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.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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15 years ago

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.

Mark R
15 years ago
Reply to  JH

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.