Last season Albert Pujols was drafted in the mid- to late-first round. Some people expected a bounce-back after a disappointing 2012 season. All they got from him was a dead cat bounce. He ended up as the 352nd-ranked fantasy player according to our end-of-season rankings. Once again, he may look like a rebound/buy low candidate, but his rebound chances are slim.
Pujols final 2013 fantasy stats were pretty sad, for him at least. Here are his stats and some comparable players from this past season.
Before the season started, it would have been unexpected to see Pujols get lumped in with this group of fringe-ish players. Additionally, speaking as an owner of him in half my leagues, I don’t remember him getting over 400 PA. It seemed he spent most of the season on the bench or DL.
His decline has been at a historic level for someone of his ability. The problem with finding recent comparables to Pujols is his previous Hall of Fame production level. To get some comparables, I looked at players from 1950 to present and used the Batting component of WAR. While WAR doesn’t translate perfectly over to fantasy stats, it will give a measure of the player’s hitting ability and playing time. I looked at players from age 29 to 31 who were withing 20 Batting Runs of Pujols. Here is the list along with their average fantasy stats for the 3 seasons.
That is a pretty good list of players. Here is how they did in their age 32 and 33 seasons.
Overall, the group of players were still fairly productive over those two season. They averaged 100+ Runs and RBIs, 30+ HRs and a near .300 AVG. Pujols performed worse than all the players except possibly two contemporaries, David Ortiz and Todd Helton. While Helton got a full season of plate appearances over those two seasons, Ortiz average only 2.5 more plate appearances a season.
Finally, here is a peek into the age 34 season. Injuries and/or playing time really began to effect this group of players.
Their RBI, Runs, HR and PA were all down about 20%. Five of the nineteen players (Boggs, Morgan, Helton, Thome and McCovey) all had mediocre to horrible stats. Also, only five saw an increase in Batting Runs (Giles, Mays, Ortiz, Ramirez and Henderson), while the rest declined. If history is any indication, Pujols has about a one-in-four chance of seeing an improvement.
I have no idea how the community will value Albert Pujols in 2014. He could still get quite a bit of name recondition and go in the first three round. I think this way too high. I just can’t see taking him in the top 100 picks.
In a shallow mixed league (12 teams or less), I would just stay away until most of my starting team is set and only then take a change on him. I would not like to start the season relying on him for production. In deep or AL-only leagues, the pool of 1B is shallower. I would look at picking him up if I have a backup option in place. In auction formats, the dynamics may be a little different and he may go cheaper as people aren’t really willing to take a chance on him. It will be interesting to see how he gets valued in 2014.