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Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: Derek Fisher

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Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Blue Jays got Derek Fisher in trade from the Astros. A trade that received instant hatred from Jays fans (a feeling that got worse when Sanchez and Biagini were part of a no-hitter, 6 innings for Aaron and an inning for Joe).

Things went downhill for Aaron and Joe after that. Aaron suffered a shoulder injury and is likely to miss most (if not all) of the 2020 season. He’s a free agent now but I’d imagine he won’t be signing anywhere until he can pitch. Joe was terrible and was sent to the minors.

And, well, Fisher wasn’t any better.

Fisher hit .161/.271/.376 with 6 home runs in 107 plate appearances with the Jays.

Derek had been a top prospect. He was number 83 on Major League Baseball’s top 100 prospects before the 2017 season. Our old friend John Sickels didn’t like him that much but had him the number 8 prospect in the Astros organization before 2017 saying:

8) Derek Fisher, OF, Grade B-/B: Age 23, compensation pick in 2014 from University of Virginia; hit .255/.367/.448 with 21 homers, 28 steals, 83 walks, 154 strikeouts in 478 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; 60-grade raw power and speed, will take a walk but has significant strikeout issues and has never quite lived up to the expectations of scouts; defense is mediocre despite his physical tools; higher pure ceiling than Ramon Laureano but has larger holes in his game; perhaps a faster Jeromy Burnitz. ETA 2017.

He also said:

All the tools to be an excellent player are here and he’s made good progress making those tools usable on the field this season, at least as a hitter. He’ll always strike out some but his whiff rate is down considerably compared to past seasons, dropping to 19% compared to 25% in 2016 and 2015.

There are still some rough edges. His weakest tool is his throwing arm, which is tepid enough to make left field his best option. He runs well enough for center but his feel for the position remains inconsistent. Despite his speed, he was a poor percentage base thief in Triple-A, being caught 10 times for Fresno against 13 successes. His success rate was better in the lower minors but it needs to be addressed.

Although not quite a finished product, Fisher’s progress as a hitter this spring looks real and he should be a highly productive, if occasionally erratic, player going forward. If the “faster Jeromy Burnitz” comp pans out, that would be a success: Burnitz racked up 25.1 fWAR in a 14-year career.

The problem is that ‘all the tools’ haven’t added up to a player yet. I would add that ‘feel for the (CF) position remains inconsistent’ could be said about any of our outfielders.

He is the kind of player who is going to get a few chances to figure out how to use all those tools. When you have power and speed (oh heck, you don’t need the speed part), teams will let you try to figure it out.

He was hitting well in Triple-A Round Rock last year: .286/.401/.522. That is in the PCL, but even for the PCL that is a good line.

Scouting reports tend to dislike his defense but, career, he’s had a +5.5 UZR/150 in the outfield. He doesn’t have a great arm, but he seems to make the catches.

Going into spring, it seems like he’ll be battling Anthony Alford and, perhaps, Jonathan Davis, for the fourth outfielder spot. It is possible two will make the team, since we have an extra roster spot this year. And, if they decide Teoscar Hernandez is better off at DH than playing a regular outfield spot, there could be an opening in right field (presuming the team goes through with the idea of Randal Grichuk in center). Both Fisher and Alford are out of options, so they make the team or, most likely, they move along to an franchise. Whatever happens I figure our fourth outfielder will get a lot of at bats.

Fisher has had 419 major league plate appearances, not a huge sample yet. Justin Smoak was given a lot more time to prove he could make it in the majors (not that I think Fisher will find the same success as Smoak). We have had a number of players who needed time in the majors to find themselves. But we live in a world where fans make snap judgements.

All that said, I’d rather they bet on Alford than Fisher.

PECOTA likes him. It sees him hitting .234/.327/.467 with 16 home runs in 315 PA. And a 1.0 WAR (I suppose likes him is an overstatement, but that batting like would be a huge step up for Derek). I’d be thrilled and rather surprised if he hits that well and I tend to think of myself as an optimist. Alford they see hitting .223/.292/.369.

Fisher is 26 now (about 30 days short of a year older than Alford). As he is a left-handed hitter, it is possible that he and Anthony could platoon in right (though, career Fisher has reverse splits, but I’m figuring that is a small size thing).

Poll

At the start of the season Fisher

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Will have an everyday spot in the outfield.
    (50 votes)
  • 61%
    Will have a fourth or fifth outfielder spot on the team.
    (246 votes)
  • 12%
    Will be in our minors (clearing waivers).
    (52 votes)
  • 13%
    Will be in another organization.
    (55 votes)
403 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will Fisher’s over/under on PA with the Jays is 225 I’d take the

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Over
    (150 votes)
  • 55%
    Under
    (189 votes)
339 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If the over/under on Fisher’s OPS is .700 I’d take the

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Over
    (105 votes)
  • 68%
    Under
    (228 votes)
333 votes total Vote Now