There was a point in time when Los Angeles Angels slugger, Albert Pujols was not human. For long stretches, he not only was far and away the best MLB player of my lifetime, and arguably the greatest technical player in sports. There is not a fantasy baseball fan alive that would argue that Albert Pujols was an absolute machine.
Pujols being a machine makes it difficult to assess what the future has in store for him. While most players follow a typical career trajectory of development, prime, plateau, and decline, Albert always seems destined for more. We’ve seen the great years, and we’ve also been through a bit of a decline with him in recent years.
One of the biggest questions going into the 2013 fantasy baseball season is whether Albert Pujols is actually declining or if his recent struggles have just been a blip on his Cooperstown journey. Because Will Smith from I Robot was not available, I will give you the lowdown on how to handle this machine.
One of the most important things to remember is that Pujols is 33 now. This is the age when players are usually getting towards the back end of their prime or have started to fade. His batting average has dipped over the last two years – he has failed to hit .300 in both years. He is coming off a career-low 30 home runs in 2012, and a near career-low of 105 RBI.
Because of this undeniable erosion, I think that it is time for us to change the way we think about Pujols. Before, his benchmarks were 40 homers, 120 RBI, and .325. He was clockwork for those numbers. Now, I think we must lower his floor a little bit. While he obviously still has the upside to hit those numbers, I think realistic expectations are more like 30 homers, 110 RBI, and .300. And that’s okay.
If Pujols is able to exceed those numbers, he is going to be worth your first-round investment. I know that I have given you all the reasons not to trust Pujols, but I’m all about Albert this preseason, and it is simply because of his track record. I refuse to throw away 10 years of unreal production based on one down year.
Obviously Pujols is not the same player that he was at his peak, but he is still, easily, a top-five player in fantasy. I will give him a pass on last year. Adjusting, not only to a new ballpark and club, but to all of the off the field distractions last season, had to kill his routine. Now that he has established a new routine in a different city, I think he may have one more machine-like season in him.
I think that there is one area that Pujols will be brilliant in this year, which you would’ve never thought of. His career high in runs is 137. I bet he comes close to hitting that mark this season. With all due respect to Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and Matt Holliday, Pujols has never had the caliber of hitter batting behind him like he will this year in Josh Hamilton. The Angels have one of the best offensive units in baseball, and while conventional logic says that this will boost his RBI total, I think it is more likely that his run total that will be the beneficiary.
This is the perfect year to invest in Albert Pujols. Last year probably scared away a lot of people in your league, leaving him a value. The thought will be to draft the young, sexy, guys like Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez, but Pujols may just be the safest production you can get this season from a fantasy stick. He’s a top-five player easily in my book, and my second overall first basemen.
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