Tuesday Fantasy Tips - Albert Pujols

Tuesday Fantasy Tips is a weekly feature submitted by “Batting 8th…” Erik Arnold.

He goes by many names: Phat Albert, El Hombre, the Machine… but many know him as just “Pujols.”

He is, without doubt, the most complete hitter in Major League Baseball. He owns a career average of .332, four 40HR seasons (none with less than 32) and not a single Major League season with less than 100RBI. He is “Triple Crown” defined, the most consistent fantasy hitter EVER.

So what’s that sound you’re hearing? It’s the sound of Albert Pujols crashing down draft boards all across the Western Hemisphere. If you’re a sports fan, you know why: Pujols’ damaged elbow is threatening his entire season.

This has quickly become the most important story in fantasy baseball this season. For my 2nd fantasy column, I’ll weigh in with my thoughts on the issue.

Doctors have told Albert that he has two options: play through the pain or have complete reconstructive surgery (read: Tommy John). Pujols says he can manage the injury, but if it becomes too severe he won’t “play through” any serious pain.

In my book, I see three equally likely scenarios that could happen:

1) Pujols manages the pain as he has been doing since 2003. He goes out there and produces “vintage Pujols” production, 40HR, 120RBI, .330AVG at a minimum.

2) Pujols puts up solid production until July 1st, but the Cardinals fall way out of the wildcard race and the team asks him to have reconstructive surgery to be ready for 2009. Pujols obliges and we get 50% of Pujols’ greatness: 15-20HR, 55RBI, .330AVG.

3) The pain is unmanageable and, after a disappointing start to the season, Pujols elects to have surgery and fantasy owners get nothing.

By my book, that’s 2 BAD outcomes, to one GOOD. You’ve got a 1 in 3 shot at hitting the jackpot; do you like your odds? It’s not even about high risk/high reward; it’s about high risk/GIGANTIC reward. There’s no mystery, if Pujols is healthy, he is the most valuable fantasy hitter in baseball, even without an element of speed to his game. From what I’ve seen, Pujols has fallen as far as the 2nd or 3rd round in an average league.

The issue is actually quite simple - can you bear risking your entire fantasy season on his chances of playing a full year? It’s a homerun swing (no pun intended) because if you manage to grab Pujols in the 2nd or 3rd round and he gives you a full season, you’re set. That alone will probably be enough to propel an average team into the top 3.

Even If he manages just a few months before surgery, you’ll still have a chance to replace him and first base is the easiest position to fill from your bench. Let’s assume he plays just half a season and gives you this production: .320/20/60. If you plug in any average bench first baseman, Ryan Garko for example, who manages to produce .280/15/45 in the second half, in total you’ve got .300/35/105 from you’re first base position and that’s not a disaster at all. A strong draft and a couple of lucky waiver pickups will be more than enough to allow you a chance at the crown. Pujols is probably the only player in fantasy baseball who can afford you a chance to win even if he only plays half a season. Think about fantasy hockey players who drafted Sydney Crosby this year. Despite his injury, Sid, combined with the stats from any bench player replacement, is probably still better than most players who will play a full season.

It’s a risk, but I would have no trouble drafting Pujols if the price is right. If he falls to the second or third round, I’ll take my chances on his health. It’s not for those with weak stomachs, but the upside is there.

In Pujols we trust…

Tuesday Fantasy Tips is a weekly feature submitted by “Batting 8th…” Erik Arnold.

4 Responses to “Tuesday Fantasy Tips - Albert Pujols”

  1. Blake Murphy Says:

    So, where do you rank him then? You going to jump on him in the early 2nd in our draft? Hope for him late in the 3rd?

  2. Erik Says:

    I already have him in a league so I’ll hedge my bets and won’t draft him again. Assuming I didn’t already have him, I’d make a strong consideration 15-20 overall and anything after that would be very difficult to resist.

  3. E Says:

    Pujols hits another HR this afternoon, making it 4 total + a bunch of doubles. If he stays in the lineup he is going to rake.

  4. sam Says:

    Kind of funny I came across this site now with perfect 20/20 vision, but Pujols is on his way to another potential MVP season.

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