2014 Fantasy Baseball: Is it Time to Buy Prince Fielder?
Timing is everything.
If this piece was published on May 5th and it recommended buying low on Prince Fielder, you may have received some resistance from those who owned him in your fantasy baseball leagues. On May 4th, Fielder had three hits, two walks, two doubles, and two RBI. Any hopeful owner would hold onto their highly priced slugger with that type of breakout game. Then, over the next three games, he collected only two hits, which were both singles. Maybe now trying to buy-low is not be such a bad idea. That is, if you believe Fielder will turn his season around.
Trading can be exciting, enticing, and even pleasantly surprising. It can also be terrifying. Since it usually involves some risk. And a leap into the unknown. When you pull the trigger on a deal, most times you are putting to the test what you see and what you believe. So, should we believe in a Prince Fielder rebound?
The struggles with Fielder aren’t so much with his contact and swing rates, as those are doing just fine:
|Total||– – –||29.2%||63.3%||44.6%||62.3%||87.1%||78.2%||45.2%||9.8%|
No obvious red flags, unless you consider the small bump in outside swing percentage worthy enough to be labeled as such. Even Fielder’s strikeout percentage is 12.9% is strong and lower than his walk rate at 14.3%. A promising sign. Perhaps the left-handed slugger’s struggles, specifically in power, have to do with his outside contact. Could it be hurting his ability to lift the ball?
|2011||Brewers||1.16||19.8 %||43.1 %||37.1 %||6.3 %||21.8 %|
|2012||Tigers||1.24||25.4 %||41.3 %||33.3 %||11.3 %||17.9 %|
|2013||Tigers||1.13||22.9 %||40.9 %||36.2 %||13.5 %||13.5 %|
|2014||Rangers||1.93||19.0 %||53.3 %||27.6 %||10.3 %||6.9 %|
|Total||– – –||1.06||20.1 %||41.1 %||38.8 %||10.1 %||18.9 %|
The groundball percentage would be the highest of Fielder’s career by far. His HR/FB ratio is obviously down, but at least the IFFB% isn’t high. The big uptick in grounders has to be the true concern here. You can’t use your home run power if you can’t get the ball into the air.
2014 ISO Career ISO
Hitting the ball into the ground is going to have this kind of result on power. And although comparing this season to Fielder’s career is a little unfair, it does give us a better picture of what he is capable of doing. Currently, he is having trouble with just about everything except middle-in. He isn’t crushing pitches up in the zone and he isn’t doing much with pitches down and away. Overall, he isn’t doing much of anything.
I am far from a scout, but I didn’t notice a significant difference in Fielder’s batting stance or positioning at the plate from 2012 to today. His hands may start slightly higher now when compared to 2012. He may be slightly more up in the box and closer to the plate, but it is truly hard to tell and could be deceiving based on camera angles. Fielder does a toe tap, and you wonder if his timing is off. That darn timing. All-in-all, the stance and swing look to be almost identical, showing no drastic change. Not like Andrelton Simmons anyway.
Prince Fielder has two homers and seven doubles. Jose Bautista has nine homers and seven doubles. Interestingly enough, they both are hitting their fly balls and homers at an average of 278 feet. While that distance isn’t great for either, we aren’t worried about Bautista, so maybe we should be worrying less about a heavy-set 29-year-old lefty slugger? We know about age curves. We also know that Fielder’s weight makes him a candidate for a quicker decline. But there is a difference between decline and falling off a cliff. So, the question is, is Fielder done as a productive slugger?
Power is the last tool to stabilize. In 2010, Prince Fielder had three home runs through the eighth of May. He also had a 47% groundball rate. Not as high as his current 53% rate, but still rather significant compared to his career, especially at the time. Fielder hit a home run on May 9th, 2010, and proceeded to hit 28 more, giving him 32 on the season. During that time, he lowered his groundball rate to 41 percent. He has gone through this sort of power outage, groundball phase before, and outside of the obvious, little has changed with Fielder. So, maybe history could repeat itself? Sure, he is older, possibly heavier, and defensive shifts aren’t helping anyone’s batting average these days, but the power should come, and that’s what you will be buying low. Tomorrow is May 9th. The timing seems about right.