FanGraphs: Prince Fielder poses a risk

March, 5, 2010
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Prince Fielder is a big dude. In fact, according to Baseball Reference.com, he is the only position player in baseball history to weigh over 250 pounds while measuring under six feet tall (he's listed at 5-foot-11, 270). Fielder puts his size to good use, though. Over the past three seasons he has hit 130 home runs, second among all major leaguers. It's no surprise that many Milwaukee Brewers fans dread the 2011-2012 offseason, when Fielder will reach the six years of service time required to hit free agency.

Last winter, Mark Teixeira signed an eight-year, $180 million contract, and he’s not a significantly better hitter than Fielder. But, considering the risks a multi-year deal poses, teams may consider Fielder's weight a deterrent. Only 14 position players in baseball history have weighed more than 260 pounds, and all of them have at least a few inches on Fielder. This leaves us with few players for comparison in terms of body mass.

The two best comparables on the list are Carlos Lee and Dmitri Young. Lee hasn't faced many weight-related issues, and in fact has remained healthy for most of his career. The only significant time he missed over the past seven years was the result of a Bronson Arroyo pitch that broke his pinky finger in 2008. Young provides a more cautionary tale. Baseball America's No. 29 overall prospect in 1997, he started his career strong, hitting 72 home runs and 157 doubles in his first five MLB seasons. He posted inconsistent numbers over the next seven seasons and was out of baseball at 34.

Two other names stand out as comparables. Mo Vaughn struggled during his first two years in the league, but broke out at age 25 and became one of the league's premier sluggers. By age 31 his performance was in decline, and he missed all of his age-33 season to injuries, before finding himself out of the game by 35. Prince's father, Cecil Fielder, was also out of baseball by age 35.

Prince will be 27 in the first year of his new deal. Chances are, if he continues to produce, some team will take the risk that he can buck the odds and remain a marquee attraction deep into his 30s.

Joe Pawlikowski is an author of FanGraphs.

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