Texas Rangers' general manager Jon Daniels was the first of the offseason to strike gold, trading for Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers.
He is a notorious bomber who can hit thirty-five home runs or more in any given season, and this season, that is exactly the same hitter the Rangers expect to see at the plate.
However, it can't be ignored that Fielder did, in fact, see a pretty significant regression last season. He had the second fewest home runs in his career since his rookie campaign, tallying twenty-five (which, by the way, is still plenty for anyone else), and he also dropped significantly in On-Base-Percentage (OBS), posting a .362 mark, and thereby ending a five-season .400+ OBS streak.
His batting average (.279), runs (82) and balls-on-base (75) all tied for third-worst in his career. Lastly, his Slugging-Percentage was the lowest of his career with .457, meaning his overall power significantly declined, as well.
His spring training thus far has brought mixed reviews. While he has hit three homers with eleven runs and ten RBI's, Fielder has struck out a miserable fourteen times in sixty-one at bats, and has only been walked twice. Furthermore, his average sits at a very modest .262 up to now.
Dare we ask, does all of this mean we should expect a continued decline in Prince Fielders' play?
Don't count on it.
Despite the negatives, there were some positive elements that have been commonly overlooked. Fielder played all 162 games last season, which is the fourth time in the last five years he has managed to do so (and the year he didn't, he played 161).
His health is very encouraging, and he has shown no signs of concern in the injury department. The man is durable, and upon his arrival in Texas, there are still no question marks surrounding his ability to stay on the field, because he does that quite well.
After all, his last name is Fielder - (Common pun, but I had to use it there). Another sign of optimism is the 624 times he got to the plate; by far the most of his career. While the lineup around him had a big part in that, he maintained consistency throughout all of his plate appearances, rarely dropping off or allowing fatigue to get the best of him.
Furthermore, he registered thirty-six doubles, and though that may correlate with the drop in his overall home run hitting, it proved he is still an RBI-machine and he continued to generate extra-base hits. He had the eighth most RBI's in the league last season.
Fielder recently described his new situation with the Rangers as a "rebirth", re-confirming the belief that Jon Daniels, and all Rangers fans, have for him this season. After being hidden from the spotlight behind the best hitter in baseball for two years (that would be Miguel Cabrera, in case you weren't sure), maybe he simply needed to see the sunshine again.
Or, maybe, he needed exactly what Jon Daniels provided for him this season: An even more stacked offensive lineup than that of the 2012-13 Detroit Tigers.
If you thought that wasn't possible, think again. With Sin Soo Choo hitting in front of him, and Adrián Beltré likely hitting behind, they will form an absolutely tyrannic core-three.
And it keeps rolling. With Alex Rios, Elvis Andrus, Leonys Martin, Mitch Moreland, J.P Arencibia and Michael Choice all backing them up, there is unlimited ammunition. That is even without Jurickson Profar, who was scratched for at least ten-to-twelve weeks before the season opener.
Once the Rangers get him back, which will simultaneously fill their void at second base left behind by Ian Kinsler, the offense truly does have the potential to be unstoppable. Everyone in the lineup knows how to hit, and hit well at that. Prince Fielder has all the motivation, and definitely all the offensive help, that will put him in a position to succeed this season.
The scary part is, last season wasn't even a "true" regression; it was just subpar by his standards. Even if he really has lost some power, and his slightly-diminished contact hitting wasn't a fluke, his performances will surely garner a boost because of the teammates around him.
In any case, don't expect him to resort to "last season's" Fielder. Instead, expect him to simply be Prince Fielder, the Prince we have known and marveled at for so many years.
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