Player Profile: Albert Pujols

“Compliments and criticism are all ultimately based on some form of projection.” Billy Corgan

Do not upset the Machine, unless it motivates him

Do not upset the Machine, unless it motivates him

Albert Pujols presents many questions regarding how to project his 2014 season. He has been the standard at first base for years in fantasy. But since his move west to Anaheim, the result has been a downward spiral. Whether it is pressing to justify a new contract, his injures or the aging process, suffice it to say that Albert has disappointed thus far with the Angels. In order to be successful at any level of sports, you have to have an edge. Regardless of your stance about Richard Sherman’s interview this past Sunday, it is hard to be the greatest unless an athlete truly believes that. Other motivating factors for Pujols are his suit against Jack Clark following the disparaging remarks claiming that Pujols was a “juicer” and the Cardinals being lauded for making the World Series following Albert’s departure. How can that not motivate a man? In fact, I believe he was so motivated to disprove his critics last season that he tried to play much too early following his rehab and suffered the foot injury as a result. Here is a quote and report from last March courtesy of Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com:

“But he’s trying to make a point.

“He does not need the 40 to 50 to 60 [at-bats] that some guys need,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “There’s always a range of what’s comfortable with what a player needs, not only to see some velocity but to try to get locked in and see some balance. There’s no way that he needs that many, but he’ll be ready for the season.”

Pujols continues to hit — he’s been doing that since showing up a couple of days before the club’s first full-squad workout — and has been lightly taking ground balls on the field while running on the treadmill. But Pujols, who ran 13 minutes on the treadmill “at a good pace” on Friday morning, isn’t sure when he’ll be able to run full speed just yet.”

I highlighted what I think is the most important part of the report. What is a “good pace”? After watching some of Pujols early games it was apparent he was not healthy. Injury experts can speak to the effect of his knee and foot injuries in regards to his hitting but the numbers bear out that 2013 was Pujols worst statistical season of his career. Add in the surrounding questions about his actual age and the “steroids” rumors that will go through the legal process, I believe that Pujols will be prepared to return with a vengeance in 2014. There are going to be many who will point to his declining peripherals and they do have a point. See the chart below:

Albert Pujols BB% K% ISO BABIP
2010 14.7 10.9 284 297
2011 9.4 8.9 242 277
2012 7.8 11.3 231 282
2013 9 12.4 179 258
Career 12.5 9.8 278 306

Since his move to Anaheim, Pujols’ approach at the plate has regressed with a decreasing BB% and climbing K%. But his numbers are really not that bad in comparison to other major leaguers. The only outlier in ISO and BABIP are from 2013 and it is apparent that the foot injury really limited his ability to get on base. Even with the struggles at plate in 2013 and the injury, Pujols was on pace to hit 26 home runs before the Angels shut him down. Before writing him off here are his 162 game averages for his career and for the last three seasons:

  • Pujols Career 162 Averages – 118 R, 41 HR, 124 RBI, 8 SB 321/410/599
  • Pujols last 3 years – 96 R, 34 HR, 108 RBI, 7 SB 283/348/505

Even with the 2013 numbers, Pujols last three seasonal averages are nothing to dismiss going forward. If he is healthy entering 2014, and all reports indicate that, Pujols will be out to avenge not only his name, but to silence his critics. Fantasy cannot put a price on that type of motivation. The Angels offense, outside of Mike Trout, are all looking to bounce back this year but I am more inclined to buy into Pujols over his teammates in regards to a return to glory. To preface this, I am saying a mix of his 2011 and 2012 seasons when establishing a projection for him. But most projections that I see are not as confident in him going forward.

  • Pujols 2014 Steamer Projection – 87 R, 30 HR, 97 RBI, 4 SB 282/357/515
  • Pujols 2014 Oliver Projection – 71 R, 22 HR, 82 RBI, 2 SB 263/330/446
  • Pujols 2014 CBS Projection – 77 R, 28 HR, 91 RBI, 0 SB 267/332/461
  • ZiPS 2014 Projection – 68 R, 24 HR, 81 RBI, 5 SB 277/344/485

Albert Pujols will be a polarizing figure for 2014 and going forward in regards to his fantasy value. His present NFBC ADP is 47.6 and the eighth first baseman being drafted. If he gets to the Steamer projection above that represents great value and could vault him above not only Freddie Freeman, but Prince Fielder as well. In the FSTA draft Pujols went at pick 48, right in line with his ADP but eight spots after Anthony Rizzo. I understand upside but Pujols last three year averages are out of Rizzo’s reach especially with the supporting lineup he has in Chicago. It would appear that Albert’s injury has provided owners that do not mind a little risk management a buying opportunity. In relative risk comparison, Matt Kemp is being drafted in NFBC drafts at pick 48.51 and he was selected 13 spots ahead of Pujols in the FSTA draft. Using the trends of his last three seasons and the human element of my belief that Pujols will have a bounce back 2014, I will put my projection below. I would be much more inclined to draft for buy Pujols at his present prices over Rizzo or Kemp who I feel are bigger risks due to other issues. Rizzo is going to be a player that owners reach for this year for upside and ignoring what Pujols has been will be a mistake. The Matt Kemp rumors are already surfacing in regards to not being ready for the opening of the season and there are only so many at bats in that crowded Dodger outfield. Let others reach on the possibility of Rizzo and Kemp. I contend that Pujols in the same range of drafts, will not only provide more value, but will out earn either of these players.

  • My Pujols 2014 Projection – 85 R, 31 HR, 92 RBI, 3 SB 283/350/510

This is the projection I am willing to bid on. If your league under values him, then I am willing to invest in Pujols for a bounce back season. But if the price tag exceeds his present ADP or an auction value past $30, I will not own him this year. Given the choice between Pujols and Kemp at their present NFBC ADP’s though, I am clearly with Pujols. His value will depend on whether you value his projection or are critical. I believe the Machine can beat the computer projections.

Greg Jewett is a staff writer for Roto Analysis and you can follow on Twitter @gjewett9

Credits for statistics go to Fangraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com and the Pujols article: http://losangeles.angels.mlb.com/news/print.jsp?ymd=20130301&content_id=42145120&notebook_id=42146240&vkey=notebook_ana&c_id=ana

Albert Pujols picture credit: http://blacksportsonline.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/black-sports-online-albert-pujols-bad-contract-vs-arod.jpg

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