw the last ever home run Holliday hit in Cardinal Red.
Between Matt Adams, Brandon Moss, and Matt Carpenter, the three players who started over 88% of the games at first base for the Cardinals in 2016, consistent production was an issue. First base isn’t even home for Moss or Carpenter, while Adams had issues with getting on base and striking out. Holliday and Gyorko had productive outputs in their short stints at first, but the sample size was small and Holliday won’t be back next year. Overall, the Cardinals should keep an open eye for upgrades at first, but have more than enough to be successful without a star first baseman in 2017.