Underpaid Superstars. The Minimum-Wage Roster: First base

Among active players, three of the four with the best career numbers belong to first basemen: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto. The anomaly is, of course, Mike Trout.

The first baseman brings the power, but he is also required to field high throws and scoop up low balls. First base is “incredibly hard.”

As noted in the previous article about catchers, the MLB salary structure is beyond my comprehension. And as also mentioned, I love this quote below in which the phrase “fairly compensated” does a lot of heavy lifting.

“Major League Baseball has a minimum player salary in place to ensure that its athletes are fairly compensated for the work they do.”

Without further ado, we are pleased to present the second instalment in the Bat Flips and Nerds Underpaid Superstars – The Minimum Wage Roster. All of the players were paid less than $610,000 in the 2021 season.

First base: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Remember when people were muttering about Vlad junior being an underachiever? Those looking beneath the headline stats pointed to the 49.6% groundball rate in 2019, and 54.6% in 2020 and asked if he would ever stop hitting the ball on the ground so much.

In 2021, his groundball rate only dropped to 44.8% but he was the best hitter in the game. No one is muttering “underachiever” now.

Obviously, you can sort statistics to fit any narrative, but there is little argument that Guerrero Jr. just produced a season to rival the trio of future Hall-of-Fame first basemen.

As an aside, a couple of things strike me. Firstly, according to fWAR, Miggy Cabrera never had a season better than Guerrero Jr.’s 2021. And secondly, how incredible was Albert Pujols?

Phillies superstar, Bryce Harper, deservedly won the 2021 NL MVP with wRC+ 170, indicating he was 70% better than average. Blue Jays’ Guerrero Jr. finished the season with wRC+ 166.

And how much did the Toronto Blue Jays pay their first baseman for his historic season? Well, let’s put it this way, despite producing 66% better than average, he received 15% of the average salary at just $605,400.

Thanks for a little roster manipulation, the Blue Jays have enjoyed three years of paying the minimum and will keep the AL’s best hitter under contract for a further four seasons.

Fortunately, the slugger will get a pay rise for the 2022 season – his first arbitration-eligible season – with an estimate of around $8 million.

Salary information courtesy of Spotrac

Featured image photo by Brace Hemmelgarn

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