Prospect Retro: Albert Pujols
I first did a Prospect Retro on Albert Pujols five years ago. It's time for an update.
First, here is what I wrote in 2005.
Pujols was drafted by the Cardinals in the 13th round in 1999, out of Maple Woods Community College in Missouri. He was considered to be a promising bat, but there were questions about his defense, and many scouts thought he was too fat. Some scouts also questioned his listed birthday of January 16, 1980. He was born in the Dominican Republic.
Pujols made his pro debut in 2000, hitting .324/.389/.565 in 109 games for Class A Peoria, with 38 walks and just 37 strikeouts in 395 at-bats. He also got into 14 games at Class A Potomac, hitting .284/.341/.481, and went 3-for-14 in three games at Triple-A Memphis. I was extremely impressed with his bat, and gave him a Grade A- in the 2001 Minor League Scouting Notebook, rating him as the Number 18 prospect in baseball. I was a bit ahead of the curve on this. Baseball America put three different Top 50 lists in their '01 prospect book, written up separately by Jim Callis, Allan Simpson, and Will Lingo. The highest ranking for Pujols was #39.
While most people, including me, thought that Pujols would start 2001 in Double-A, he had a terrific spring training and won a starting job in the Cardinals lineup, hitting .329/.403/.610, quickly emerging as one of the very best hitters in baseball. His power has developed beyond where it was in A-ball, and he's maintained his exceptional plate discipline.
Did Pujols really come out of nowhere? He was a year ahead of schedule, but it's also true that Baseball America was tracking him, and I was tracking him, and other experts were tracking him too.
Comparable Players to Albert Pujols, through Age 24
When the WORST guy on your comp list is Jack Clark, you are a special hitter.
I think the only real question about Pujols is his age curve.
Well obviously he has aged very well.
Five years later, and the guy remains an absolutely amazing player, one of the top five right-handed hitters who have ever lived in my opinion, as well as a great defender at first base. He's played through injury problems. He's now a career .334/.427/.628 hitter. He's hit .323/.429/.593 in 53 post-season games. Although he should be entering the decline phase of his career now at age 30, there's certainly no evidence of any slippage in his numbers yet.
The Sim Score list is different than it was when he was 24. The Top Ten comps for Pujols, through age 29:
Ken Griffey Jr
Nine Hall of Famers there, with one guy (Gonzalez) who looked like one at points in his career before being dragged down by injuries and other problems that Pujols doesn't share.
Pujols' Black Ink score (34, average HOFer is 27), Gray Ink score (189, 144 is HoF average), Hall of Fame Monitor score (226, likely HoF is anything over 100) all show that he's already done enough to get in. If his career lasts long enough, he'll approach some historical milestones. Bill James estimates Pujols has a 44% chance to get 3,000 hits, an 18% chance to hit 762 home runs, and an 18% chance to get 2298 RBI, which would set all-time records. He has a 14% chance to exceed 6857 total bases, a 12% chance to hit 800 home runs, a 30% chance to hit 700 homers, a 64% chance to hit 600 homers, and a 20% chance to hit 793 doubles.
Not bad for a 13th round draft pick from an obscure junior college in western Missouri.