Orioles utilityman Jake Fox is staking his claim for the Grapefruit League Triple Crown with a scorching spring down in the Sunshine State. He has belted an MLB-high seven home runs in 45 at-bats and is hitting .356 with 12 runs batted in. How hot is Fox? If this was a game of "NBA Jam," he would be setting the hoop on fire with spinning slam dunks from the three-point line.
But apparently the 28-year-old has yet to secure a spot on Buck Showalter's Opening Day roster.
"I want him to show me what he can do catching," the Orioles manager told reporters on Thursday. "We all know he is capable of doing some good things with the bat. He had a good game behind the plate, a better game behind the plate. That’s really what I was looking at today."
Fox can play first base and left field, but his best chance of cracking the 25-man roster is behind the plate. His main competitor, Craig Tatum, is respected in the clubhouse, and before tweaking a muscle, Tatum was batting .304 in 23 spring at-bats. Fox's seven spring bombs make a pretty compelling argument, though, even if Showalter says they don't guarantee him a thing.
SB Nation's Rob Neyer, whom I interviewed about the Orioles a couple of weeks ago, wrote today that Fox is making a powerful bid for one of the Orioles' few open roster spots.
"You might recall that Fox once batted .409 in Triple-A. Granted, that was just 45 games (in 2009), but a batting average that starts with a 4 tends to catch your eye," Neyer wrote in this post for SB Nation. "Fox has some power, but he also has a .285 on-base percentage in 467 major-league plate appearances. He's probably better than that, and should enjoy a nice little career as a bench player, perhaps starting right now."
But in a post about whether spring stats matter, Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk wrote that "in the big picture, spring training performances simply aren’t that predictive."
"Spring training performances get a lot of attention because … well, what else is everyone writing about and watching a team every day going to focus on?" Gleeman wrote about Fox, a .236 hitter in the major leagues. "However, ultimately whether a 28-year-old hitter like Fox with a lengthy track record on which to judge him performs well or poorly in some small sample of at-bats against pitchers of widely varying quality in games that don’t count for anything just doesn’t mean a whole lot."
And that's why Showalter wants to make sure he can count on Fox when he's behind the plate, too.