Prince Fielder is one of the most underrated players in all of Major League Baseball. Sure, he receives a lot of praise, and is respected in terms of how much he can affect any team he’s on, but as far as the overall value he brings, he isn’t viewed as the absurdly impactful player that he should be seen as — and that includes the impact he has on his teammates.
Going back to 2011 when Ryan Braun won the National League Most Valuable Player award — bringing controversy, as many felt Matt Kemp’s 39 home runs and 126 RBI’s deserved the honor more than Braun’s 33 homers and 111 RBI’s — Prince Fielder acted as protection for Braun in the Brewers’ lineup, batting behind him in the cleanup spot. And even so, Fielder was able to put together 38 home runs and 120 RBI’s of his own — truly amazing.
Then, in the 2012 season, after going to the Tigers, Fielder aided to Miguel Cabrera’s stats, taking him from a 30 homer, 105 RBI star the season before, to a 44 home run, 139 RBI mega superstar in 2012 — good enough to earn Cabrera the first Triple Crown award in 45 years. And once again, Fielder posted solid numbers, tallying 30 home runs and 108 RBI’s — remarkable.
Although Fielder had a somewhat down year by his standards last season, posting 25 home runs and 106 RBI’s, he still gave Cabrera added help by making pitchers pitch to him, given Fielder’s well known track record. That led to another fantastic year for Cabrera, where — if not for Chris Davis’ breakout 53 home run season — he nearly won a second straight Triple Crown award, knocking 44 home runs for the second straight year and driving in 137 runs.
That’s the incredible personal, and team, impact that Prince Fielder brings on a daily basis.
But with Fielder moving to the Rangers in the offseason, as part of a trade between the Tigers and Rangers, Cabrera could very well see his stats tumble a bit, with Fielder having a bounce back year to become more like his normal self. While Cabrera isn’t going to lose his stardom, and will post an amazing stat line this season, it likely won’t be the 40+ homers, 130+ RBI’s that he’s been able to amass over the past two season, as Victor Martinez will be his protection in the lineup. Not quite as threatening as Fielder.
While Ryan Braun in 2012, after Fielder’s departure, was able to post even better stats without him than he did the previous season in which he won the MVP, I don’t see Cabrera keeping up the same numbers, as Miller Park is more of a hitter friendly ballpark than Comerica Park.
Realistically, I see Cabrera having more of a 30 homer, 110 RBI season. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Many players aim for that year after year. But Cabrera has simply set the bar so high in recent years that without Fielder, I don’t see him keeping up his monster stats for three years in a row. Hopefully he’ll prove me wrong.
Just the opposite of Cabrera, I could easily see Fielder having a breakout season in 2014.
For the first time in Fielder’s career, he won’t be providing protection to someone else. Instead, he’ll be provided protection by Adrian Beltre, who is reportedly going to be batting in the cleanup spot behind Fielder, after he had so much success there in 2013. With that ballpark being a left-handed-hitting-paradise, combined with the protection of Beltre, I feel that Fielder will have a 40+ homer, 130+ RBI year, especially with newly acquired Shin-Soo Choo getting on base in front of him. Though that’s not a career year for him — Fielder hit 50 homers in 2007 and had 141 RBI’s in 2009 — it’s a major improvement from his past few seasons.
Everything combined together, the Rangers could once again have enough to beat out the Athletics in 2014, who have won the division the past two seasons. If every player plays to the best of their ability and are able to stay healthy — that shouldn’t be an issue with Fielder, who has played in 157 or more games every full season of his career — it’s very possible, although their starting pitching is a bit of a question heading into the season. It comes down to which team has the most go right.
Prince Fielder heading to the Rangers does two things: It helps the Rangers and himself, and it hurts the Tigers and Miguel Cabrera. While the Tigers and Rangers will both be competitive teams in their divisions this season, it will clearly be seen how big of an impact player Fielder is to any team he’s on.
That’s truly something to look forward to — unless you’re Miguel Cabrera.