David Fletcher is a pleasant, stable ballplayer. Since debuting with the Angels in 2018, he’s performed all around the subject and been above-average defensively wherever he goes, whereas posting a .292/.346/.386 line with 10 homers and 13 steals in 283 video games.
Final 12 months, Fletcher was poised for a breakout. He got here into 2020 with a full season below his belt the 12 months earlier than, and turning 26 in Could, was at simply the best age to pop. Certainly, Fletcher posted a 121 OPS+ and, based on StatCast information, improved his plate self-discipline, though not his hard-hit price.
The issue for Fletcher is that final 12 months was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, so he solely performed 49 video games for a staff that went 26-34, effectively out of playoff competition, which means that he didn’t actually get an opportunity at a giant highlight as he got here into his personal extra.
Because of this, you’ll be able to see the seeds of what Angels supervisor Joe Maddon said on Tuesday, proclaiming that Fletcher is “among the best second basemen within the league” and that when he’s not listed as such, “that just about tells me that whoever is doing this reporting isn’t actually watching.”
Spring coaching is a time for accentuating the optimistic. Gamers are at all times reporting “in the perfect form of his life,” pitchers touting a brand new pitch that they’ll really drop two weeks earlier than the season begins, and managers pointing towards the playoffs with a staff that basically has no hope of reaching October. If Maddon needs to name Fletcher one of many league’s greatest on the keystone sack, high quality, however to impugn everybody else as ignorant for not agreeing is baloney.
Of the six units of projections at Fangraphs, just one sees Fletcher with a wRC+ of league-average 100 this 12 months. However, to be truthful to Maddon, projection methods don’t actually watch. So what concerning the individuals who do?
Effectively, final season, Fletcher did get a Tenth-place vote for American League MVP. He was tied with Mariners rookie Kyle Lewis for the bottom OPS amongst anybody receiving MVP votes, and Fletcher’s three homers had been the fewest amongst that group. So, it’s not like he was neglected regardless of not placing up the flashiest of numbers.
However one other huge factor is that anybody watching Fletcher noticed him play 15 video games at second base final 12 months, in comparison with 27 at shortstop whereas filling in for the injured Andrelton Simmons, in addition to eight video games at third base and 4 innings in proper subject. In his profession, Fletcher has performed 100 video games at second base, however 131 at third and 73 at shortstop. An enormous motive that he wouldn’t be seen as one of many prime second basemen within the league is that he hasn’t been a second baseman: his career-high in video games there’s 43, as a rookie.
Even so, when MLB Network ranked the highest 10 second basemen within the recreation proper now, Mike Petriello put Fletcher at No. 10 — he wasn’t on any of the opposite three prime 10 lists from the panel.
If we’re simply speaking concerning the American League, the names forward of Fletcher make sense. DJ LeMahieu is the consensus No. 1 within the majors for a motive, trailed by Brandon Lowe. Regardless of his tough 2020, it will be foolish to not put Jose Altuve up there. Luis Arráez of the Twins is youthful and a greater hitter than Fletcher, and vastly improved his protection final 12 months.
César Hernández didn’t seem on any of these MLB Community lists, and he led the American League in doubles final season whereas profitable a Gold Glove. There’s extra of a gripe about not together with him among the many league’s prime keystone sackers than there’s Fletcher.
So, that’s three second basemen within the American League who’re inarguably higher than Fletcher and two extra who you’d have to think about, and that’s to not point out Cavan Biggio, who is usually thought to nonetheless have extra upside, nonetheless having performed solely 159 video games within the majors. If nothing else, Biggio already has established himself as a dependable on-base man, with a .368 OBP and 112 walks in 695 plate appearances. If he ever begins to get the bat on the ball extra reliably, he’ll be a famous person, and even so, his WAR was on par with Fletcher’s final 12 months whereas Fletcher was taking part in his greatest ball within the majors thus far.
Perhaps the issue isn’t everybody else’s analysis. Fletcher is an efficient participant, however hasn’t performed a ton of second base. He clearly isn’t on the very prime of the record of American League second basemen, and also you’d must be optimistic about him to rank him within the prime third within the Junior Circuit, whereas the Nationwide League at second base doesn’t have the LeMahieu/Lowe star energy however does have Ozzie Albies, Ketel Marte, Jeff McNeil, Jake Cronenworth, and Kolten Wong. Perhaps Maddon is the one who must spend a while watching extra than simply the Angels.