Not to be confused with a post-hype sleeper, Fox was never a top prospect. After being drafted in the third round by the Cubs in 2003 he had a decent, but not great, first couple of years in the minors. The majority of his Wikipedia page recounts an incident in which he was told he would catch for Mark Prior. Then he was told he wasn't. Then he did. Just exhilarating. Despite his lack of flair, he has quietly developed into a good older minor league player. In 2006 at age 24 he hit .295 with 21 HRs in 450 ABs between A+ and AA. In 2007 he hit .280 with 24 HRs again in about 450 ABs split between AA and AAA with a cup of coffee in the MLB. 2008 he hit .287 with 31 HRs in 500 ABs between AA and AAA. He had been trending upwards for three straight years when 2009 came around, and what did he do but start the year by batting .409 with 17 HRs in just 164 ABs in AAA. This led to his call-up to the Cubs when he hit .259 in 216 ABs with 11 HRs. Not unbelievable numbers, but certainly respectable since it was his first extended stay in the Majors, plus that power certainly seemed useful. 2010 he was one of my big breakout guys and how was I rewarded? With 7 HRs and a .217 average in 200 ABs. Certainly not what I was hoping for. I'm not looking to make excuses for every player in the majors, but in Fox's case, he had to deal with irregular playing time and playing in pitcher-friendly Oakland for half of the season. At the end of last season I was frustrated that my excitement was unrewarded, but hopeful for the future.
Fast forward to today and where is Jake Fox? Playing in hitter friendly Orioles, a guaranteed roster spot at the very least, and an MLB leading 10 spring training HRs. I'm sure a lot of you are saying "OK, I could see this guy being semi-useful in deeper leagues, but Rich, why spend all of this time talking about this guy? Plenty of people have stood out in the minors and failed in the MLB, and a hot spring training doesn't usually translate." To this I say, look at the little C next to his name in every fantasy league. His catcher eligibilty may not make him a top round guy, but it certainly makes him one of my favorite sleepers. Especially with the fact that he wont necessarily be playing Catcher so he wont have to deal with the wear and tear of the position. I see a floor of a .260 average with 15 HRs and a ceiling of a .300 30/100 season.