Heading into 2010 selecting Prince Fielder in the first round of fantasy drafts was an easy decision. He was coming off a year in which he had hit .299 with 46 HR, 141 RBI and 103 R. It was the second time in his career that he had hit at least 45 HR, as well as the second time he had gone 100/100. Unfortunately for owners who put their faith in him, Fielder started slowly (which is not an oddity for him) and never got going.
Now owners face a new set of questions. How do we value him heading into 2011? Is he a viable first round selection? Let’s take a look.
2010 Campaign: Fielder regressed across the board, hitting .261 with 32 HR, 83 RBI and 94 R. Previously a fixture in the cleanup role for the Brewers, he just never got going and the team ultimately experimented with flipping Fielder and Ryan Braun in an effort to get him going. Unfortunately, it didn’t work (at least not completely). While Fielder did alright in the three hole (.275, 10 HR, 19 RBI) in 142 AB, we have already discussed how much Braun struggled hitting fourth (click here to read the article on Braun).
On the season Fielder had four months with just five home runs or less. In comparison, in 2009 after hitting three home runs in April, he hit at least eight home runs in four of the next five months.
What happened: The biggest problem was Fielder’s ability to perform with runners in scoring position (RISP). In 2009 he hit .296 with 13 HR and 93 RBI with RISP. In 2010 he hit just .233 with 2 HR and 47 RBI with RISP. If you are looking for the one big explanation for his regression, this is it.
While it may not help explain his fall in power, it certainly helps explain the collapse in RBI. While I don’t think anyone anticipated him repeating his 141 RBI from ’09, a 58 RBI regression seems extremely dramatic.
Of course, it’s not the only reason for his falloff. His fly ball rate was its lowest since 2006 at 39.7%. What may be even more noteworthy is his HR/FB, which has gone back and forth the past four seasons. Just look at the trend, as well as the number of home runs it yielded:
- 2007 – 23.9% (50 HR)
- 2008 – 18.2% (34 HR)
- 2009 – 23.1% (46 HR)
- 2010 – 18.3% (32 HR)
This not only helps explain his power regression, but his fall in average as well. While he did post a lower BABIP (.315 in ’09 to .291 in ’10), if he had been able to maintain his power, his average would have been significantly better. Just think about it, home runs are hits not put in play, meaning luck is irrelevant.
At the end of the day, Fielder posted a .471 SLG, his worst mark in a full season at the major league level. With his power, would anyone have predicted that?
Fielder also struggled against left handed pitchers, hitting .226 with 5 HR and 19 RBI. In comparison, he had at least 10 HR against southpaws each year since 2006.
What to expect in 2011: It’s hard to imagine Fielder once again struggling as badly as he did with RISP, as well as against left handed pitchers. The fact that he’s traded these types of “bad” years with tremendous seasons would give you hope. Couple that (which is more superstitious then anything) with the numbers and it should be another solid campaign.
There will be questions about him getting traded throughout the season (if he’s not traded beforehand), and it is possible that it causes a distraction. At the same time Fielder is going to be playing for a contract and he is going to want to prove that the 40+ HR power is still in his bat.
Is he going to match the monster years he had in 2007 and 2009? Probably not, but the potential is there for him to do so. The problem is, without that being likely, it is almost impossible to select him in the first round this year. When you pick someone in the first round you want to at least feel confident that they will perform among the Top 12 players in the league. Can you honestly say that about Fielder? Can you say it is an absolute certainty?
Throw in the depth among first baseman and it makes it impossible to select him at the end of the first round. The truth is, from picks 13-18, you could possibly have first base option like Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard and Adrian Gonzalez still on the board (as well as Fielder). Why not take a player at a shallower position in the middle-to-late first round, than look to bank one of these first basemen, with potential first round talent, in the second round?
It’s not that Fielder doesn’t have the ability to perform like a first rounder, it just doesn’t make sense to pick him as one.
What are your thoughts? Do you see Fielder as a first round pick in 2011? Why or why not?
Make sure to check out our previous first round pick analysis articles: