I ranked Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder as my #1 fantasy first baseman for 2013 in our Consensus First Base Rankings back in November, and I don't think I would change my stance on that now that we are about three weeks from Pitchers and Catchers. In his State of the First Base Position piece, Bret Sayre wrote the following, and I think it is a very important point when analyzing the landscape for fantasy first baseman:
However, what 2012 did provide was the breakouts of many less heralded options - which leads to an important question. Is first base now just filled with stars you're not sure if you can trust and breakout performers you're also not sure if you can trust? It seems as though there are question marks about almost everyone (except for Prince Fielder, that guy didn't let us down).
I agree with Bret here. There are plenty of question marks up and down the first base rankings, but one guy you can count on to not hurt you in any category is Fielder. His power may fluctuate every other year, but he puts up a solid batting average, power, and RBI totals for fantasy owners year in and year out.
Some may look to Albert Pujols as their #1 fantasy first baseman, and I can't fault them for that. Pujols has been one of the most consistent and feared hitters in all of baseball over the last decade or more. But, I see age and injuries beginning to catch up to him. That and the fact that he plays 81 games in Angels Stadium, a pitcher-friendly park.
Here is what I wrote about Fielder in my player profile for him in the rankings piece:
3. Prince Fielder, DET
Fielder, like Pujols, also saw his power drop in 2012, but he has always been a "good year" followed by a "bad year" guy, so if the trend continues, 2013 should be another good year for Fielder. Fielder hit .313-.412-.528 with 30 HRs, 83 runs and 108 RBI in 2012, or just about what Pujols hit, but with a higher triple slash line. But, unlike Pujols, his batting average in 2012 was a career high. Fielder's 17.9% HR/FB rate was his worst since 2006, but I think his power will return in 2013, his "good" year.
2013 Projection: I see Fielder hitting .300 with 36 HRs, 85 runs and 110 RBI in 2013.
Fielder's power has fluctuated over the past seven seasons, and 2013 may be a year to own Fielder. Let's take a look at the trend in his HR/ISO:
2006: 28 HRs/ .213 ISO
2007: 50 HRs/ .330 ISO
2008: 34 HRs/ .231 ISO
2009: 46 HRs/ .303 ISO
2010: 32 HRs/ .209 ISO
2011: 38 HRs/ .267 ISO
2012: 30 HRs/ .215 ISO
He is well known for his good year/bad year in the power department, and 2013 should be a good year. I projected Fielder to 36 home runs this season, but I think he could exceed that if he can improve his power production on the road.
Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, Fielder hit more home runs at home last season than he did on the road. Comerica Park suppressed home runs by just 3% last season, and Fielder was not impacted by the move from Milwaukee to Detroit all that much. He hit 18 of his 30 home runs at home last season, with 12 coming on the road. Fielder now has a full season of seeing American League pitching under his belt, so we should see a few more road homers from him this season. Add in the fact that his HR/FB rate last season was his lowest since 2006, so we should see a few more fly balls land over the wall in 2013.
As Fielder has gained more experience at the big league level, he has become a much better hitter at the plate, and a much more disciplined hitter as well. He has hit .299 or better in three of the last four years, and put up an OBP of .400 or better in each of the last four years. Over the same time frame, Albert Pujols has seen his batting average and OBP drop every season, from .327 BA/ .443 OBP in 2009 to .285 BA/ .343 OBP last season. Fielder's consistency over the past four seasons has been over-shadowed by guys like Pujols and Joey Votto on draft day.
Fielder's current ADP over at Mock Draft Central sits at 13.39, and he is the fourth first baseman taken thus far, behind Pujols, Votto and Buster Posey who is first base also first base eligible this season. I think Fielder will outperform each of these first baseman this season, his second year in the AL.
Draft him with confidence.