Ike Davis is the NL’s second-best first baseman?

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With Albert Pujols and now Prince Fielder following Adrian Gonzalez to the American League, the NL has bled some remarkable talent at first base the last two winters. That’s one sure Hall of Famer and two more legitimate possibilities switching leagues while still in their primes. Left is Joey Votto and, well…

Reds: Joey Votto – .990 (2012 projected OPS)
Mets: Ike Davis – .864
Cardinals: Lance Berkman: .860
Phillies: Ryan Howard – .850/Ty Wigginton – .739
Braves: Freddie Freeman – .823
Rockies: Todd Helton – .815
D-backs: Paul Goldschmidt – .814
Marlins: Gaby Sanchez – .809
Astros: Carlos Lee: .787
Dodgers: James Loney: .776
Nationals: Adam LaRoche: .776
Brewers: Mat Gamel: .761
Cubs: Bryan LaHair: .756
Giants: Aubrey Huff: .739/Brandon Belt: .782
Padres: Yonder Alonso: .725
Pirates: Garrett Jones: .710/Casey McGehee: .728

In his MVP season of 2010, Votto only made the NL All-Star team by winning the final vote for the 32nd spot. I’m going to take a stab and say he’s not going to have much to worry about this year.

Davis and Freeman are potential All-Stars and new Cubs acquisition Anthony Rizzo might also have that kind of potential, but the list above simply isn’t very inspiring. Howard is likely to miss two months or more with his torn Achilles’ tendon, leaving Wigginton as the Phillies’ primary first baseman. I don’t understand why the Pirates decided to spend $15 million on Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes and Erik Bedard, only to get gunshy on reupping Derrek Lee. He’d be a big upgrade for them and a somewhat lesser one for the Brewers.

Reds having Michael Lorenzen prepare as a two-way player

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For decades, a legitimate “two-way player” — a player who functions as both a pitcher and as a position player — was nothing but a fantasy. The skill sets required for both are too distinct and require too much prep work, it was thought. The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani shattered that illusion in 2018, posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter while posting a 3.31 ERA in 51 2/3 innings as a pitcher.

Since then, several more players have been considered in two-way roles. The Rangers signed Matt Davidson earlier this month and could potentially use him as a corner infielder as well as a reliever. Also earlier this month, James Loney signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters, who plan to use him as both a first baseman and as a pitcher.

You can add Michael Lorenzen of the Reds to that list. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports that the Reds will have Lorenzen prepare this spring as a two-way player. He could both start and relieve while occasionally playing in the outfield. Lorenzen, in fact, took batting practice with the outfielders on Thursday. Previously, he had taken batting practice as extra work following a workout with fellow pitchers.

Lorenzen said, “It’s fantastic, the effort they’re putting in. A lot of the excuses were, ‘You know, we don’t want to overwork him.’ Well, let’s just sit down and talk about it then. They were willing to sit down and talk about it, which is one of the reasons why I love this staff so much and why I think the front office did a great job [hiring] this staff. They’re willing to find solutions for problems.”

New manager David Bell said, “We’ve put together a plan for the whole spring, knowing we can adjust it at any time. We didn’t want to go into each day not knowing what he’s going to do. We all felt better, he did, too. He was part of putting it together.”

Lorenzen, 27, pitched 81 innings last year with a 3.11 ERA and a 54/34 K/BB ratio. He’s one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers as well. Last year, he swatted four homers and knocked in 10 runs in 34 trips to the plate. The last pitcher to hit at least four homers in a season was the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, who did it in both 2014 (four) and 2015 (five). Lorenzen also posted a 1.043 OPS. According to Baseball Reference, there have been only 11 pitchers to OPS over 1.000 (min. 30 PA). The only ones to do it in the 2000’s are Lorenzen last year, Micah Owings in 2007 (1.033) and Dontrelle Willis in 2011 (1.032).