Starter: Prince Fielder
On the Farm: Mat Gamel?
This is Prince Fielder’s world, and we’re all living in it. Prince is a legitimate superstar and a threat for 50 homers year in and year out. Sure, there will be questions about whether he stays or goes as long as he’s a Brewer, but for now, Prince is ours. Not only does he hit for power, but he also has fantastic plate discipline, making a .300/.400/.600 type year possible. It’s hard to imagine Prince quite matching his ridiculous numbers in both discipline (BB% up 3.2 from ’09) or power (ISO up from .231 to .303), but he probably hasn’t hit his peak yet and similar or better numbers are certainly a possibility. Of the four projection systems available at FanGraphs (CHONE, Marcel, ZiPS, and the fans), Fielder is ranked in the top 6 in the majors in projected wOBA by all four.
When evaluating Prince’s value, we have to acknowledge the down points of his game – everything besides hitting. He plays the easiest position in the game and plays it poorly. Only Mike Jacobs and former Brewer Richie Sexson have put up worse UZR’s than Prince’s -16.7 mark over the last 3 calendar years, and with the exception of Adam Dunn, Fielder will probably be the worst first baseman in baseball. This is what brings Prince down from being on a similar level to Pujols and Utley but instead puts his value closer to a Grady Sizemore or Carlos Beltran – still remarkably talented, but definitely in the second tier of superstars.
Fielder, along with Ryan Braun, will once again be the backbone of this team. The Brewers will go as he goes, and I certainly expect him to have another fantastic season this summer. Any sort of extended loss of Fielder would be disastrous for a team that needs many things to go right in order to contend.
Unfortunately, I would be remiss not to mention Mat Gamel in this section. With every passing year and injury, it seems more and more likely that his glove just won’t stick at 3B. If that is the case, Gamel will likely slide over to first to replace Fielder, and that would be an option if Fielder were to go down with an injury or be traded this year. I will cover Gamel more in the 3B section of this preview.