Ranking the 2016 NL East: First Basemen
No. 5 Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies)
A few years ago, there’s no doubt that Ryan Howard would have earned the No. 1 spot on our ranking. Now, however, the former MVP first baseman is in a steady decline. And while he was able to stay healthier and more productive in 2015 than in previous years, his numbers are still well below where they have been in the past.
Howard’s decline has been ongoing for several years now, and he probably won’t even start at first base all that much in 2016. Last season the Phillies implemented a platoon between Howard and Darin Ruf at first, and there’s a good chance they’ll do the same next season — despite the fact that they’ll be paying Howard $25 million in the last guaranteed year of his contract.
Last season, the three-time all-star hit .229 with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs. Howard played in just 129 games last season (24 fewer than he did in 2014) and his on-base percentage dropped 33 points.
His power appeared to surge in 2015 — hitting the same number of homers he hit in 2014 in 145 fewer plate appearances — but he saw a decline in several other offensive categories and in WAR.
At 36 years old, it’s unlikely that Howard will see a whole lot of improvement next season. But a solid season at first base could earn him a higher ranking on this list, and it could also earn him a short-term deal in free agency next offseason.
Next: No. 4