In three seasons’ time, infielder David Fletcher has jumped from being the Los Angeles Angels‘ sixth round draft pick out of Loyola Marymount to finding himself on the doorstep of the big leagues with a legitimate shot at playing for his hometown team in Orange County sometime in 2018. Even in a relatively weak Angels’ system the last few years, it’s a remarkable rise for a glove-first prospect who never really grabbed the attention of outside evaluators and national prospect gurus so much as he pushed through the system under the radar with exceptional consistency and a mature approach to the game.
But now, quite literally on the threshold of the big leagues after navigating his way through some success with Triple-A Salt Lake to end 2017, David Fletcher knows his public profile is about to rise pretty quickly. And if he plays his cards right, the longtime shortstop—undoubtedly blocked at that position by Andrelton Simmons in Anaheim—could still have an outside shot at an everyday gig with the Los Angeles Angels.
“Any way I can make a 25-man roster, that’s what I’m going to do, whether that’s one of the middle infield spots or being a utility man,” Fletcher told Baseball Census late last week. “Over the past year I played quite a bit of second base. That was really the first time I’ve played there that much in games, but I feel really comfortable over there now, and I feel like I can play that position just as well as shortstop.”
Growing up a shortstop, Fletcher played the position nearly every day as a pro right up until he hit Double-A Mobile at the beginning of this season. Fifty-four second base starts later — with a remarkable .992 fielding percentage at the Keystone sack in 2018, no less —Fletcher has now wrapped up his first foray into the Pacific Coast League with enough positives taken away both defensively and with the bat that leave him optimistic for what may come in spring training. And while it’s tempting to take a guy like David Fletcher—who’s a respectable if unspectacular .282/.334/.362/.696 career minor league hitter over three seasons—and slap the ‘utility’ label on him because of his unquestionable middle infield flexibility, that’s not how the Los Angeles Angels prospect sees himself.
“That’s a big role, to be a utility guy, and that’s part of my game that I take a lot of pride in and work hard on, but being an everyday player is something everybody wants to be, and me being an everyday second baseman is the ultimate goal,” Fletcher admitted, revealing lofty personal expectations while quickly noting that a utility gig may be what secures his first ticket to The Show. “I think it’s still really important to be able to play shortstop, though. Obviously if I were to be a utility guy, I have to be able to play shortstop.”
Defense will undoubtedly carry David Fletcher much of the way to whatever big league future is in store for him, but the Los Angeles Angels prospect does have some underrated contact skills at the plate. He’s overachieved across large stretches each of the past two seasons with the bat—a trend that’s helped move him through the system so rapidly—and if he’s able to eventually hold his own offensively against big league pitching, that’ll go a long way to solidify a big league job for the infielder come spring competition time.
“I started off really hot in Triple-A right when I got there,” Fletcher said of the summer’s second half promotion. “My first week or two, I was really hot, and then I went through a couple weeks where I wasn’t swinging the bat very well. But it helped that I had success right away, and I finished strong by the end again, and that really gave me the confidence to know that I can perform at that level.”
The infielder’s final season line with Salt Lake is indicative of a first experience: .254/.285/.322/.607 over 205 at-bats, with six doubles, two home runs, and eight stolen bases. And in David Fletcher’s case, perhaps he was wishing the season continue on a few days longer, considering he was hitting .348 (16-for-46) with both of his Triple-A home runs and seven RBI over his last ten games as the year’s final bell tolled. It’s a small sample size, of course, but showing a marked adjustment to Triple-A pitching bodes well for his ability to adjust at the next level soon, too.
All that said, though, the infielder realizes he must do more on offense to stick in an everyday big league job, no matter how good his defensive work may be.
“One of the things I’m focusing on this winter is how to take strides offensively,” Fletcher admitted. “I know I need to raise my OPS, and my on-base percentage, and try to develop some more gap-to-gap ability. That’s one thing I want to keep improving every season so that I can keep developing as a hitter. I’m trying to hit line drives, and if I can find a way to hit line drives more consistently, that’ll give me success. I just need to hit the ball hard.”
If the adjustments and under-the-radar growth of the last three years are any indication, David Fletcher will make those adjustments — and sooner, rather than later.
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