Fielder simply overpowering
By Jason Grey
Consider their averages for the past three seasons:
Fielder: .288 AVG / 43 HR / 120 RBIs / 99 Runs / 2 SB
Teixeira: .302 AVG / 34 HR / 117 RBIs / 97 Runs / 1 SB
The batting average difference is intriguing, but I'm probably still leaning toward the extra power production. The one thing that even makes the numbers close was a down season for Fielder in 2008. By "down season," I mean that Fielder hit only.276 with 34 homers, 102 RBIs and 86 runs scored. If he puts up a season closer to the other two he had in that three-year span, we're probably not even having this discussion. It would be a no-brainer to choose Fielder.
What about the category breakdowns over the past three seasons? Even given a season from Fielder that wasn't up to the standards of his other two, Fielder still had the better category production 10 times out of 15, with two ties. Admittedly, two of those category victories and one tie were in steals, which isn't significant for this discussion, but Fielder still had the better production in a category eight times out of 13, excluding stolen bases.
So it comes down to how much of a chance there is that Fielder has a season like that "down" year in 2008 again, and whether we would then prefer the consistency that has been Teixeira's numbers the past few years. As I mentioned, there isn't much question that the 2007 and 2009 versions of Fielder that hit 50 and 46 homers, respectively, and that managed to beat Tex in batting average by seven points last year, would be the choice.
The key is the 25-year-old Fielder's development against left-handed pitching, making him a more complete player able to mash pitchers from both sides. Fielder finally solved southpaws last year to the tune of a .292 batting average and 13 homers in 178 at-bats, slugging .943. It was Fielder's ineptness against lefties (.239 AVG / .420 SLG) that caused his poorer numbers in 2008, and the scouting and statistical indicators both say that's no longer going to be the case. Even in his 50-homer season of 2007, he slugged 100 points lower against left-handed pitching than he did last year. The improvement is real and it should hold, meaning the chances of seeing that "down" year for Fielder are slim.
We pretty much know what we're getting from Teixeira at this point, but we also know about Fielder's power upside. Given the excellent chance that he maintains his current level of production with the very real improvements in his game, and that Teixeira's perceived advantage in batting average could be subject to random fluctuations, give me that extra power production with my first-round pick.
Teixeira does it year after year
By Eric Karabell
I'll select Mark Teixeira as the No. 2 first baseman off the draft board this season for a simple reason: I trust his consistency more than I do the other possible first-round first basemen. I know Teixeira will put up major numbers, and I don't have to worry about any big dropoff.
In his first season in New York Yankees pinstripes, Teixeira hit 39 home runs and knocked in 122 runs. He hit .292 and scored 103 runs. Maybe those are the numbers most people expected from him, but that's the point. Teixeira always hits 30 or more home runs, always knocks in 100 runs, and he generally doesn't scrape by those noticeable figures. He has a 43-homer, 144-RBI campaign to his credit -- which he can certainly reprise -- and over the past three seasons his worst batting average was last season's .292. He's done this despite playing for four different teams.
It's that fear of inconsistency that mildly worries me about the other top first basemen not named Albert Pujols. In 2008, Prince Fielder hit .276 with a pedestrian 34 home runs and 102 RBIs. Those numbers were largely indistinguishable from a bunch of others at the position. If I'm going to get his 2008 numbers, I'll wait 50 picks for Kendry Morales, or 70 picks for Derrek Lee. When has Teixeira had a down season? His cumulative numbers in home runs and RBIs remained strong in 2007 despite missing 30 games with a strained quad, hardly a recurring problem. Since then he's knocked in 243 runs, but in a balanced way, not with one great season and one average one. A year ago ESPN Fantasy ranked Teixeira 10th overall, while Fielder was a third-round pick. I don't see why Teixeira should be passed.
Meanwhile, the new Yankee Stadium that Teixeira calls home clearly helped 2009 power numbers, and I don't expect regression. Teixeira cracked a league-leading 24 home runs at home. He's the top switch-hitting power hitter in baseball, impervious to late-inning specialty relief pitchers because he hits with power from both sides of the plate. Fielder struggled against left-handed pitching prior to 2009, and one season of success doesn't convince me he's solved that issue. Teixeira has no such weakness.
The final factor separating these two are the lineups. Whom do you trust between Derek Jeter and Rickie Weeks, or Robinson Cano versus Corey Hart? When it comes to predicting runs batted in, one looks at the top of a team's batting order. For runs scored, look at the fellows after the hitter. Jeter and Nick Johnson are going to spend a lot of time on base for Teixeira, and after him in the Yankees lineup you've got Alex Rodriguez, Cano, Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. The Brewers just can't match that pop, except for Ryan Braun. I'm skeptical Fielder will score 100 runs, but with Rodriguez around the entire season, Teixeira will hit for power and also score the century.