In the time leading up to the start of spring training, I’ve decided to make a countdown of the 10 Brewers that I believe are most critical to their success in the 2011 season. It continues today with number 5.
Alright people, we’ve gotten to the point in the countdown where placement has gotten quite difficult – Prince Fielder could be all the way up at #1 in a different version of this list. Anyway, we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Prince. Last season, in an “off” year, Fielder hit .261/.401/.471. He hit 32 home runs, and he drove in 83. He led all of baseball in walks with 114. The .401 OBP was the second highest of his career, behind only a stellar 2009 campaign in which he finished fourth in MVP voting. Going into his age 27 season, it certainly seems that a reproduction of last year’s numbers are the floor for Fielder’s 2011.
Fielder has a couple of other things going for him. According to various sources/photos, Fielder has dropped some weight and is in better shape. He is in a contract year, and if Scott Boras is serious about getting 200 million dollars for his client, then Fielder is going to have to have a serious season – especially with the Yankees and Red Sox out of the bidding. There is also the interesting “every-other-year” phenomenon that seems to be associated with Fielder – check out his numbers since 2006, his first full year in the majors:
- 2006 – .271/.347/.483, 28 HR, 81 RBI, 59 BB
- 2007 – .288/.395/.618, 50 HR, 119 RBI, 90 BB
- 2008 – .276/.372/.507, 34 HR, 102 RBI, 84 BB
- 2009 – .299/.412/.602, 46 HR, 141 RBI, 110 BB
- 2010 – .261/.401/.471, 32 HR, 83 RBI, 114 BB
If you believe that such a thing as an every other year player exists, Fielder seems due for another big year. And man, are Fielder’s big years big. In 2007, at age 23, Fielder was the youngest player ever to mash 50 homers. In 2009, when his average jumped to near .300 and tied for the league lead in RBIs (easily breaking the Brewer record), he delivered one of the best offensive performances in the history of the franchise. The point is, when Fielder is good, he’s really good. And remember, he got off to a terribly slow start last year, finishing April with a .244 batting average and just two home runs.
Realistically, what should we expect for 2011? Personally, I’m expecting big things. Like I said before, it’s a contract year, so Fielder will be extra motivated. History seems to suggest that players with Fielder’s body type do not age well, so he is going to want to cash in on the longest deal he can get next offseason, and another season like last year’s won’t help to convince anyone to give him ten years. Bill James projects numbers in between 2009 and 2010: .276/.396/.541 with 41 homers and 112 batted in. I think that is a reasonable expectation, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see something more along the lines of .285 with a higher RBI total – maybe something like 130.
If I’m expecting such lofty numbers out of Prince, why is he only number five on the countdown? Mainly, because Fielder is almost certain to produce. He is extremely durable, having missed only 13 games in the last five years. He has also shown to be a pretty steady hitter, and the lows aren’t extreme. As Fielder enters his prime years, it would be borderline shocking to see him dip much below last season’s production. Fielder (along with Ryan Braun) has been the most consistent player on the Brewers over the last five years, and I honestly think that we sometimes forget that. Fielder isn’t much of a first baseman, but he can rake, and that won’t change next season. Fielder has also always been a fierce competitor, and I would like to think he has enjoyed his time in Milwaukee, and would like to do everything he can to go out on top. So enjoy him while you still can, folks.
Filed under: The Brewers