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Ranking the Rockies: No. 12's name is Ben Paulsen

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Ben Paulsen wasn't great or awful in 2015, and at the very least that should give him an inside track to the first base gig next summer.

Ben Paulsen took the lion's share of time at first base this summer.
Ben Paulsen took the lion's share of time at first base this summer.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockies' third round draft pick in 2009, Ben Paulsen emerged this season when he took over as the Rockies' everyday first baseman after Justin Morneau suffered concussion- and neck-related injuries that unfortunately caused him to miss much of the season.

Paulsen did well enough for the Rockies in his first extended look in the big leagues, hitting .277/.326/.462 in 116 games. He accumulated 0.8 wins above replacement, making him the 12th most valuable player on the team in 2015. (That 0.8 WAR is the 12th-best player on a Major League club is a depressing fact in and of itself, but that's a different discussion for a different time.)

Paulsen proved himself a reliable enough first baseman, and as a result, the first base news around the upcoming season revolves around whether or not he has the ability to be a long-term everyday player in Denver. Paulsen won't be eligible for arbitration until 2018, and he won't hit free agency until 2021, both of which make him a cheap and controllable asset well into what should be the Rockies' next window of contention.

I would argue that Paulsen is a perfectly fine player to have as the everyday first baseman in 2016, but not (yet) the type of player who ought to see significant time on a contending team. You hope to see two-plus wins above replacement out of your starters, which thus far, he has not provided. Granted, he can still develop into a better player, and in the meantime with his ability to play the outfield, too, he could be an extremely valuable bench player for a contender.

His flexibility and flashes of power make him appealing enough for the Rockies right now, at least—especially considering first base is a relatively barren position in the club's farm system right now, with certain interesting prospects not (yet) tabbed to play first base as they rise through the minor leagues.

Heading into 2015, no one expected Paulsen to play as much as he did. He wasn't on Colorado's opening day roster, and spent nearly the first six weeks of the season in Triple-A Albuquerque before being recalled in late May. Considering that, he did just fine for the Rockies' needs over the rest of the season. That alone should give him a legitimate shot to prove himself next summer, and beyond that, well, we'll all see soon enough.

However you feel about Paulsen, it may best be summed up like this: while he may not be a great player, he's also not a bad player ... he just has great facial hair. Oh, and his name is Ben Paulsen.