Monday, February 28, 2011

What Will the Brewers Do with Prince Fielder?

With all of the media swirling around St. Louis and Albert Pujols, another powerful slugger may just slip under the radar and become an important trade deadline pickup for a contender. Prince Fielder, 1B for the Milwaukee Brewers, is in the final year of his contract and the Brewers have made it no secret that they would rather trade Fielder than to have him leave the club via free agency.

Fielder has consistently been the top run producer for the Brewers, maintaining a career .279 batting average in his six years of professional baseball. In 2010, Fielder posted a .261 batting average and 32 home runs, an average year for the slugger, who has repeatedly struggled in even numbered years. In odd numbered years Fielder performs like an All-Star, which means he is due for an impressive season in his contract year.

In his six years in Milwaukee, Fielder has found the seats 192 times, leading opposing pitchers to pitch around him to the tune of him only seeing 39% of pitches in the strike zone, the second lowest in the MLB. Unlike other sluggers, Fielder has the ability to draw the walk, leading the major leagues in 2010 with 114 base-on-balls.

Fielder, the son of Detroit Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder, appears to be on the verge of a "breakout" season. He is already one of the premiere 1B in the league, but with Pujols drawing the majority of attention from the media in the National League Central, Fielder will have to play himself out of the shadows. With the Brewers having found a legitimate number five batter in Casey McGehee, Fielder could benefit from the protection in the lineup and return to 40 HR, 100 RBI form.

Fielder has the ability to lay off the pitches that most batter would chase out of the zone, making himself much more of a danger when he is at the plate. His hot zone is essentially the entire plate, Fielder is able to get all of his 5'11" 268 pound frame behind his bat and launch the ball deep into the Miller Park outfield.  But he is not just a bat, in his time in a Brewers jersey Fielder has recorded two inside-the-park home runs, each time collapsing on the bench afterward to laughter and jokes from his teammates.

At 26, Fielder could be an excellent pick up for any team, but he made $11,000,000 in 2010, and that figure could scare off many teams that would otherwise be interested in the power hitting first-baseman. With a price tag that high, it appears that most small market teams will not attempt to trade for him because they fear they won't be able to sign him to an extension. The New York Yankees, when questioned about Pujols, had said that they feel comfortable with Mark Teixeira at first base and have no desire in acquiring any first basemen. The Boston Red Sox have said the same about their first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

This leaves the market very small for Fielder, as he will have to share it with Pujols, and will likely have to settle for much less money than he would like. With many of the large market clubs being set at first base, the most likely place for Fielder to end up, is back with the Brewers. They have the team around him that will allow him to continue to put of MVP type numbers and a favorable stadium for the sluggers, and how can he turn down seeing several more seasons worth of hotdog races?

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