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Prospect Retro: Cecil Fielder

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Prospect Retrospective: Cecil Fielder

Per request of the folks at Baseball Digest Daily, here is a prospect retro for Cecil Fielder.

Cecil Fielder was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 4th round of the June, 1982 secondary draft, out of LaPuente, California. He was signed by scout Guy Hansen, current Royals pitching coach. Fielder hit .322/.407/.645 in 69 games for Butte in the Pioneer League, slamming 20 homers. But he was big and had a bad glove, so the Royals quickly traded him to the Blue Jays in February '83 for Leon Roberts. At this point he would have to be considered a Grade C+ or B- prospect on the strength of his bat alone, given his age, although the defensive questions were obviously serious. The interesting thing is that Fielder was considered a good athlete for his size, and at times he was surprisingly mobile when he was young.

Fielder hit .312/.390/.472 with 16 homers for Class A Florence in 1983, dominating the Sally League at age 19. He even showed reasonable plate discipline, with 58 walks against 90 strikeouts in 500 at-bats. His bat was clearly special, but again he was not considered a super-hot prospect overall due to the other factors. Retrospectively, he'd probably be something like a Grade B prospect.

1984 opened at Class A Kinston, where Fielder hit 19 homers in 61 games for a combined .284/.369/.604 mark. This earned hi ma promotion to Double-A, where he held his own at .254/.324/.436, very credible for a 20-year-old. His bat HAD to be taken seriously by this point, no matter the defensive or weight issues.

Fielder spent 1985 in Double-A, hitting .294/.377/.526 with 18 homers in 96 games. This got him a promotion to Toronto, where he hit .311/.358/.527 in 30 games. At age 21. He was clearly one of the best power prospects in the game.

He backed that up by hitting .280/.350/.505 in 88 games at Triple-A Syracuse in '86. But he struggled in 34 games with the Jays, hitting just .157. He was used as a platoon DH for the Jays in '87 and '88, hitting 23 homers in 156 games combined. But he was erratic, and scouts and coaches soured on him. He ended up in Japan in '89, hitting 38 homers in just 106 games for the Hanshin Tigers.

Fielder returned to the US with a triumphant 51 homer season for the Tigers in 1990, and spent the next several years as a prodigious power hitter. His batting average usually stayed in the .240-.260 range, but he drew a lot of walks. Like many similar players, he did not age well, and was finished as an effective player at age 34, dragged down by injuries and weight.

Cecil was an outstanding minor league hitter at every level, hitting for average and power, drawing walks, and not striking out excessively. He was often underrated as a prospect, but he shed the "Quadruple-A slugger" label by going to Japan and making the most of his chance when it came. His reputation has suffered in recent years due to his personal problems, but at his best he was extremely dangerous.

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