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Prince Fielder

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Prince Semien Fielder

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[edit] Biographical Information

Fielder speaks with President Obama before the 2009 All-Star Game

Prince Fielder, the son of Cecil Fielder, came to the majors at a young age with a lot of hype. He proved his potential in 2007 by leading the National League with 50 home runs.

Like his father, Prince Fielder is a big man. He was listed at 260 lbs. at the age of 22 and was said to be 280 pounds in his first year out of high school.

Fielder was born in Ontario, CA (40 miles east of Los Angeles, CA) in 1984, the year before his father hit the big leagues for the first time. According to Alan Trammell and Ernie Harwell, Fielder hit a ball into the upper deck of Tiger Stadium at age 12. Fielder went to high school in Florida, and was named a First Team High School All-American at first base after hitting .524 and slugging 1.134 as a senior. He produced 77 runs in 82 AB that year. He was drafted in the first round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002, the 7th overall pick and second position player (following B.J. Upton). He was signed by scout Tom McNamara and scouting director Jack Zduriencik for $2.4 million. He was not a consensus first-rounder: there were concerns about his weight and athleticism, with many scouts convinced he would become too big to play major league baseball; however, the Brewers were convinced that his other-worldly power trumped all of these concerns.

Fielder immediately made a big impression at the Rookie Level with the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer League, where he posted .390/.531/.678 batting line and was named the Rookie League All-Star DH by Baseball America. Moving up to the Beloit Snappers that same year, in the Single A Midwest League, he encountered his first struggles, with a .241/.320/.384 line in 31 games. Baseball America listed him as the 9th-best first base prospect in baseball and the #4 prospect in the Pioneer League.

But the next year, 2003, he showed that he could dominate the Midwest League, as he put up numbers of .313/.409/.526 with 27 home runs, 15 times hit-by-pitch, 112 RBI and 16 intentional walks. He was named the Midwest League Player of the Year, and the Milwaukee Brewers Minor League Player of the Year. His attempt at winning the Triple Crown fell short but he was still tied for third in the MWL in average, led in RBI and intentional walks, was second to Jayson Drobiak in homers and second to Drobiak in slugging and Jon-Mark Sprowl in OBP. He was named to the league All-Star team, was named the top prospect in the league (by both the league and Baseball America) and was rated the #4 prospect among minor league first basemen behind Casey Kotchman, Jason Stokes and James Loney.

2004 brought him to the Huntsville Stars in the Southern League, where he had numbers of .272/.366/.473 with 23 home runs, and was again named Milwaukee Brewers Minor League Player of the Year. Despite turning 20 years old only, he was tied for third in a AA league in homers, was judged by BA to have the best strike-zone discipline in the circuit and was the cleanup hitter for the USA in the 2004 Futures Game.

In 2005, he was up with the Nashville Sounds in the AAA Pacific Coast League, where he posted a line of .291/.388/.569 with 28 home runs before he came to the majors. Despite getting called up to Milwaukee in June, he still was just 3 homers behind PCL leader Luke Scott. He was ranked as the #3 prospect in the PCL. In 39 games with the Brewers that year, he hit .288/.306/.458 at the age of 21. Lyle Overbay, who had played 158 games with the Brewers that season, mostly at first base, hitting 19 home runs with 76 RBI, was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays to make room for Fielder after the season.

Around the end of July 2006, Fielder had 18 home runs and was hitting .288/.345/.501. He played in virtually every Brewers game that year. He dropped off a bit with his final 2006 numbers of .271/.347/.483. In 2007, Fielder set the Brewers franchise home run record with his 46th of the year. Gorman Thomas's 45 had been the record for 28 years, with Richie Sexson having tied Thomas twice. He also became the youngest player in MLB history to hit 50 homers in a season, finishing with that number. Fielder wanted to surpass his father's career high but failed to do so that year. He and his dad were estranged at this point in time.

Fielder's production dropped a bit in 2008 as he hit .276 with 34 homers and 102 RBI. Still, he was one of the keys to the Brewers making it to the postseason for the first time since the 1982 World Series, as the National League Wild Card. He was only 1 for 14 in the NLDS as the Brewers lost in 4 games to the Philadelphia Phillies, his only hit being a homer. In 2009, he had 46 homers and a league-leading 141 RBI while topping a 1.000 OPS for the second-time - the first having come two years earlier. He then fell back in 2010, with his .261 batting average being the lowest of his career, and his 32 homers and 83 RBI falling well short of his career standards. On the positive side, though, he did lead the league in walks with 114, giving him an on-base percentage above .400 for the second straight year.

Fielder had perhaps his best all-around season for the Brewers in 2011, being the offensive leader of a team that began to run away with the NL Central title after the All-Star break. Fielder was named to the All-Star team for the third time that year, and earned the game's MVP Award thanks to a home run off C.J. Wilson. He topped 100 RBI before the end of August. He finished the season with a batting line of .299/.415/.566, with 36 doubles, 38 homers, 95 runs and 120 RBI. He was third behind his teammate Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp in voting for the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Award. In the postseason, he went 5 for 18 with a pair of doubles and a homer in Milwaukee's win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS, then hit a pair of homers in their loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 NLCS.

Fielder became a free agent after the 2011 season. As he was represented by Scott Boras, it was clear that it would take a truckload of money to sign him, especially after the older Albert Pujols signed a huge deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. With the end of January approaching, Fielder was still unsigned, with fewer and fewer teams apparently able to afford his services. However, he surprised almost everyone on January 24th when it was announced he had signed a 9-year deal with the Detroit Tigers, the team most associated with his father, for $214 million. The Tigers, who already had a premium first baseman signed for a number of years in Miguel Cabrera, had not been interested until they received news that DH Victor Martinez was lost for the season because of an injury suffered while getting ready for 2012.

When Fielder made the 2012 All-Star Game with Detroit, he and his father became the 4th father-son duo to represent the same club in the All-Star Game and the first in the AL. In the NL, Felipe Alou and Moises Alou had both played for the Giants, Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds had both represented San Francisco as well, and Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. had both been with Cincinnati. When he reached 30 homers that year, Prince and his father became the second father-son duo to both go deep 30 times for the same franchise; only the Bondses with the Giants had done so. He hit .313 with 33 doubles, 30 homers and 108 RBIs while hitting behind Triple Crown winner Cabrera, who had moved to third base to make room for Prince, as the Tigers went all the way to the World Series, only to be swept in four games by the Giants. Fielder hit only .154 during the postseason, with a single homer. In 2013, he had another good offensive year, with a .279 average with 36 doubles, 25 homers and 106 RBI. For the third straight year, he played all 162 games, and once again forced opposite teams to pitch to Cabrera, who batted ahead of him, or face serious consequences. Cabrera won a second straight MVP Award with that set-up. However, Prince once again wilted in the postseason, batting .225 with a single extra base hit (a double) and no RBI in 11 games. the Tigers lost to the eventual world champions for the second straight season, this time the Boston Red Sox who eliminated them in the ALCS.

On November 20, 2013, Fielder was sent to the Texas Rangers in a straight-up trade for another multiple-time All-Star, 2B Ian Kinsler. The move cleared some salary space for Detroit, while allowing them to return Cabrera from 3B to 1B, with the hope that lessening his defensive responsibilities would also reduce his chance of being injured. With the Rangers, Fielder announced he would be wearing the unusual number 84, reflecting his birth year, after wearing number 28 before then. When he collected his first RBI of the year against the Tampa Bay Rays in an 8-1 loss on April 4th, it ended a streak of 20 games without an RBI for him, a streak that included the entire 2013 postseason. Still, that was a rare positive point in what turned out to be a very tough start for his new team. After the game of April 14th, he was hitting .149 and slugging .191, and had yet to hit his first homer as the Rangers' offense was struggling badly. He did hit his first long ball on April 15th, connecting off Blake Beavan of the Seattle Mariners in the 2nd inning of a 5-0 win. However, things did not improve much for Prince as it turned out he was bothered by a herniated disk in his neck. On May 22nd, the Rangers announced he would need season-ending surgery, his year ending with a .247 average, 3 homers and 16 RBIs in 42 games.

Fielder had a tremendous start to his 2015 season, setting aside fears that his injury-plagued last season was the beginning of a permanent decline. He hit .333 in April, although he only had one homer, but found his power stroke in May. In a five-game stretch from May 22-26, he went 14 for 24 (.583) with 5 homers and 15 RBIs, coinciding with a seven-game winning streak by the Rangers. On June 26th, he hit the 300th home run of his career off Mark Buehrle of the Toronto Blue Jays; he was hitting .344 heading into the game. he was named to the All-Star team for the 6th time. He ended the year at .305 with 28 doubles and 23 homers, driving in 98 runs in 158 games. He was a big factor in the Rangers' unexpected win of a division title in their first season under the stewardship of Jeff Banister. He slumped in the postseason however, being limited to 3 for 20 (.150) with no extra-base hits as the Rangers were eliminated by the Toronto Blue Jays in the Division Series.

The Rangers got off to another strong start in 2016, but not Prince. Hits were hard to come by, and he could not find his power stroke. On July 19th, he was hitting a mere .212 with 8 homers in 89 games when he was placed on the disabled list with a sore neck. The problem turned out to require surgery for a herniated disk, bringing his season to a premature end. Worse, on August 10th, he and the Rangers called a press conference at Globe Life Park to announce that he was leaving the game at the age of 32, because the second spinal fusion surgery he had undergone on July 29th had left him unable to play baseball anymore. He made it very clear that he wanted to go on playing, but that his body was unable to perform anymore. Like Albert Belle a few years earlier, he was not retiring per se, but was declared medically unable to play, allowing Texas to collect insurance on the four remaining years of his contract. He was the third top-rank slugger to leave the game in the span of a week, following the announcements by the New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez that they were also done; another contemporary slugger, David Ortiz, had announced that 2016 was his last year, but he was finishing up his career in a blaze of glory, while everyone expected Ryan Howard, another similar player, to call it quits after the season. It was therefore a whole generation of sluggers who were leaving the game at the same time. For Fielder, though, the end came with a whimper, as he could not leave on his own terms. In 12 seasons, he hit .283/.382/.506 with 319 homers and 1028 RBIs. Coincidentally, those 319 homers were exactly as many as his father had hit; but his single-season best of 50 was one shy of his father's best mark.

Russell Branyan and David Bell have played with both Cecil and Prince Fielder.

"As soon as Prince Fielder was ready, I knew they'd probably move me." - Lyle Overbay talking about his tenure with the Milwaukee Brewers

[edit] Notable Achievements

[edit] Further Reading

  • Bob Nightengale: "On and off field, Prince Fielder feels like a king again", USA Today Sports, March 11, 2015. [1]
  • T.R. Sullivan: "Fielder announces playing career over: Slugger hit 319 homers -- same as father Cecil -- in 12-year career", mlb.com, August 10, 2016.

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