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2021 Angels Player Review: David Fletcher

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Fletcher’s offensive flexibility and defensive prowess keeps him a prized commodity on the Angels

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Angels’ fans have grown accustomed to seeing David Fletcher take the field almost every day of the season for the past three years, and 2021 was no different.

With all the injuries that plagued the Angels, the Orange, CA native found himself in a small group of lucky players on the roster to never once hit the Injured-List at any point during the season. He was penciled in the starting lineup for 157 of 162 games, which was the most of his career thus far.

After a shortened 2020 season (due To Covid-19) that saw Fletcher lead the Halos in batting at .319 (3rd in AL), it was odd to see the sneaky slap hitter struggle (by his standards) with just a .264 average in April (24 games), followed by a .258 average in May (26 games). He was able to find success in June and July courtesy of a 26-game hitting streak that would place him second all-time in Angels franchise history.

However, right when you thought the hot streak could not fizzle, it took a sharp nosedive through the dog days of summer and all September long. Fletcher recorded two separate streaks of 26+ hitless at-bats, while seeing his lowest monthly average total of his career sink to .103 (September - 26 games).

Despite the roller coaster experience at the plate, Fletcher managed to lead the team in hits with 164 and rank second in numerous offensive categories such as Runs (74), Doubles (27), Triples (3), Stolen Bases (15) and Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (.301).

The season did wrap-up on a high note as Fletcher recaptured hitting glory over the final three games in Seattle batting .400 (4-for-10) with back-to-back multi-hit games and two runs batted in.

Defense was the shining star that elevated Fletcher’s game to a new level and caught the attention of many teams in the league. In the course of 142 games at second, Fletcher ranked first in the AL with a +9 in outs above average and second with 12 defensive runs saved.

More impressively, Fletcher recorded his highest dWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement) of his career at 2.0, ranking 7th in all of Major League Baseball. Coupling these defensive SABERmetric accomplishments with other highlight reel type plays, Joe Maddon firmly believes this was one of the greatest defensive seasons he’s ever seen.

“I’ve not seen a body of work better than him in a season,” Maddon said. “And I’ll say this, he’s the best infielder [in the Majors]... But don’t tell me there’s a player, both leagues, who plays that position better than him. Anyone trying to make that argument anywhere, come see me”.

2021 STATS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS

157 Gms* / 626 AB* / .262 Avg / .297 OBP / .324 SLG / .622 OPS / 164 H / 2 HR / 47 RBI / 74 R / 27 2B / 3 3B / 31 BB / 15 SB*

*Career-Highs

  • 2021 AL Player of the Week (July 11)
  • 2021 MLBPAA Angels Heart & Hustle Award
  • 2021 AL Gold Glove Nominee (winners announced on Nov. 7)

BEST OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE

It is a no-brainer that Fletcher’s 26-game hitting streak is his finest offensive display of the season. It all began on June 13 on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks where the righty went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI, 2 R and a double. The streak, which ranks second in Angels’ franchise history, fell two games shy of tying Garrett Anderson’s 1998 record (28 games) when Fletcher went 0-for-5 against the Seattle Mariners on July 18.

During the month-long hit parade, Fletcher batted a blistering .454 (49-for-108) with 13 multi-hit games all while boosting his overall batting average from .255 to .318. Fletcher was the hottest hitter in baseball by a considerable margin over this period of time and it showed as Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman found himself second-best in baseball (.385).

BEST DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE

Oh where to begin?! As one of the three finalists for the American League Second Base Gold Glove Award, it is clear as day that Fletcher put on a defensive clinic throughout the regular season (finishing with a .990 Fielding Percentage, committing only six errors and turning 86 double plays) with more than one memorable moment.

Here are 3 plays that made our jaws drop in amazement:

#1: September 1 vs. Yankees - Backhand toss across the diamond

#2: September 16 @ White Sox - Backhand flip for force out at second base

#3: July 5 vs. Red Sox - Backhand toss in the shift/shallow right field

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2022

By signing a 5-year, $26 million dollar deal on April 1, 2021, Fletcher cemented himself as one of the faces of the Angels franchise who are poised to lead this team back to the playoffs and a hopeful World Series trophy.

It is safe to say fans should expect the same David Fletcher we are use to seeing when Opening Day comes around in 2022. A prototypical leadoff hitter that sets the table for the likes of Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, while being a dynamic force at second base. Even with the current questions surrounding who will be the starting shortstop, it makes the most sense to leave Fletcher at second, which I believe is where Maddon and General Manager Perry Minasian value him the most.

Since day one when Maddon was handed the reins to this Angels franchise, he singled out Fletcher as the “sparkplug” of the organization and that characteristic stands true today. Fletcher has shown he is a “less talk, more action” type ball player who skims under the radar in comparison to other well-known infielders in the game, however his stats are just as good, if not better than those who receive much more attention.

The lone area of work to improve on this offseason for Fletcher would be his consistency at the plate. We saw it back in 2019 and 2020, but it was touch and go in 2021 especially when his spot in the lineup juggled between first, second or ninth depending on the matchup constructed that day.

With a healthier lineup from top to bottom, Fletcher’s production numbers should rise and a trip to the 2022 All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium (four years in the making) should definitely be the tip of the iceberg for the future.

2021 OVERALL GRADE: B+


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