Last season, late in a game, the LA Angels deployed David Fletcher in right field for a total of six innings. It never seemed like more than a random substitution.
However, less than a year later and David Fletcher has morphed into the Angels’ everyday left fielder and is one of the most versatile players in the MLB.
At this point last season, Fletcher was an infielder for the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees. He was one of the best hitters in the entire Pacific Coast League, but was just unable to break his way onto the major league roster for the Angels. Simply put, the team had their everyday players in the infield. Zack Cozart, Ian Kinsler, and Andrelton Simmons played the three positions Fletcher was somewhat capable of fielding.
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However, once Fletcher found a way in, he never let the Angels take him out again.
When Cozart’s season ended early due to shoulder surgery, Fletcher game in to play third base. He was arguably raw, but played with hustle and smarts. He stayed in the starting lineup as the third baseman.
Then, Ian Kinsler was traded to the Boston Red Sox. All of the sudden, Fletcher became the everyday second baseman, being forced to relearn an entirely new position. Fletcher handled it with ease, and evolved into a reliable leadoff hitter while doing so.
While he has never had to play consistently at shortstop thanks to Simmons, Fletcher is more than capable. However, 2019 has brought on an entirely new challenge: the outfield.
In Spring Training, the Angels began working Fletcher out in the corner outfield spots. It seemed odd, the three starters were set and the team had brought in players to compete for the fourth spot. However, Fletcher’s versatility allows the Angels more opportunities than you’d think.
The Angels are likely the only team in the entire MLB with three players who are strictly either first baseman or designated hitter. Shohei Ohtani won’t play the field this year, and Justin Bour and Albert Pujols aren’t capable of playing anywhere besides first. That creates a noticeable clog in the 25-man roster, and makes versatility a key factor when deciding on the other bench players.
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That’s where David Fletcher comes in.
Given that Fletcher can literally play any position on the field (the team has also said he serves as the emergency catcher and ever has his own gear), it allows the Angels room to have Ohtani, Bour, and Pujols all on the roster. Teams typically have four bench players: a backup catcher, two backup infielders, and a fourth outfielder. The last two can vary depending on personnel, but it’s very rare a team is built the way the Angels are.
However, since Fletcher can serve as the backup for seven position, the Angels are able to be built how they are. Could you imagine if the Halos were in a pinch and had to use Justin Bour at third base? Instead, they can use Fletcher as a chess piece and place him wherever needed on defense.
Fletcher was never a top prospect for the Angels. Drafted in the sixth round, it was never even a guarantee he’d ever be a regular contributor at the major league level. However, not only is he an everyday contributor for the Angels, he is the key cog in the machine, and the Halos would be in a much worse predicament without him.