Prince Albert to reign supreme

Prince Albert to reign supreme

Carlos Delgado. Paul Konerko. Albert Pujols. Ryan Howard. Lance Berkman. Richie Sexson. Nomar Garciaparra.

What do they all have in common? They're all marquee first basemen. And they're all off to slow starts -- at least by their lofty standards.

Who among them is the best bet to turn his season around? MLB.com's fantasy gurus tackle that question as Prince Albert takes center stage in this week's edition of the Roundtable.

Albert Pujols, Cardinals

This is a slow start for Albert Pujols, but any owner in your league would be happy to trade for him. Although he popped only three homers in May, Pujols did hit .340 with a .916 OPS and twice as many walks as strikeouts -- in other words, the bat is still there. Pujols can't do it alone and will need help from Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and Chris Duncan if he's going to put up his usual astronomical numbers, but his career lows are a .314 average, 34 homers, 117 RBIs and 112 runs, so regardless, you should have plenty of confidence that he'll put up big numbers. Hitters hit, and Pujols is the best in the business. Don't lose confidence in him.

-- Cory Schwartz, MLB.com Fantasy 411 co-host

Is this a trick question? Is someone who hit .340 in May with 11 bombs on the season really off to a "slow start?" Have we really come to expect Ruthian production from the Great Pujols at all times? I could be wrong, but last time I checked, there are three things guaranteed to us by the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and Albert Pujols finishing every season with at least a .330 average, 40 jacks and 120 RBIs.

-- Dave Feldman, MLB.com fantasy reporter

I'll take Pujols. He was, after all, the No. 1 pick in most drafts this year, and of the group, he is clearly the most complete hitter. Delgado, Konerko, Howard and Sexson have shown some legitimate signs of life in the past week or two, while Pujols and Berkman have not. Albert did have a multi-homer game this past weekend, so that's encouraging, and if the others can do it, then Albert surely can as well. Berkman is a mystery but should be OK, and Nomar is a non-factor; I'm much more interested in seeing Adam LaRoche turning it around.

-- Mike Siano, MLB.com Fantasy 411 co-host

I think Albert Pujols pretty much answered that question with his two home runs on Sunday. Pujols took an unusually long time to get going, but if anybody can be considered a sure thing in the fantasy world, it's this guy. Consider: Since joining the Cardinals in 2001, Pujols has batted at least .314 with 34 or more homers and 117 or more RBIs in every single season. He probably won't set any career-best marks in this one, but I think owners will be pretty happy with his numbers by the time October rolls around.

-- Tim Ott, MLB.com fantasy reporter

Take a step back. Pujols has had two mortal months after cementing himself as the game's best hitter over the past few years. At 27, he has just 251 career homers, two fewer than Hank Aaron finished with in his age-27 season. Sure, Pujols won't come cheap. Then again, in years past, you didn't even have an opportunity to acquire him, let alone inquire about him.

-- Alex Cushing, MLB.com fantasy reporter

With all due respect to the other first basemen on this list, Albert Pujols is the only guy I'd feel comfortable putting money on to turn his slow start around -- if we're talking about the best bet to do so. That doesn't mean the other guys won't get hot -- Delgado and Howard, in particular, seem to well on their way -- and I'd never count out Berkman, but Pujols (cough two-homer game on Sunday cough) is worth banking on.

-- Cara Pitterman, MLB.com fantasy reporter

The fact that Pujols is even considered to be off to slow start is a credit to just how great he really is and reflective of the high standard we all hold him to. Although he had a slow April (.250-6-15), he's hardly slumping anymore after turning in a rock-solid May (.340-3-13). While the rest may turn their respective seasons around, the best bet to do so is clearly the No. 1 pick in the majority of drafts. Pujols has yet to give us a reason to doubt his ability to put up an MVP-caliber season every year.

-- Matt Kerner, MLB.com fantasy reporter

Ryan Howard, Phillies

I have no doubt that most if not all of these guys will come around -- especially Pujols. And especially Ryan Howard, who's finding his stroke after an injury-hampered start to the season. Look beyond his .217 average, and you'll find that Howard has six homers and 18 RBIs in his last 37 at-bats. He probably won't be winning another MVP, but the sweet-swinging slugger is a good bet for 40 bombs and 100 RBIs in his age-27 season.

-- Dean Chiungos, MLB.com fantasy reporter

Nomar Garciaparra, Dodgers

Nomar owners are probably wondering where all the home run power has gone. I'm still wondering as well, but let's take a look as the good things the 33-year-old is doing at the plate. Nomar is hitting a whopping .464 (26-for-56) with runners in scoring position and .429 (9-for-21) with RISP and two outs. His 34 RBIs tie him for fourth in the National League at his position, and he's on pace for almost 100 ribbies (98). Hitting for average has never been a problem for the lifetime .317 hitter, so be patient with his power struggles.

-- Marcus Vanderberg, MLB.com fantasy reporter