Jake Fox, hitter
Should he be in the major leagues?
Let’s start with the obvious — Jake Fox really can’t play the field except in emergencies. He’s an awful defensive catcher, has been unplayable in the outfield and at third base, and is, at best, a barely acceptable first baseman. If he’s going to be on your major league roster, he’s going to be a pinch-hitter / designated hitter / desperation defensive fill-in. The question is, is he a good enough hitter to warrant a roster spot in that role?
When I, and presumably fans of my vintage, hear Jake Fox described — good-hitting catcher who’s a defensive liability everywhere — the name “Cliff Johnson” comes to mind. Johnson was a 1970′s-era player who could really hit, but was stuck because he wasn’t mobile enough to play in the Astrodome except at catcher, and he couldn’t catch. But Johnson was, as a hitter, at least one order of magnitude better than Fox. Fox has impressive-looking minor-league numbers, but his best numbers were always when he was a little old for the league and when he was repeating the league. Johnson hit from the start in the major leagues; Fox has a career 87 OPS+ in 534 career plate appearances. So, no, I don’t think Fox has shown enough to warrant a spot on a major league roster.
That said, Fox’ 2011 at Norfolk is really impressive. Fox has signed with the Pirates; his “baseball age” for 2012 will be 29. Signing with the Pirates is good in one sense, that they can use hitters, but bad in another sense, because they’re a National League team with no DH. But if he starts off hot, and forces his way into the lineup, well who knows?