Should The Orioles Pick Up Jake Fox?

I was going to comment on this as soon as it came up, but didn’t have a chance and Camden Depot got there first:

“Susan Slusser tweeted last night that the Oakland Athletics can no longer afford to be patient with Jake Fox and are designating him for assignment.  This is a move to take him off the 40 man roster, so every other team in baseball will have a shot at him.  The Orioles have the first right of claim.  The Athletics need to do this because Fox is out of options.  His has been somewhat miserable at the plate this year with a 591 OPS.  He has played left field, catcher, and backed up a few games at third base.  In the minors he has also had some experience with first base.

What I am suggesting is pretty simple . . . the Orioles need to claim Fox and designate Garrett Atkins.  At this point, Atkins has not shown any improvement at the plate and looks stiff over at first base.  Taken along with his three year precipitous decline, I see absolutely no upside to keeping him.  He cannot hit and he cannot take the field.  Jake Fox is actually hitting better than Atkins.  He has also shown good power as well.  He has shown some ability to play catcher and first base, which would be very valuable to the Orioles.  Fox is also right handed just like Atkins, so he fills that role as well.  At 27, Fox is not an up and coming prospect, but he could, maybe, just maybe, have some upside in either his bat or his ability to catch.  These are unknowns to explore.  Everything about Atkins we know and none of it has been very useful.”

Fox came over to the A’s from the Cubs in an off-season trade, but a position crunch made things a little tough for him in Oakland.

A career batting line of 241/.293/.418 in 362 PA isn’t particularly impressive, but he’s hit .299/.365/.546 in the minors overall with a .407/.495/.846 line in Triple-A last year with 17 home runs  in just 162 PA. In the majors, Fox has been plagued by a low BABIP (.267) largely as a result of below average line-drive rate (17%) and a high rate of pop-ups – plus a touch of bad luck thrown in. Even if you adjust his line using his expected BABIP, it’s still only at .252/.303/.432. From a power perspective, Fox seems to have a bit of pop in his bat with an 11.3% HR/FB rate and his 13 career home runs pro-rates to somewhere in the low to mid 20s in a full season. FanGraphs’ plate discipline stats show a guy who swings a lot; almost 60% of the time overall, and over 40% at pitches out of the strike-zone. He also has a lot of trouble putting the bat on the ball, with a 69% contact rate that would rank amongst the worst in the majors. That indicates a player who won’t walk much and will strike out a whole lot – to even more extreme degrees than Fox is already doing (5.5% walk rate, 23% strike-outs rate). CHONE has Fox batting .256/.313/.440 for the rest of the season, which looks perfectly reasonable. That’s about a league average bat overall.

Defensively, Fox can play a whole bunch of positions at different levels of “not well”, but that’s no different from Atkins and being able to fill in at catcher is a nice plus*.

* So that Wieters doesn’t need to be the guy to pinch-hit every time Tatum plays, letting Matt actually get a day off now and again.

Putting it together, you’ve probably get a slightly over replacement level player on your hands. That’s certainly more valuable than Atkins – whose contract is a sunk cost – at this point, and probably worth a flier just to see if he can figure something out. Not expecting much, but there’s no harm in it.