Prince Fielder provided everything the Tigers could have hoped for in 2012; making the All-Star team, winning the Silver Slugger and even winning the 2012 Home Run Derby. When Victor Martinez went down in the offseason the organization was looking for a big bat to hit behind Miguel Cabrera in 2012. Fielder went on to do that every day this past season hitting a career high .313 with 30 home runs and 108 RBI. He also went on to post a .940 OPS and struck out just 84 times. Fielder was also able to produce in the clutch for the Tigers hitting .338 with runners in scoring position and .304 with 2 out and runners in scoring position. In both situations he posted an OPS over 1.000.
Deeper Dive: Fielder’s Postseason Production
For as productive as Fielder was in the regular season, he was nearly invisible in the postseason. In the 13 postseason games the Tigers played in 2012 Fielder posted a .173/.232/.231 line with 11 strikeouts in 52 at bats, including just a 1-for-14 effort in the World Series. In the 28 career postseason games Fielder has now played, he has a line that reads .183/.277/.365. While it was only his first playoff appearance as a Tiger, Fielder will need to produce better going forward. He was brought in to help the organization win a World Series and the team will need better from him in future postseasons.
Since his first full big league season in 2006 Fielder has missed a total of 13 games. With his extreme durability fans can expect to see him playing first base every day for the 2013 Tigers.
It is also reasonable to expect him to hit a few more home runs this season. His 2012 line drive rate was at a career high 25.4% and his fly ball rate was at a career low 33.3%. The contract he signed with the Tigers prior to 2012 will take him all the way through 2020 and his age 36 season. While he may be regulated to more of a DH towards the end of his contract, fans can easily expect to see Fielder at first base for the foreseeable future.
In the unlikely event of an injury the most likely candidates to take over first base would be simply sliding over Miguel Cabrera or Victor Martinez from their respective positions and then plugging in a replacement at either third base or designated hitter. Outside of Cabrera or Martinez there really are no other viable options within the organization as the minor league system is limited in terms of first basemen.