The 2020 season began with Joe Maddon wanting to find a way to get David Fletcher playing time at various positions, and it ended with Fletcher proving to be an indispensable part of the franchise.
Fletcher filled in the first four games at third base when Anthony Rendon was dealing with an oblique injury, then filled in at shortstop when Andrelton Simmons sprained his ankle, and ended up at second base when Tommy La Stella was traded. Maddon found that playing time and then some, with Fletcher ending up third on the Angels in both games (49) and plate appearances (230).
Fletcher was effective at all three positions, rating above average in Defensive Runs Saved and average to slightly below average in Outs Above Average, to below average by Ultimate Zone Rating.
“David could be an everyday player anyplace, almost. He’s so good on the dirt,” Maddon said in September. “David could be that at either shortstop or second base. He could be that at third base. Any place you put him on the field, he’s going to be an above-average defender.”
Offensively, Fletcher carried over his 2019 gains into 2020, maintaining a slightly below-average walk rate with impeccable contact rates, striking out only 10.9 percent of the time, fifth-best among qualified hitters. He set career bests in batting average (.319), on-base percentage (.376), slugging percentage (.425), and OPS (.801).
To put Fletcher’s performance to date in perspective, his 8.4 career WAR ranks fifth among Angels position players in their first three seasons. It’s especially impressive for Fletcher, who didn’t debut until halfway through 2018, and had his 2020 season cut short by a pandemic.
Fletcher also provided a steady flow of highlights, mostly from pitches that had no business getting hit, let alone hit well enough to reach safely.
For instance, this pitch on Aug. 21 was hit for a double:
Fletcher was a fixture atop the Angels lineup, and played every inning until the final day of August, when an ankle sprain knocked him out for 11 games. He ranked fourth on the team with 1.6 WAR, in both the Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs versions, and has established himself as a core part of the Angels for the foreseeable future.
Stats: .319/.376/.425, 125 wRC+, 1.6 WAR
Game of the year
Fletcher was 2-for-5 with a run scored on August 15 against the Dodgers, which sounds kind of ordinary, considering he led the team with 18 multi-hit games. But he also made this ridiculous play from shortstop (short left field, really) to rob Mookie Betts, highlighting Fletcher’s all-around talent:
Fletcher has two years, 111 days of service time, and will be eligible for salary arbitration after the 2021 season.