It is one year too late, but the Texas Rangers have found a slugger to replace the dearly departed Josh Hamilton. Prince Fielder is a prototypical left-handed power hitter who should thrive in Rangers Ballpark with its rushing jet-stream and short porch. In Arlington, balls that would have died on the warning track in almost any other park in the country wind up in the seats.
By his own admission, Fielder “sucked” in 2013, posting career-lows in home runs (25), on-base percentage (.362) and slugging percentage (.457) while with the Detroit Tigers. 2013 was a rough year for Fielder. Although the situation was hardly toxic, he never really meshed with Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez and the other hitters in the Motor City clubhouse. Fielder also went through a protracted divorce which had to be at least somewhat distracting. Most of all, Fielder saw fewer pitches to hit with the primarily doubles-hitting Martinez hitting just below him in the five-hole.
Free-agent sluggers have a mixed record in Arlington, but Fielder should do well:
• Fielder grew up in nearby Irving, Texas, so the cultural and environmental shock (the Tex-Mex scene and the sometimes-overbearing heat) may not be quite as intense.
• Fielder is durable. He has played in at least 155 games every year since 2006.
• Fielder is no steroid-era freak. Although it is way too early to start talking Hall of Fame, Fielder is off to an impressive start with five All-Star appearances and four top-ten MVP finishes in his first seven full seasons.
• Hitting in the three-hole ahead of Adrian Beltre, Fielder should see some better pitches.
The change-of-scenery angle is sometimes overblown, but Fielder should be energized with a new team and a new environment.
When the Rangers’ offense is really humming, the team can win a pitcher’s duel or a slugfest. The addition of Fielder, along with Shin Soo-Choo and Leonys Martin, makes the 2014 lineup look eerily similar to those 2010 and 2011 teams.