As a Chicago Cub, Jake Fox was a swing-from-the-heels slugger without a defensive home.
The 6-0, 210 pound Fox roamed around the diamond in the minors, logging time at catcher, first base, the outfield corners and third base.
But the Cubs are set at the infield corners with Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee. Alfonso Soriano, he of bum wheels and -0.7 WAR in 2009 (only five years and $90M left on that contract!), will patrol left field. Kosuke Fukudome could shift back to right field in 2010 if Chicago adds a center fielder. And, Fox hasn’t really been taken seriously as a backstop.
As such, a trade to the A.L. seemed likely. Yesterday, Fox was indeed shipped to the Junior Circuit. The Oakland A’s acquired the 27 year-old righty batter and IF Aaron Miles for RHPs Jeff Gray and Ronny Morla and OF Matt Spencer.
Fox famously went all Babe Ruth on the Pacific Coast League in 2009, blasting 17 HR and posting a .409/.495/.841 line in 194 PA. The University of Michigan product holds a career .293/.357/.528 triple-slash in the minors, with a .235 ISO. Fox has mostly hacked and asked questions later, walking in 6.9% of his plate appearances.
With the Cubs in desperate need of some offensive thump, Fox logged 241 PA in the big leagues while shuffling between third base, the outfield corners, and first base (he logged a few innings at catcher, too). He compiled a .259/.311/.468 line, popping 11 homers with a .208 ISO.
Fox remained ultra-aggressive, chasing 37.7% of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (25% MLB average). He also took a cut at 77.8% of in-zone offerings, compared to the 66% major league average. His 56.7% swing rate ranked in the top 10 in the majors among batters with 240+ PA. Fox walked in just 6.1% of his PA.
It’s not a good idea to put too much stock in less than half a season’s worth of pitch data, but Fox was greeted with plenty of off-speed stuff in 2009. Big league pitchers tossed him a fastball just 44.5% of the time, the lowest percentage among hitters with 240+ PA. Chicago’s 3rd round pick in the ’03 draft hammered heaters (+0.51 runs/100), while posting negative run values vs. curves, sliders and changeups.
Now in Oakland, Fox could figure into the competition for AB’s at DH and third base. Jack Cust, coming off of a .342 wOBA season, is a possible trade/non-tender candidate. Fox’s qualifications at third are suspect. But with Eric Chavez and Dallas McPherson his primary competition (assuming Brett Wallace opens the year in the minors), Fox could hold an advantage by simply being ambulatory.
For 2010, Bill James projects a whopping .284/.339/.546 line for Fox in limited playing time. That strikes me as wildly optimistic. CHONE’s forecast appears much more reasonable, with a projected .257/.316/.452 performance. Fox’s power and newfound opportunity in Oakland make him a more appealing fantasy target. Just don’t get too giddy over a couple dominant months in the cornfields of Iowa.