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Jake Fox to the O’s

Baltimore Orioles acquired DH/1B?/3B?/OF?/C? Jake Fox from the Oakland Athletics for RHP Ross Wolf and cash.

In the article linked to above, Baltimore president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail touts Fox’s “roster flexibility” — the former Cubs prospect, acquired by the A’s in a trade over the winter and recently DFA’d, has experience in the infield and outfield corners, as well as at catcher. It’s technically true that Fox can man those spots, in that he’ll strap on the gear and squat behind the plate if asked, or stand at one of those corner positions and pray that he doesn’t get a screaming liner or have to run one down in the gap, but his limited defensive prowess leaves him as a man without a position.

The A’s picked up Fox for his bat — the career .293/.357/.528 minor league hitter posted a .259/.311/.468 triple-slash with the Cubs in 2009, with a .332 wOBA in 241 plate appearances. Fox showed plenty of pop (.208 Isolated Power), but his lack of patience was glaring. The 6-0, 210 pound right batter chased 37.8% of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (25.1% MLB average). Not surprisingly, Fox got behind in the count regularly (65.6 first pitch strike%, 58.2% MLB average) and walked just 5.8% of the time.

Unfortunately, Fox took his hacking even further during his brief Oakland tenure. He ventured out of the zone 47.5% (28.3% MLB average), putting the ball in play on the first pitch or getting behind 0-and-1 70.1% (58.4% MLB average). In 107 PA with the A’s, Fox batted .212/.262/.323, putting up a .262 wOBA and a .111 ISO.

What can we expect from Fox for the rest of 2010? ZiPS projects a .253/.313/.438 line (.330 wOBA), while CHONE sees a .256/.313/.440 offensive showing. Just where he plays in Baltimore remains to be seen — manager Juan Samuel said he’ll likely come off the bench, playing mostly 1B and LF while occasionally spelling Matt Wieters at catcher. Fox’s addition may well spell the end of Garrett Atkins’ nightmarish stay (-1 WAR) in Baltimore.

The Orioles, woefully out of contention, do have a fluid roster situation. Players like Luke Scott, Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada could be dangled in trades. If some O’s vets find new teams, Fox could see increased PT. Then again, Felix Pie (back) figures to return from the DL sometime in early July, and while 3B Josh Bell isn’t enjoying a banner season at Triple-A Norfolk (.273/.320/451), the club could choose to bring him up to the majors later this summer. 1B Brandon Snyder is a lukewarm prospect (.251/.320/.366 at Triple-A over the past two seasons), but I suppose he could factor in as well.

Given Fox’s potential to take on an expanded role while qualifying at several positions, he’s worth monitoring in AL-only leagues. However, he’s a wreck at the plate right now and doesn’t project as more than a league-average batter. Fox’s ultra-aggressive, high-power approach comes at the expense of reaching base regularly. He should probably stay on the waiver wire for now.