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Playing the Fielder game
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Here it comes again ... my annual winter feature on first baseman Prince Fielder.

The Detroit first baseman is like a perfectly predictable stock that rises one year and falls the next, so it's easy to make money on him by buying just before the rise and selling just before his fall.

For Fielder, that means making sure he's on your roster in odd-numbered years and avoiding overpaying for the slugger in even numbered seasons.

And being that this is 2013, you will want the Tigers' slugger hitting for you this year.

The reason is very simple mathematics.

In even-numbered seasons since he became a full-time starter in 2007, a "typical" Fielder season is .280 with 86 runs, 31 HR, 93 RBI and an .880 OPS.

By contrast, in odd-numbered years his average year is .295 with 102 runs, 44 HR, 126 RBI and a 1.002 OPS.

That is a significant increase in production.

The really interesting part of this equation is that fantasy owners have not been paying attention.

Owners who should have been "buying" Fielder in 2011 and "selling" in 2012 showed to be indifferent to the statistics. His preseason Yahoo ADP in 2011 was No. 16 and he rewarded owners by giving them with another solid season (.299, 95 runs, 38 HR, 120 RBI, .981 OPS).

However, despite facts which show he doesn't produce in even-numbered seasons his Yahoo ADP strangely jumped up two spots to No. 14 last season. He posted a decent year, but certainly not one worthy of the early second-round selection hitting .313 with 83 runs, 30 HR, 108 RBI and a .940 OPS. Not bad, but obviously not as well as hoped for by the jump in ADP.

In addition to his expected odd-numbered season up tick in performance, he is likely to have much better protection batting behind him this season as injured C/DH Victor Martinez should return to the lineup after missing all of 2012 with a knee injury.

Protection in the lineup is invaluable. When Fielder joined the Tigers' lineup last season as the No. 4 hitter, he was protection for Miguel Cabrera who promptly went out and became the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years.

Martinez isn't Fielder-good, but he is a lifetime .303 hitter with a .840 OPS and respected by opposing pitchers. His numbers should be an improvement over last year's protector - Delmon Young who batted .267 with 18 HR and 74 RBI. OK totals, but for a pitcher there is no question that you are going to pitch around Fielder to get to Young. The proof - Fielder led the American League in intentional walks (18).

For those reading this fantasy piece, the advantage is that you can reasonably expect him to out-perform his draft position this season so he'll be worth the early selection. According to very early mockdraftcentral.com information, Fielder is being selected at No. 11 in 2013.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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