The Unbearable Lightness of Being Sam Fuld | The Process Report

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Sam Fuld

I meant to write this earlier, but my obligations elsewhere (including this random piece on John Jaha) took priority. In the interim, Sam Fuld had a pretty nice game, so hopefully this doesn’t feel too much like me jumping on a once vivacious—since vacated—bandwagon. Here goes nothing.

Fuld got off to a grand start this season. He filled a number of voids along the way. The Legend of Sam Fuld hype wasn’t just about baseball performance. I know this because if it were just about baseball performance then Matt Joyce would have his own island right now called Bugbearland—instead, the only real estate Joyce owns is the part of my heart reserved for hitting machines. The Legend of Sam Fuld was never about Sam Fuld the baseball player, but what Sam Fuld the baseball player symbolized: hope.

Fuld was the Rays mini-flashlight after Manny Ramirez’s fuse burned out and Evan Longoria’s backup generator failed. He was never meant to be the lone source of illumination, but it was darker then and any trace of light is sacred. The short dude with a classic underdog’s build who doubles as an intellect—Stanford and Extra 2% learned—with a knack for big plays is perfect. Almost too perfect, the Manchurian Candidate parallels were evident as Fuld’s Q rating kept ascending.

Unfortunately, cult heroes can die with overexposure—ask Dan Johnson—and the Fuld adoration seems headed towards a morgue. It’s too bad, because the same rules that applied Fuld’s hot start also apply to his cold streak. Entering Wednesday, Fuld had 142 plate appearances, using Baseball-Reference’s game log feature, I split those into (nearly) halves. Here is what we have:

First 76 PA: .366/.395/.549
Last 66 PA: .085/.182/.136

Fuld was never going to hit .366 for an entire season, or reach base nearly 40 percent of the time, or post an ISO near .200, but you know what? He isn’t going to hit sub-.100 or make outs in more than 80 percent of his plate appearances either. The answer is somewhere between. Alas, there is a big gap between being one of the best hitters and one of the worst, so use all of the information to provide a realistic baseline.

In nearly 1,000 Triple-A plate appearances, Fuld’s slash line was .273/.368/.400. An exact replication of that in the majors is probably asking too much and besides Fuld was 25-28 when he posted those numbers. The older the prospect is to his league, the more salt you have to take with his performances. Still, the safe money is that Fuld can post something like a .250/.340/.380 line (PECOTA has him at .249/.334/.337). That’s rosterable when combined with Fuld’s defense (he is essentially a center fielder pushed to left) and baserunning.

Is Fuld being overexposed by starting every day? Maybe, but at this point the Rays have limited options. If the Rays believe Super Two is going away in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, then they can soon call up Desmond Jennings without future harm. Even then, Fuld should make (and continue to make) a nice reserve outfielder.

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