Prince Fielder. Dude is big and powerful and it’s not surprising that the Tigers’ signing of the younger Fielder made a large splash in the wading pool that is the American League Central right now. The splash actually covered much of the first round of next year’s fantasy drafts and impacted leagues in three key ways. Let’s enumerate.
1) Prince Fielder’s Power
Fielder can hit em out of any park, but he did have ten Just Enough home runs last year, second-most on the Brewers. He also hit as few as 32 home runs just last year, so he shouldn’t be put in 40-homer pants without at least a glance at the respective park factors.
Milwaukee augments home runs by lefty batters 18%. Detroit suppresses the same by 12%. You can’t just shave 30% off of Fielder’s ISO, but you do have to think some of those Just Enoughs won’t leave the yard next year. For those that point out that the Cell in Chicago augments lefty home runs 27%, yes that’s true. But the rest of the division is actually less friendly to lefty home runs than the National League Central was. In fact, if you weight the different park factors appropriately, Fielder hurts away from home too. Check out this handy chart put together by Chad Young:
|Games||LHB HR PF|
|Rd Weighted Average||105.4|
|Games||LHB HR PF|
|Rd Weighted Average||98.75|
No matter what, Fielder should see a less friendly offensive environment. Push his runs and RBI up a notch if you want, but cut a home run or two off your projections just to be safe.
2) Miguel Cabrera’s Position Eligibility
It’s hard to believe it will work because of a lack of previously successful comps, but Miguel Cabrera might play third base this year. Let that sink in. Returning a .300+ hitting, 30+ home run launching machine to third base would push Cabrera even further towards the number one fantasy pick in the nation.
Albert Pujols moving from a homer-suppressing park to one that is less homer-suppressing makes him, as always, a threat for the number one pick, and Jose Bautista is a third baseman in most leagues, and will hit more home runs than Fielder. But Bautista won’t have as nice a batting average as Cabrera, and Pujols won’t play third, so you can make an argument for Cabrera to go first in most formats.
The sad underside to this story is that if Cabrera doesn’t hack it at third base, and instead ends up DHing, his fantasy value would likely take a hit. Players that have played in the field and at DH have been observed to have about a 10% hit in production — similar to the ‘pinch-hitter penalty,’ the drop-off is probably associated with coming off the bench cold. Since Cabrera could easily see some BABIP regression (.365 BABIP, .347 career), and will be 29 next year, it’s not all roses for him.
Call him a high-variance first rounder next year.
3) National League First Basemen
Wow, NL-only leagues took a hit this offseason. With Pujols and Fielder suddenly gone, Ike Davis and Lance Berkman are suddenly fighting for third-best in the league, and there’s a bit of a tier behind them. Gaby Sanchez is, in other words, far off in the rear-view mirror when compared to either Berkman or Davis. At 28, the Marlin has almost no power projection, and even if he hits .280, his overall upside won’t approach a healthy Davis or Berkman. Ryan Howard is probably fourth ahead of Sanchez, but his health, declining power and bad batting averages make him an iffy pick himself. Freddie Freeman has unclear power upside. Mike Morse is older than you might think and has such a unique story that there’s doubt with him too. I’m sure our first base positional correspondent Mike Axisa will suss out the ranking change soon in more detail, but it’s clear the position is in turmoil.
If you want a lock at first base in the National League in 2012, the list begins and ends with Joey Votto suddenly.