Who’s Worth More – Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder?

June 30, 2011

- See all 763 of my articles

First basemen Albert Pujols of the Cardinals and Prince Fielder of the Brewers will hit the free agent market this off-season, unless they are re-signed by their current teams.  The Yankees (Mark Teixeira) and Red Sox (Adrian Gonzalez) already have significant money tied up in their first basemen, and are not likely to chase after them, which could limit the payout slightly.  However, each player is likely going to get somewhere upwards of $20 million per year.

Who is worth more? Let’s break it down and allow you to reach your own conclusion.

  Pujols Fielder Edge
Stats In each of his 10 full seasons, Pujols has hit at least .312 with no fewer than 37 homers and 103 RBI – often exceeding those numbers. For his career, he has a batting average of .329, on-base percentage of .423, and OPS of 1.041. Truly remarkable numbers – even his worst season would be a career year for many. Has show great power, hitting 50 homers in 2007 and 46 in 2009. However, he is a bit of an up and down player. In his full season in odd-numbered year, his lowest OPS is 1.013. In the even-numbered years, his highest OPS is .879. His career batting average of .282 is 45 points lower than that of Pujols, and his OPS of .929 is more than 100 points lower. Fielder’s stats are nothing to sneeze at, but they just aren’t Pujolsian.
2011 Pujols got off to a horrible start and was rebounding nicely before he broke his forearm. For the year, he is hitting .279 with 17 homers in 280 at bats. The big questions is whether he will regain his arm strength. Fielder is having arguably his finest season, on pace for his first .300 season. His OPS os 1.031 is the highest of his career. His 44 strikeouts also puts him on pace to strike out fewer than 100 times in a season – his previous low for a season is 121 (as a point of reference, Pujols has never struck out more than 100 times, and his 76 strikeouts last season were the most since his rookie season). Fielder is definitely having a much better year.
Age Pujols will turn at least 32 in January. I’m fairly sure that is his correct age, but others have raised questions and alleged that he is older than that. It’s not uncommon for players born outside the United States to lie about their ages. Fielder will turn 28 next May. There isn’t much doubt about his age – his father Cecil was also a Major League player, so baseball insiders have been aware of Prince for a long time. This is straight math – Prince is younger. Younger is usually better.
Physique Pujols is listed at 6’3″, 230 pounds. He’s a big, strong guy, but is still nimble enough to have stolen double digit bases three times (80 steals in 114 career attempts). Fielder is, um, BIG. Listed at 5’11” and 275 pounds. He’s definitely every ounce of that – and possibly more. His weight already makes him a liability on the base paths (he rarely goes from 1st to 3rd on a single), and he has 15 total steals in 5+ seasons. I worry that he’ll eat himself out of the game – or at least into a DH role. However, he has been a vegetarian for a few years, so maybe that will keep the weight off. Pujols – no contest.
Marketing Pujols grew up in the Dominican Republic, and is understandably popular with hispanic fans of the game.
Pujols has 425 career home runs and 1978 career hits – seemingly a lock to reach the milestones of 500 (or even 700) home runs and 3000 hits.

Barring a complete meltdown, he is a future Hall of Famer.

Fielder is one of a few African-American stars in the game and could help Major League Baseball attempt to attract and retain African-American fans, who have largely left to follow (and play) other sports.

Hall of Famer? Maybe – but I wouldn’t punch his ticket quite yet.

You gotta go with the near-lock Hall of Famer.

There’s one really interesting scenario that I haven’t heard discussed much. The Cardinals and Brewers could each end up with a high quality first baseman and a free draft pick if the Cardinals were to sign Fielder and the Brewers nabbed Pujols. A team that signs a type-a free agent surrenders its first round pick to the team losing the player, but the team losing the player ALSO gets a “sandwich” pick between the first and second round of the draft. Let’s say the Cardinals had the 10th pick in next year’s draft and the Brewers had the 11th. If the Cardinals signed Fielder and the Brewers signed Pujols, the Cardinals would lose pick 10, but gain pick 11 and a sandwich pick, while the Brewers would lose pick 11 but gain pick 10 plus a sandwich pick. (More about free agent compensation here).

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Martin Kelly
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 08:34:21

    I only have one comment, be careful about the physique. Remember, Babe Ruth was rather chunky from the start of his carreer. I know times are different now, but that is not necessarily a negative on the grand scale.


  2. kosmo
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 10:02:23

    That’s a good point in the grand scheme of things. However, in the relative scheme – Pujols vs. Fielder – which guy seems more likely to bulk up to 400 pounds? I’m not saying Prince WILL, just that the risk factor is greater. At some point, you get to the situation where you’re clogging up the base paths.


Leave a Reply