Free Jake Fox

For the sake of Pacific Coast League pitchers, can the Cubs call up Jake Fox already? The 26-year-old first baseman is hitting .429/.513/.968 through 150 plate appearances for Iowa, which is ridiculous performance for any length of time against any competition. He has a .600 wOBA. Six hundred. The next closest hitter in wOBA is Mike McCroy, who is posting a .472 mark. The gap that exists between Fox and McCoy, numbers one and two on the PCL leaderboard, is the same as the one that exists between McCoy and Brandon Boggs, who is number 70 in the PCL in WOBA.

No, this isn’t anything close to Fox’s true talent level. Yes, the PCL inflates offensive levels. At some point, though, a .600 wOBA is a .600 wOBA, and you have to just say “hey, he’s earned a shot to hit in the big leagues”. It would be one thing if the Cubs were getting stellar production out of Derrek Lee, but they aren’t – the incumbent first baseman is hitting just .226/.300/.396, and ZIPs projects a .361 wOBA out of Lee over the rest of the season.

That’s decent enough production, but it’s not at a level where you can’t consider giving him some days off to work Fox’s bat into the line-up every once in a while. Even considering that Fox turns 27 in a few weeks and isn’t a top prospect, there’s just no reason to leave him in Triple-A any longer. Last year, the Rangers faced a similar situation with Nelson Cruz, and he went bananas on the American League after Texas finally got around to promoting him.

With the recent success of guys like Cruz, Jack Cust, and Russell Branyan, the idea of a AAAA power hitter is losing steam. These guys all blistered Triple-A pitching for years, but got written off as fastball only sluggers who couldn’t adjust to major league pitching. All three of them are among the better hitters in the American League right now – all they really needed was a team to give them a legitimate chance.

Fox is doing everything possible to earn his shot. The Cubs don’t have to dump Derrek Lee and go with the unproven youngster, but at the very least, they could get him on the roster and get a look at him in person. When a guy is hitting like this, there’s just no reason to hold him back any longer.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

38 Responses to “Free Jake Fox”

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  1. JH says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. Then again, I was one of the few who never lost faith that Jack Cust could be an above-average bat, and I was calling for Hee-Seop Choi, Calvin Pickering, and Roberto Petagine to get their shots at everyday jobs, too. The veteran first baseman is quickly becoming a ridiculous market inefficiency. Truly elite bats like Pujols, Teixiera, Cabrera, and maybe Joey Votto are one thing, but guys like Jake Fox are the reason the Paul Konerkos and Carlos Delgados of the world should never be guaranteed jobs coming into spring training.

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    • Mark R says:

      I don’t think Votto’s there yet, but that’s a great point. When you’re a plus 20 hitter who plays minus 10 defense at a position with a minus 10 adjustment, you are an average player and should be payed as such.

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  2. Joe D. says:

    Excellent article, Dave. Just yesterday, I was poring over his numbers wondering why he’s not getting at least a start-once-a-week-and-pinch-hit-the-rest-of-the-time kind of shot —
    He must have had a few hundred ABs in the majors a couple years ago and blew it, I figured. Nope, he got 14 ABs back in 2007. That was it.
    Especially with Derrek Lee letting everyone know loud and clear that he’s quickly headed towards being a drag at first base, the Cubs owe it to themselves to see if this kid can help.

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  3. Rob says:

    Of course the Cubs already have Micah Hoffpauir with his .309/.368/.559 line so not sure where exactly Fox fits in.

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    • JH says:

      When a player’s hitting this well, it’s on the team to figure out a way to work him in.

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      • Rodney King says:

        Too bad the Cubs also have Lou managing, who is unlikely to ever bench DLee. Lou seems to either love or hate a player, with very little in between; see the unnecessary trade of Mike Wuertz after he was used very little last season, love of Theriot (which has turned out surprisingly well as he somehow now has occasional power? and his D seems to have improved from Jeter-bad), complete benching of Scott Eyre last season, and ridiculous Marmol usage. Marmol is like a safety blanket for Lou, anytime a reliever gets into a mess, call up Carlos to clean it up. Which is bad on days he is also wild, not to mention on his arm.

        Lee is pretty clearly headed downhill, and while he can still glove it decently, his D is nowhere near enough + to help out his suddenly weak bat. Plus even The HOFF is decent at 1B defense. It doesn’t take much. Which makes it even more hilarious how bad Fox is at every single position…i believe it was in ST when he supposedly missed a pop fly at first by a foot. I am all over his bandwagon though…FREE JAKE FOX!

        And also, Cubs, please stop trying to make Sean Marshall a loogy. Maybe limiting his innings to 150ish is a good move for this year, but no way should that be by making him loog it up. Terrible.

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  4. SamoanRob says:

    would be nice to put one of lee/soriano/hoffpauir/fox at 3B, (lee and soriano do have good arms), but more likely to trade fox/hoffpauir for a reliever

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  5. Nick says:

    great article… just wondering out of curiosity, what’s their (Fox and Hoffpauir) value on the trade market? They can both flat hit. I know you need a good lefty bat off the bench and DLee is declining quick, but this team has some holes, and could benefit now.

    Again, enjoyed the article.

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    • Rodney King says:

      They have very little value on the trade market, most teams have guys that can hit to some degree, butcher it up, and not cost a thing, so I don’t see anyone wanting to toss much in prospects to the Cubs. Maybe a mediocre reliever or relief prospect, or some flawed low-level guy?

      I’d get rid of Lee + ~$10MM, if there was interest. At least save a few bucks next year perhaps, while picking up some sort of prospect. At one point I had heard Sanchez could be traded for him, but the Sanchez Paradox applies…so I doubt that will ever happen even with significant $$ moving with Lee.

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  6. Curtis says:

    Jinkies. Where can we find an updated projection?

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  7. fanOFdefenseAGAIN says:

    You mentioned the PCL, but I don’t think that you also mentioned his 440 BABIP.

    I’m not saying that he is worthless (far from it), but let’s lay all the facts on the table.

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    • Mark R says:

      Minor league BABIPs are kind of screwy. Most minor leaguers who’re killing the ball are going to have ridiculous BABIPs, because of the lower quality of defense and less consistent field conditions.

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  8. R M says:

    I hate seeing guys like that waste away in the minors…they should at least have the courtesy to trade the guy to an AL team that needs a DH rather than deprive him the chance he’s earned to play in the majors. Same thing with Devern Hansack on the Red Sox….better than the Horacio Ramirez’s of the world, yet never gets a chance.

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  9. Colin Wyers says:

    Fox had a projection going into this year of a below-average MLB hitter, with about a .330 wOBA listed from various projection systems per his Fangraphs page. In 140 or so PAs he’s put up a .341/.413/.727 translated batting line (MLE courtesy of How much should we increase his projection? Some, certainly. Enough to make him a viable major league option at one of the corner spots for a team that has Soriano, Bradley, D-Lee and Micah Hoffpauir in the mix for those three spots? Not really. If Fox could play third base it might be a different story, but he can’t so it isn’t.

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    • Completely agree. If Fox could play third base, the Cubs would’ve presumably never bothered trading for Ryan Freel (who, inexplicably, isn’t playing there anyway). The reason Fox hasn’t been called up is quite simple: He has no defensive position other than first base, and Micah Hoffpauir has already laid claim to that backup role. If an AL team wants to offer up something of value for Jake, I can only assume (hope) Jim Hendry would be all ears.

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  10. Brian Cartwright says:

    He’s had an unbelievable two months. In a similar amount of PA at Iowa at the end of 2008, he hit .222, so the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    From 2003-2006, Fox was a catcher, and Oliver gives him translated wOBAs of .335, .336, .341 and .359, which are all above average to very good for the position. In 2007 Fox was moved to 1b, then put up wOBAs of .320 and .326 (256/293/457 and 241/299/466), which while still above average for a MLB catcher, would never give him a sniff of playing at 1b.

    At the end of 2008, Oliver projected Fox at 256/304/462 (327). Through tonight’s games, hitting at .426, Fox’s projection has gone up to 270/322/500 (350), about as good as Adam LaRoche, but still slightly below the MLB average for 1b (357). With Derrek Lee and Micah Hoffpauir around, Fox’s best chance is to get traded to someone like KC.

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    • jason says:


      I’m sure you just tossed out KC as a top of the head example; however I bet even they would be hard pressed to give Fox a second look. Butler & Jacobs in MLB; Kaaihue & Shealy in AAA. Fox is super hot right now, but even KC has spare players with the same basic skill set as Fox.

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  11. aweb says:

    Fox might end like Pickering did in 2004, with a great year in the minors followed by a few abortive chances in the bigs. Pickering “failed” because he wasn’t awesome enough in MLB right away, and his best years had been wasted in the minors. Then he past the end of prospect age (27-28) and was ignored from then on. Fox hasn’t dominated AAA for as long as Pickering or Branyan did, and never stood out as a youngster like those two players did (both had huge seasons at age 21 in the minors).

    I’m happy Branyan is finally getting to play fulltime. He’s been “blocked” by many mediocre veterans, more touted prospects, moved around the field defensively, relegated to the bench, and been a consistent power threat (~35 hr pace at full playing time). Not great, but at least consistent. His low averages and record shattering strikeout pace from his early Cleveland days (229 Ks in his first 550 ABs) scared teams off, I assume. He won’t finish the year with an OPS above 1.000, but is a fairly large upgrade over Sexson’s below replacement level contributions of the past few years.

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  12. All due respect, I can’t believe you wrote this entire article and never mentioned defense once.

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    • PJ Iowa says:

      word… see below…

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    • CubFan4Life says:

      Who cares about defense when the team can’t score more than 1 run a game? Nice pitching outing Demp, too bad we lost 2-1. Nice outing Lilly, too bad we lost 3-0 to Piniero. Nice outing Rich, too bad we lost 3-1. It is infuriating that $150 million doesn’t get you any runs today. Defense is the least of out worries.

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  13. PJ Iowa says:

    I am a season ticketholder to the Des Moines based AAA Iowa Cubs, and have enjoyed watching Fox hit at this level for the entire season. He is absolutely mashing the ball, and at times seems to dominate every type of pitch to all fields. It’s really fun to see.

    That said, I would be absolutely terrified to see Jake Fox put on a 1B glove and take ground balls. He has very little speed, his range is negligible, and he’s a DH, plain and simple.

    Compared to Jake Fox, Jack Cust is a gold gover.

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    • Brian Cartwright says:

      But he’s only hit .269 this year in Des Moines, while 27 for 50 above 4000 feet (Albuquerque, Salt Lake, Colorado Springs)

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  14. dave says:

    Jake Fox will be a great DH for the Cubs.

    Oh wait…

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  15. kevin says:

    just another example of the cubs keeping players in the minors too long. play the hot hand… longoria & porcello are great examples of minor leaguers getting called up while their hot & being able to produce at the major league level to help a ball club.

    i understand not wanting to rush development, but keeping them down can hinder developement as well.

    why is vitters still in class a ball? he should be at least in double a by now… looking at his numbers.

    lee’s bat seems to be warming a little, but that shouldn’t keep hoff & fox from getting ab’s

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  16. kevin says:

    i wouldn’t mind seeing him traded for bullpen help either.

    and please sort out this shakey pen!!!!

    cotts & gregg are way too inconsistant.

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  17. Boozer says:

    According to the Daily Herald’s beat writer, Bruce Miles, Fox has been shopped to AL teams with little interest.

    Too bad the Cubs aren’t starting interleague this week like everyone else. I think he needs ML playing time/success before someone gives up even bullpen help.

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  18. bobtheking says:

    I was under the impression wOBA was weighted to league average or something. Doesn’t that mean that the guy is really hitting that much better than the league, PCL, age, and luck aside?

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  19. Sampsonite says:

    Learn how to play 3B or OF and your on the team. First basemen that can hit are a dime a dozen in the MLB. Add some versatility.

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  20. DMZ fascism victim says:

    Nice post, Dave. Keep that ear low to the ground!

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  21. CubFan4Life says:

    Unload Lee. He has been on a downward spiral since his wrist injury and shows no sign of improving. The whole team looks like they are dead on the field. Bring some kids up and shake up the lineup. Otherwise we are looking directly at the basement.

    Play Fox at 3rd. He has been there some and it has to be better than the production we are getting out of Fontenot and Miles. Bring up Vitters at 3B. Put Hoff at 1B and give Lee a long break, or give Bradley some days off (if he has actually been playing at all this year) and put Hoff in RF and Fox at 1B. Time to shake things up. Where is the old Lou that wouldn’t have stood for a player to lollygag their way to 1B? We need him now!!

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    • Derrek Lee has put up a 1.029 OPS thus far in May, and he has a NTC – so Hendry can’t just “unload” him. Fox at third would kill the defense. Vitters is playing well in Peoria but is not ready for primetime action. There’s no room on the 25-man for Hoff and Fox. Take a deep breath. The hitters in the Cubs lineup are the hitters who will have to produce.

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  22. chris says:

    andd he’s up

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