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In 2009, utility man Jake Fox was feasting on minor league pitching. In just 49 games for the Cubs AAA affiliate, Fox hit a Ruthian .409/.495/.841 with 17 HRs and 53 RBI, and while those numbers seemed astronomical, they weren’t really an anomaly. Fox had been crushing minor league pitching since 2006, so the power is real and he belongs in the majors.
Fox, however, doesn’t have a defensive home. He’s a utility man, but that’s only because he doesn’t play any defensive position particularly well. He has dabbled around at catcher, the corner infield positions, and in the outfield, but in his three stops across the majors (Cubs, A’s, Orioles), he has never found his niche.
That’s the issue he faces with the O’s, who have permanent starters at catcher (Matt Weiters), first base (Derrek Lee), third base (Mark Reynolds), DH (Vladimir Guerrero), left field (Luke Scott) and right field (Nick Markakis). Despite his clear offensive potential, Fox needed to have a dominant spring (more on that later) just to make the team as a backup catcher. That’s where his 2011 fantasy value comes into play.
Despite the fact that he broke an unwritten rule of the game that even pissed off his own manager (who we later found out is a complete buffoon), Fox made the final cut for the Orioles 25-man roster on Opening Day, as he will be the primary backup for Weiters at catcher.
As the team’s backup catcher, Fox should play behind the plate at least twice per week.
Toss in another couple opportunities to relieve any of the corner outfielders or Vlad at DH, and Fox could see 3-4 starts per week, assuming everyone is healthy. If anyone should have a really rough start or fall victim to the injury bug, the first guy off the bench should be Fox (c’mon, do you really want to see Cesar Izturis at bat??).
Not only will his position versatility help him with the O’s, but if he’s playing everyday, it will help your fantasy team, as he is eligible at C, LF/OF, and 1B in the Yahoo! fantasy game.
First, let me get this out of the way: spring training stats typically mean nothing. Melky Cabrera led all hitters with a .468 batting average. Kila Ka’aihue led the majors with an .846 slugging percentage. Alex Gordon led with 23 RBI. Judging by those stats, the Royals are set for an AL Central title!
But, I will say counting stats do show something. Jake Fox led the majors with 10 home runs and also added seven doubles in 27 games. He compiled a .797 slugging percentage, which shows he has been driving the ball with authority. He had a helluva spring for the O’s, and without it, he would have probably been cut.
As a result, he deserves some attention on your fantasy radars. Consider adding him in deep mixed leagues and as a must-add in AL-Only leagues. I’m sure a number of the players you drafted ended up on the DL to start the year (Jake Peavy) , so why not slot them on your DL and take a flyer on Fox?