It's still way, way too soon to make a case that Prince Fielder is on his way to becoming the Tigers' next American League Most Valuable Player Award winner, but some people in Detroit are thinking about it already. Winning AL Player of the Week, at least, is a very good start.
The way Fielder hit last week, especially in Oakland over the last few days, it wasn't much of a contest. Fielder went 12-for-19 (.632) over six games, with four doubles, two home runs and 11 RBIs. Add in nine walks, two of them intentional, and a hit by pitch, and the 28-year-old first baseman reached base safely at a .733 clip.
Both of Fielder's home runs came over the weekend in Oakland, where his three-run homer accounted for all of Detroit's runs in Friday's series opener. Fielder went 4-for-5 in that game, then added a solo shot Saturday in a 2-for-3, two-walk performance. His RBI double contributed to a 10-run Tigers outburst in the series finale on Sunday.
Fielder went into Monday leading the AL with a .429 batting average, tied atop the league with 19 RBIs and second with a .527 on-base percentage. It's the kind of start of a year many believe could take his game to another level for several reasons.
Fielder has had a year to get to know AL pitchers and how teams around the league defend him, but he still batted .313 last season. Just as important, he has protection behind him in the lineup that he didn't have in 2012 with Victor Martinez back from last year's knee surgery.
Martinez hasn't been a major deterrent for teams to pitch around Fielder so far, but he made the A's pay for intentionally walking Fielder in the first inning Sunday by delivering a two-run single.
How often Fielder walks this season could impact whether he could contend for a home run or RBI title. Even if it does, some in the organization believe he's a good enough pure hitter to contend for a batting crown.
Fielder's teammates have already started building his case for the AL MVP Award, putting him on the path that Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera took over the last couple of years.
"I don't think it's any stretch of the imagination that he has a good chance of being an MVP in this league," Verlander told reporters on Saturday.
Player of the Week honors are nothing new for Fielder, who won four of them in the National League during his time with the Milwaukee Brewers. This is the first AL honor, having been arguably overshadowed last year by Cabrera's historic Triple Crown season.
If Fielder keeps up anywhere near this type of hitting for a good stretch, he's going to be difficult to ignore, either for more of these awards or for the MVP conversation at year's end.