The situation at first base for the Brewers right now is a mess. The departure of Corey Hart, and the inability to acquire another bat via trade has left the club with just Juan Francisco and Sean Halton as current first base options. While I’m generally a supporter of Fat Juan (mostly because I don’t think strikeouts are the end of the world), I’d ideally like a partner better than Halton to pair with him. The problem with platooning first base in the NL is a lack of defensive versatility that often comes with guys who can handle first base offensively. Insert, Jeff Baker.
Now Jeff Baker is not a savior. He is not going to be a long-term solution anywhere on the diamond, but particularly first base. He is also a flawed player. He can’t hit right handed pitching to save his life. He has a career slash line versus right handers of .236/.288/.358 and a wRC+ of only 64.
Despite being unable to hit right handers, Baker kills lefties. Last year versus lefties he posted a slash line of .314/.407/.667 and a wRC+ of 186. This was supported by a very high BABIP of .390, so such devastation against southpaws should not be expected going forward. His career line against left-handers is still a very strong .298/.353/.522 line and a wRC+ of 128. That kind of hitting ability against left-handers is much stronger than what we could expect Halton to provide.
Not only does Baker kill lefties, but he also offers some defensive versatility. He can play first, second, and third, as well as both OF corner spots. He hasn’t logged enough innings at any particular position for advanced defensive metrics to give us an idea of how he plays at each of the positions, but multiple teams believe he was at least competent at the positions, which does mean something, especially when he’ll be primarily a bench player.
Like I stated earlier, Jeff Baker is not a perfect player, and he’s not a long-term solution. However, he is the ideal guy for what the Brewers need right now. He kills lefties, and provides legitimate defensive versatility. Not only does he fit well with Francisco at first, but he provides depth elsewhere. With a guy like Aramis Ramirez needing days off occasionally, and Ryan Braun being nicked up for a few games a year, being able to use Jeff Baker all around the diamond as well as his ability to platoon at first is an asset the Brewers really should jump on.
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