This is the era of the first baseman. We went through the shortstop revolution in the late 90’s with Omar Vizquel, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and now the bulk of talent in the field has shifted to the right side of the infield.
Joey Votto was the NL MVP last year. Ryan Howard has won one as well and has a NLCS MVP to match. Mark Teixeira is a perennial all-star and considered to be the best defensive first baseman in the game. Then there’s Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera and of course the best of them all Albert Pujols (no explanation needed.).
One guy who gets lost in the sauce is Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder.
The son of former 50 home run hitter Cecil is the same hulking mass that his father is, but is a much more refined hitter.
He’s good for close to or over 100 walks a season to go with 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI that he averages a year. He puts up Pujols on-base numbers, Howard power numbers and has improved his defense so much that he’s close to Teixeira’s level.
So why then is Fielder never mentioned on the same breathe as his associates?
It goes something like this; as talented and as big of a threat he is at the plate, Fielder is more comparable to Milton Bradley than he is to Pujols, Howard or Teixeira.
While it’s not that extreme, Fielder is rougher around the edges than his cooler fellows at first base. You will see Fielder throwing bats and gloves in the dugout after a strikeout, going chest to chest with an ump, you’ve seen him wait to beat the pulp out of Guillermo Mota after being hit. Not to say that he is too volatile, but Fielder has had his share of questionable moments.
As far as baseball goes the reason why he’s not mentioned in the same breath with the other first basemen could be due to location, geographically and divisionally and the fact that unlike the other men Fielder isn’t the face of his team.
Fielder plays in the same division as Votto, who powered the Reds to an NL Central title last year, and Pujols, who… well, is Albert Pujols. Being in the same division as two of the top 5 first basemen in the game gets you less airtime on Baseball Tonight and in the national press. What also doesn’t help his name is Ryan Braun. It’s not Braun’s fault that he’s one of the games brightest stars and since his debut 4 years ago he’s been a stud. Braun is the face of the franchise because he has an appeal and a quality about him that makes him a likeable guy.
It also doesn’t hurt to be a lifetime .300 hitter whose strikeout totals have declined each of the last 3 seasons. It also doesn’t hurt to hit in front of Fielder whose presence in the lineup allows for Braun to get the kind of at-bats that he gets.
That could change after this year.
This is a huge year for the Brewers and Fielder. With the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright going through Tommy John surgery and the Brewers picking up Zach Greinke from Kansas City, the Brew Crew have great positioning to be the team to knock Cincinnati off of their perch in the division.
However, if they don’t resign Prince Fielder then it could be a one-year deal.
Fielder is at the end of a 2 year, 18 million dollar and is looking at a huge payday this offseason. One that the Brewers wont be able to afford unless Fielder takes a hometown discount.
Losing Fielder would be a huge blow to the team and its lineup. Despite his attitude issues Fielder is a great commercial guy and is fun loving type of player (see the team’s home run celebration when he stomped on home plate two years ago.). He is a great clubhouse guy who brings everyone together in a funny way. If he leaves the Brewers lose a fan favorite and a huge bat in the middle of its lineup.
Sure he had an off year last season but Fielder is a .290/33/110 guy with a .400 OBP waiting to happen. You can’t replace that anywhere.
His presence in the lineup makes Braun, Corey Hart and Casey McGehee so much better and gives pitchers fits. Losing Fielder would put more pressure on a rotation that is already iffy even with Greinke and Yovani Gallardo at the top.
However, the Brewers can’t pay him 20 million a year, it’s impossible. Not in that market, with that team. Their only options are to play out the year and see what happens or trade him now and get what they can for him.
If they do trade him, they’ll get a ton of talent back. Fielder is arguably a top 5 first basemen in an era where there are a ton of them to choose from.
Though he’s not a huge name like Albert Pujols, or the rising star the Joey Votto is, Fielder is one of the best in the game at his position.
Trust when I say that Fielder won’t have the same year that he had last year. This year will be huge, and someone whether it is the Brewers or another team will pay for it.