2014 Spring Training Preview: First base

There isn't much depth behind Gonzalez at 1B. (By: Dustin Nosler)
There isn’t much depth behind Adrian Gonzalez at 1B. (By: Dustin Nosler)
Adrian Gonzalez 32 2013 .293 .342 .461 .346 124 2.8
’14 ZiPS .282 .339 .453 .335 n/a 3.2
’14 Steamer .292 .358 .486 .362 135 3.7
Scott Van Slyke 27 2013 .240 .342 .465 .353 129 0.9
’14 ZiPS .249 .325 .420 .325 n/a 1.6
’14 Steamer .245 .332 .408 .327 111 0.2
Clint Robinson 29 2013 (AAA) .213 .323 .352 .313 91 n/a
Jamie Romak 28 2013 (AAA) .242 .322 .461 .345 104 n/a
Aaron Bates 30 2013 (Atl. Lg) .306 .397 .411 n/a n/a n/a

If the catcher series could have been titled, “‘Oh please oh please oh please A.J. Ellis stay healthy,'” then the first base series could be titled, “Wrap Adrian Gonzalez in bubble wrap so he doesn’t get hurt because the Dodgers have no viable backup.”

Gonzalez should have no problem playing 150-plus games, as he has never played fewer than 156 games in a full season in his career. He had a 2013 season he could easily duplicate in 2014. He’s not the 30-plus home run threat he was a few years ago, but he’s still a formidable hitter and figures to hit cleanup for the Dodgers.

He provides a consistent bat in the middle of the order — something the Dodgers lacked last season with all the injuries. Gonzalez was a stabilizing force at times and is still among the top third of first basemen in the game.

Van Slyke is probably the Dodgers’ best backup first baseman, even if he profiles better as a corner outfielder. He has improved his bat speed in the last year-plus, so he’s at least decent option for the Dodgers if he has to play extended time. More likely, he’ll give Gonzalez the occasional breather when a tough lefty is on the mound… if he even makes the roster.

Robinson is a career minor-leaguer, but he’s probably third on the first base depth chart (if you don’t count Juan Uribe). He had a few solid seasons in Double- and Triple-A from 2010-12 in the Royals’ system, but he wasn’t ever much of a prospect. He’s almost unplayable against lefties, so if he had to play extended time in the majors, a Van Slyke-Robinson platoon could work, but not for that long.

Romak signed with the Dodgers in November, and his versatility could help him in Triple-A and maybe the majors. He has experience at all four corners (and even two appearances at pitcher) in the minors, logging most of his time in right field. But he also has 242 games played at first base and 150 at third base. He’s a big right-handed hitter not unlike Van Slyke (but the ‘Stache is better).

Bates was signed out of the Atlantic League. You’re probably wondering what league that is. Well, it’s an Independent League team, hence the somewhat impressive numbers. He was originally drafted by the Red Sox in the eighth round of the 2005 draft by the Marlins. He didn’t sign and was drafted in the third round by the Red Sox in 2006. He’s a righty all the way and, aside from one season in the California League, has never shown the power to play first base. If he plays for the Dodgers this season, something has gone horribly wrong.

Next up: Second base

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.