Albert Pujols is not a Top Five First Baseman
Albert Pujols has been absolutely abysmal thus far in 2013. His current triple slash sits at .243/.311/.420. Many fantasy owners are wondering whether their first round pick investment will pan out, but unfortunately I believe Pujols will finish outside the top five amongst first baseman.
[am4show have=’p3;p4;p7;’ guest_error=’Front Office’ ]
Pujols is entering his mid thirty’s decline phase of his career at this point. His strikeout rate is in a four year free-fall. This is largely due to a steep increase in swinging strike percentage over the last three seasons. All of Pujols’s indicators are on a three-year train ride to yikesville. Let’s take a look:
|Year||K%||Sw Str%||O-Swing%||Z-Swing%||O-Contact %||Z-Contact %|
Pujols is swinging more often and missing more often which is a deathly combination on batting average. We can’t expect his .242 batting average on balls in play to simply return back to his career norm. His BABIP in 2011 was .277 and .282 in 2012, so sure it will probably rebound (as he rebounds skill wise) to at least .260, but owners should not have faith that his actual batting average will be anywhere above .270.
In addition to the unnerving stats listed above, it appears pitchers are just not afraid of the former best hitter in baseball anymore. According to this chart from Baseball Prospectus they are throwing him fastballs right down the middle and he hasn’t done anything with them.
Pujols’s bat speed has also been disappearing; his whiff rates on the fastballs in the zone have gone up exponentially over the years.
|Year||Fastball Chase % (whiff rate out of the zone)||Fastball Whiff Rate Percentage (in the zone)|
The data we have on Pujols’s swing and miss rates on fastballs and his overall plate discipline data ring much louder than “he’ll be fine once his BABIP normalizes” type statements.
My final projected line for Pujols: .270 BA, 85 runs, 90 RBI, 25 HR. 1 SB. Those aren’t the stats of a top five fantasy first baseman. I expect Joey Votto, Prince Fielder, Chris Davis, Paul Goldschmidt, Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Gonzalez, and Freddie Freeman will all finish the season higher than Albert Pujols in the first base rankings.
Sell now; he’s a bust.