MLB Player Profile: Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols, the 26th member of MLB’s 500 home run club, is the subject of our second player profile

Name: Jose Alberto Pujols Alcåntara

Nicknames: El Hombre, Phat Albert, The Machine

Current Team: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Uniform No.: 5

Current Primary Position: First base

Former Positions: Third base, left field, designated hitter

Vital Stats: 6-3, 230 lbs., 34 years old

Born on January 16, 1980 in Santo Domingo, Dominican republic

College: Maple Woods Community College (Kansas City, MO)

Current season stats: (thru 5/2) .279/.341/.586, 9 2b, 7 HR, 23 RBI thru 27 games.

Accolades, Accomplishments, Awards: 2001 NL Rookie of the Year, 3-time NL MVP (2005, 2008, 2009), Nine-time All-Star selection, 2 Gold Gloves at 1B (2006, 2010), NL batting title in 2003, 26th member in MLB history of 500 HR Club, 2-time World Series winner (2006, 2011) with St. Louis Cardinals

On the Field: Albert Pujols was born January 16, 1980 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, home to 136 other current Major Leaguers. Pujols, who grew up playing on the Dominican sandlots with milk-carton gloves, moved to the United States with his father and his grandmother in 1996. After a short period in New York City, the family headed west to Kansas City, Missouri, where Pujols was named an All-State ballplayer twice in high school.

Pujols spent one year as a shortstop at Maple Woods Community College, hitting .461 with 22 home runs, before entering the MLB draft at age 19. Pujols was bypassed by multiple teams round after round, due in part to the low-profile school he was coming out of, among other things, before being selected with the 402nd overall pick in the 13th round by the St. Louis Cardinals.

After dominating Class A and AAA pitching at age 20 (.314/.378/.543 across three levels, mostly with the low-A Peoria Chiefs), Pujols was invited to spring training by the Redbirds in 2001, where he proceeded to hit well enough for Mark McGwire to famously tell Cards’ manager Tony LaRussa: “If you don’t put this guy (Pujols) on the roster for the season, it might be one of the worst moves you make in your career.” LaRussa listened and Pujols made the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster. He has not played a single minor-league game since. Pujols went on to hit .329/403/.610 with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs, winning the NL Rookie of the Year and helping St. Louis to a 93-69 finish, tied for the division lead with the Houston Astros.

Pujols would continue to terrorize Major League pitchers over the next decade-plus, averaging .320/.420/.617 during his first 11 years with St. Louis. He was a nine-team All-Star, won three MVP awards (2005, 2008, 2009), leading the Cardinals to a pair of World Series Championships (2006 & 2011).

After the 2011 season, it was time for Pujols to hit free agency for the first time in his career. The Cardinals made several attempts to re-sign Pujols in what was a drama worthy of daytime Emmy award consideration. However, in the end, Pujols spurned St. Louis and signed a 10-year, $254 million contract  with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that also includes a 10-year personal services contract once “El Hombre” hangs up the spikes.

While he put up solid numbers during his first season in L.A. (.285/.343/516 with 50 doubles, 30 HR and 105 RBIs) it still represented a career worst slash line for No. 5 .

In 2013, Pujols faced less criticism over his new home, but found himself battling  plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of tissue around the foot and heel. The injury cost Pujols the latter half of the season, as he played in just 99 games before undergoing surgery and sitting out the balance of the year. He ended up with the worst numbers of his career to date: .258/.330/.437.

This year, Pujols seems back to his old self, recently swatting his 500th career home run against the Washington Nationals amidst a very hushed backdrop. All during spring training, Pujols insisted he was healthy again, and has come out mashing, although not quite at the rates we became so used to during his prime. Most likely, the Pujols will see going forward is not the superstar who walked on water in St. Louis, but rather, a closer approximation to his first year with the Angels: Still a star, just not a superstar.

Name Anagram: Objets Plural

Fun Fact: Pujols strongly dislikes being called “El Hombre”.

Historical Comparables: Willie Mays, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig

Talkin’ About Albert: “He could play in anybody’s day. He’s just a terrific ballplayer.” — Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.