Give Fuld a chance

The Chicago Cubs have re-called outfielder Sam Fuld from Triple-A. At 27 years old, Fuld’s prospect status is dwindling. Except for a brief stint with the Cubs in 2007, he has spent parts of the last three seasons with Chicago’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates and has been successful at every level of his professional career since his debut in 2003. I believe that Fuld is one of the more undervalued players around.

Fuld has spent 17 games with the Cubs this season hitting .292 with six runs and four walks (just one strikeout) in 24 official at bats. His defense has been spectacular during his brief stay in the majors. His UZR was 3.8 despite playing just 51.1 innings in the outfield. All told his play was worth 4.6 Runs Above Replacement (RAR) according to FanGraphs.

Fuld has an excellent track record in the minor leagues. He has maintained a walk to strikeout ratio of 1.09 meaning he has walked more than he has struck out. His career walk rate is a solid 12.4 percent. His minor league batting line in his four and a half seasons is .287/.369/.407. While his power numbers are well below average (20 homeruns in 1,913 at bats) he does have above average speed and great range in the outfield. His arm and instincts make him a particularly strong centerfielder.

Unfortunately for Fuld the Cubs outfield is pretty much set through 2011. Milton Bradley is owed $9 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011. Kosuke Fukudome is signed for $13 million in 2010 and $13.5 in 2011. Alfonso Soriano signed a monster 8-year $136 million deal through 2014.

For now it appears Fuld will remain nothing more than a utility outfielder in Chicago. Fuld could become a valuable contributor if given everyday playing time. He is only signed through 2009, so another lucky team could pick him up on the cheap during the offseason.

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  1. Nick Steiner said...

    Also, while his defense has been good (although it’s kinda foolish to say UZR accurately measures value in this small of a sample size) in the majors so far, he doesn’t project to be much better than an average defender in center:

    He would then have hit at a league average level to be a decent player.  Good plate control in the minors not withstanding, that doesn’t seem likely.

  2. Steve said...

    He may not actually hit very well, but it seems he has some pretty good strike zone management skills.

  3. Colin Wyers said...

    Please don’t. Those minor-league batting numbers translated into major league equivelents are an absolute horrorshow. Fuld’s a decent fourth-outfielder type, I guess, although I’d rather have Reed Johnson. Everytime Fuld bats leadoff, though, I want to cry. There is absolutely no way possible that he’s one of the most underrated players around. It’s unlikely that he’s the most underrated guy that played at AAA Iowa this year.

  4. Sai-Kit Hui said...

    Well, there’s Ichiro! and Gutierrez locking up CF and RF. Who knows when Endy Chavez will be ready next season or be as effective on the field post-injury (not a good hitter in the first place). Saunders is likely going back to AAA. Griffey is unlikely going to come back and Langerhans may or may not stick around (but he’s at best a 4th Outfielder).

    So Fuld is a seems like an ideal type of player for Zduriencik to sign.

  5. Colin Wyers said...

    Yeah, about that. Fuld is on a one-year contract, but that’s true of all players who have yet to reach free agency (unless the team buys out these years). Fuld has yet to reach arbitration and has at least one option year left.

  6. Sven Jenkins said...

    I tend to agree with the author, Alex.  I don’t know how to translate his numbers to the major league equivalents, but just glancing at his numbers, which are amazingly consistent, and looking at the numbers for someone like the afformentioned Reed Johnson, I’d definitely take Fuld.  Fuld also looks like a play-making outfielder that can throw well, despite his size.

    Off the Fuld subject, Johnson is also one of those guys that in my opinion, “plays like an idiot”.  He goes all out, yet he’s totally out of control, as witnessed by the time he blew out Yovani Gallardo’s knee on a play at first base.  It’s more stupidity that hustle with him.

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