Sunday, November 6, 2011

Prince Albert or Prince Fielder?

Slugging first basemen Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder lead this winter's loaded free agent class, and both figure to wind up with massive paychecks sooner or later.  Pujols is looking to stay in St. Louis, but Milwaukee seems unlikely to bring Fielder back.  Ideally he would find a home in the American League, where he could be the best full-time DH we've seen since David Ortiz was teaming up with Manny Ramirez five years ago, but the Cubs need a first baseman after Carlos Pena's departure and seem to be in the mix for him.
But nothing's set in stone, so the question is; which one would you rather have?

The case for Pujols/Against Prince

-Hands down best hitter in the game since 2001
-More athletic and one of the hardest workers in the game, so he should age gracefully.  Hefty sluggers such as Fielder tend to decline earlier and more rapidly
-Incomparable consistency, whereas Prince has pulled an Alex Rodriguez by performing significantly better in odd-numbered years
-You won't confuse him for Ichiro Suzuki on the basepaths, but he's reached Fielder's career stolen base total (16-is it just me or does that seem a little high for the big fella?) in two different seasons (2005 and 2009).  Pujols is an above average baserunner (16 career Rbaser) with great instincts while Fielder is just too big (-28 career Rbaser)
-Fielder is a subpar fielder (-4.5 defensive bWAR) while Pujols is a good one (11.3 defensive bWAR and two Gold Gloves, for those of you who put stock in such awards)
-Fielder, like most lefty sluggers, has a big platoon split vs. southpaws.  Pujols crushes everybody

The case for Prince/Against Pujols
-At least four years younger than the Machine, and at age 27 is in the heart of his prime.  Pujols may have already entered the decline phase of his career after regressing in two straight seasons
-Will be more affordable
-Is incredibly durable and plays everyday, having averaged 160 games played since his first full season in 2006 (how are his legs and knees staying intact to allow him to do this?!).  Pujols is a warrior but has missed an average of ten games per season over the same time frame
-Was more productive at the dish in 2011 (and 2007, when he blasted 50 homers to lead the Senior Circuit and slugged .618 at the tender age of 23)
-Pujols' plate discipline took a major step back last season as he chased a career high percentage of pitches out of the strike zone and set a career low with 61 walks.  Pitchers seemed not to fear him as much; his 15 intentional walks were his fewest since 2004.  On the other hand, Fielder topped 100 free passes (a league leading 32 were intentional) for the third straight year

Personally, I'd rather have Fielder simply because he'll be more productive over the life of the contract.  Whoever signs him gets the rest of his prime and early decline years, whereas Pujols may not return to his dominance from a few years ago.  I think he'll bounce back since he was a monster in the second half, but in the worst case scenario he just continues to decline and whoever signs him is stuck in an A-Rod situation where you're paying a player $30 million in his late 30s/early 40s when he can no longer be a productive everyday player.

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