As we continue our series of Hall of Fame ballot previews with the MLB shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, we take a look at the career of Prince Fielder. The son of a two-time home run champ in Cecil Fielder, Prince had plenty of power as well, leading the NL with 50 homers in 2007.
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Why is he on the ballot?
Prince Fielder was a six-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger winner and placed top-5 in MVP voting three times as well. He had six consecutive seasons of 30+ home runs and topped 100 walks three times, including leading the league with 114 in 2010. He had a 134 OPS+ in his career and his 151 OPS+ from 2007-2012 ranked fourth in the league behind Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Joey Votto. All three of them won at least one MVP award in that span. His career slugging percentage (.506) and OPS (.887) rank in the top 100 all-time.
Why won’t he make the Hall of Fame?
After missing just one game from 2009-2013, a 2014 neck surgery limited Prince to just 42 games played. It also made the Rangers wary of playing him in the field, as after the Tigers asked him to move to designated hitter when they acquired him in 2012, he played 139 games at DH for Texas in 2015. In 2016, more spinal cord issues led to a second neck surgery that doctors wouldn’t clear Fielder to play baseball from. This forced him to retire at just 32 years old.
Prince Fielder was also arguably the worst defensive first baseman in MLB history. Among primary first baseman, only Dick Allen has a worse career WAR runs fielding than Fielder’s -100. Allen played just 46% of his career games at first base while also spending significant time at third base and left field where he had -109 runs fielding in his career. The defensive woes and lack of longevity leave Prince with just 23.8 career WAR.
He struggled in the playoffs, including a fairly famous flop trying to get back to third base in the 2012 World Series with the Tigers, a series in which Prince had just a single and a hit by pitch in 15 plate appearances. He also struck out four times and grounded into a double play twice. His career playoff win probability added was -1.43 in 44 playoff games.
There really isn’t much more to it. Fielder was one of the best hitters of his generation, but injuries derailed his career before we got the opportunity to see if his bat would hold up enough in his 30s to carry him to the Hall of Fame. He didn’t have any playoff heroics or unbelievable seasons to give him a storyline to get into the Hall of Fame in spite of his short career, so we’re left with a slugger who hit as many home runs (319) as his hard-hitting father, but could have hit many more if he didn’t risk paralysis by stepping on a major league field again.
Up next: Carlos Beltrán.