Player Profile: Prince Fielder

27 02 2008

Coming off a MVP-caliber year, Prince Fielder (not yet 24) comes into the season looking to improve upon his monstrous 50 home run season. It is increasingly looking like the Brewers will be unable to lock up the young slugger to a multi-year deal, as Scott Boras is notorious for not allowing teams to buy-out arbitration-eligible seasons. Brewers fans should enjoy Prince while he’s still in Milwaukee, as it will only be a few years before he becomes much too expensive to hold on to.

Strengths:

Everybody in the league talks about Prince’s power stroke. That is understandable, as Prince poked 50 home runs last season, and very few of them were baby shots. The young man hits the ball with authority to all fields, which is a sign of tremendous maturity for a young hitter.

While everyone focuses on Prince’s home runs, it is important to note that he is not an all-or-nothing type of hitter (see Adam Dunn). Prince hit .288/.395/.618 last season, which is impressive for a young power hitter. His 90 walks last season also shows his maturity at the plate. His walk total and his OBP went up drastically last season, and it would be foolish to believe that Prince does not have room to improve. The important aspect in Prince’s game for Milwaukee is that he consistently gets on base. On a team that strikes out a lot and does not work the pitch-count much, a high OBP player is a rare luxury.

Aside from Prince’s incredible offensive abilities, he has quickly taken the leadership role on the team. No Brewer plays with more passion and constantly wears his emotions on his sleeve. Last year, Yost was very vocal about his praise for Prince’s leadership role on the team. No one expected Fielder to take on such a role so early in his career, but his personality and abilities have thrust it upon him. I have been very impressed with Prince’s demeanor. He is largely quiet, but when he speaks, it is with passion and his teammates listen. I remember an instance last season when the Brewers were struggling through a losing streak, Prince sat quietly in the corner of the locker room while everyone sulked around the clubhouse chatting amongst themselves. Suddenly, Prince stood up and exploded at his teammates. Everyone shut up very quickly. He was not accusatory. He did not exclude himself in his criticisms. He simply wanted to win. Losing is not an option for Prince. That’s the type of player a fan likes to see leading his team.

Weaknesses:

Fielder’s defensive woes are largely overlooked because of his bat, but a story this winter wrote about Prince’s wife pointing out the fact that Prince was the worst fielding first baseman in the National League. The absolute worst.

This has lead Prince to focus extra hard on his defense this off-season and already in camp. Prince has said that he does not want to be known as a power-hitter than cannot field worth a lick. He wants to be a complete player. Experts say that Prince has the tools to be an adequate fielder for Milwaukee in the next couple years, and all signs point to Prince being dedicated to be such. I do not expect Prince to be a fantastic fielding first baseman, but he can certainly perform much better in the field than he did last season.

It seems weird to say, but Prince can still improve at the plate. With his power, he should be consistently getting 100 free passes every year. That is not to say that his 90 BB is bad by any stretch of the imagination. I’m simply saying that if Prince wants to be the best slugger in the National League, he should draw more walks. There were times late in games last season when Prince lost his plate discipline and struck out unnecessarily. At the end of games, pitchers will rarely challenge him, and he needs to learn that a walk is just as good as a base hit. The Brewers batting order has plenty of firepower behind him. He does not need to win every game by himself.

Prince Fielder is a big boy. Scouts even believe that he may be a little too big. His father ate himself out of the league, and there are legitimate concerns to whether or not the same will happen to Prince. Perhaps his knees will even begin to get worn down just like Mo Vaughn. Prince is taking a pro-active approach to this criticism, however, as this off-season he has become a vegetarian. If Prince’s weight ever becomes a problem for him, it will probably be after Prince is traded away from Milwaukee.

Projections:

ZiPS – .282/.380/.571
The Hardball Times – .301/.397/.587

Both projections believe that Prince will lose some power this year, which is completely understandable. It is difficult to predict such a young player to belt 50 home runs every season. I too expect Prince’s home run total to decline a bit this year. It would be fantastic if it stayed the same or climbed this year, but it is far too much to ask of the young man to keep up that pace.

There is quite the disparity between the batting averages and on-base percentages though. As a young player, I would be more apt to predict Prince to improve again this season and keep the upward trend going. Normally, I would expect a regression in the batting average, but being protected by Ryan Braun will continue to treat Prince very well. Expect pitchers to be extremely careful with whoever bats in the 4th spot. If Prince bats third, he will see many good pitches and his stats may climb accordingly.

Expect Prince to continue his leadership role this season, even though Melvin has brought in some veterans to take over that role. Ned Yost was quite right yesterday when he said that the veteran leadership is welcome, but unneeded. The young Brewers are not rookies any longer. In addition, Prince will challenge again for the MVP honors this season (perhaps battling with Ryan Braun).

Projected Offensive Line: .287/.399/.584
Projected Season Rating (out of 10): 9.3

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2 responses

27 02 2008
SD

I remember when his dad played for the Toronto Blue Jays. They are so much alike.

28 02 2008
TheNaturalMevs

Jimmy-

Please say you believe the Brewers owner when he says that they’ll ‘pay what it takes to keep Prince Fielder’. I am hoping that he is never traded away from Milwaukee. That would be everything that is wrong with baseball coming to a head. Prince should be a Brewer for his career.

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