It certainly looks like he is in a decline phase. Last year was his least productive season on a per plate appearance rate and also in aggregate overall value. He didn’t reach 100 games played as he battled plantar fasciitis all season, he didn’t hit over 20 home runs, and he didn’t even hit .260.
With that said, I am betting on Pujols this year. I put a bid on him in our staff ottoneu league last week and got him at $19. I already had Chris Davis at $25, so I am banking on Pujols being my utility option and a backup first base option were anything to happen to Davis. For some comparison, Mark Trumbo is owned at $19, Freddie Freeman is owned at $21, and Nick Swisher is owned at $18.
Freeman is probably the best bet to provide the most value in that dollar range, but I like the upside of Pujols here more than the rest. I have seen some similarities in actual drafts and in mocks, with guys like Eric Hosmer going before Pujols. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the concept of avoiding a guy coming off of his worst season ever that has had two consecutive seasons of lower than usual production – not to mention coming off of a substantial injury. Even so, I think Pujols is a guy that a lot of winning fantasy teams will have on their roster at year’s end.
He is a bet worth taking. Like taking a bet on a high upside young player that you think is going to produce. In the past few weeks I have preached on the value of consistency and how I feel players, including the aforementioned Swisher, are somewhat undervalued because of their limited upside.
The importance of drafting a guy like Pujols is having a quality hedge as well. If you are going with Pujols as your first baseman, I strongly advise drafting a solid 1B as your utility option if that is how your league works. Even if Pujols does run into injuries again this season, 130 or so games of Pujols – as Steamer projects – plus your hedge could make up for a top flight first baseman at a very low cost in comparison to what some of the elite guys are going for.
Steamer projects 138 games with 30 home runs and 97 RBI. That is some serious value in under 140 games. Hitting behind the best player in baseball certainly helps, and a potential upswing from Josh Hamilton’s down year behind him along with the addition of David Freese and Raul Ibanez could lead to his run totals coming back closer to his St. Louis levels rather than the lesser numbers he has posted the past two seasons.
I don’t expect Pujols to ever be what he was when he was in St. Louis, but I do expect a solid average around the .280-.290 range and a lot of power. Aside from last season Pujols has been one of the healthier players in baseball since entering the league. I have little question that his foot injury sapped most of his power, and he still managed 17 home runs in under 500 plate appearances. Pujols is certainly risk, but in my mind he is a risk worth taking.
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