Can Angels’ David Fletcher continue to outperform metrics?
By Kyle Franzoni
Will Angels’ David Fletcher improve in 2020?
When the pundits look at David Fletcher, they point to all the things he does right on the field. He hustles, he shows exceptional knowledge of the game, and most importantly, he puts the bat on the ball.
It’s the latter point that we as fans like to call attention to, and rightfully so, as Fletcher was among the best in baseball at putting the ball in play. He finished with the second-lowest strikeout rate of qualified batters in 2019, checking in at 9.8% during a time when whiffs are on the rise. But it goes so much further than that.
According to FanGraphs, Fletcher led all of baseball in making contact with pitches he swung at in the strike zone (Z-contact%), doing so 96.1% of the time. Likewise, he was first overall in standard contact and out of zone contact, with 91.1% Contact% and 82.6% O-Contact%. In fact, Fletcher led all of baseball by minimizing his swinging strikes (SwStr%) to just 3.2%.
From a metrics standpoint, according to StatCast, Fletcher ranked in the 100% percentile in terms of Whiff%, 98th percentile in xBA (expected batting average), and the 94th percentile in outs above average. That puts him among the elite hitters in the game in terms of putting the ball into play.
While Fletcher was ultimately worth 3.4 fWAR on the season, most of that value was derived via his glove. He graded out above average at every position he saw time in 2019, with the exception of right field. However, he’s likely going to be limited to infield work in 2020, where had had UZR/150s of 10.9 (2B), 7.4 (3B), and 10.5 (SS).
Retaining that positional versatility and efficiency, as well as staying within himself with the bat, Fletcher can continue to be a useful piece in the Angels lineup. The team will undoubtedly love to see him add more power in 2020, but obviously don’t want to sacrifice his elite contact skills to do so. His growth as a player may depend on the need to barrel up more balls.