Maddon predicts 'best version' of Fletcher

March 4th, 2021

Angels manager Joe Maddon had to stop and think when asked what area could improve on this year after yet another under-the-radar but incredibly productive season.

Fletcher has become one of Maddon’s favorite players, and the manager considers him a throwback, as a gritty player who makes elite contact, gets on base by any means necessary and is a top defender at second base. So it took a second for Maddon to come up with his answer on Wednesday.

“One thing maybe would be more of a base-stealing threat,” Maddon said. “It’s not like he’s going to go out and steal 40, but a situational base-stealing threat, where we could take advantage of maybe a slow time to the plate or maybe a catcher that doesn’t throw well. That’d be it.

“From what I’ve seen so far, that would be the one area. I’m not saying that’s so important that it’s going to transform his game. I’m saying that would be the one thing, because I can’t tell you anything else.”

When relayed Maddon’s thoughts, the cerebral Fletcher said he believes he can improve on his career total of 13 stolen bases but also pointed out he’s not one to give away outs on the bases with superstars such as and behind him. A stolen base could also leave first base open for a potential intentional walk.

Fletcher’s team-first attitude is another reason why he’s so beloved in the clubhouse and by the fans.

“I feel like I can steal bases,” Fletcher said. “But hitting in front of Mike last year and Rendon, there’s not a lot of good situations to run in front of those guys. But there are some spots where it’d be nice to run a little more.”

Fletcher, 26, was one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball in the shortened 2020 season, posting a slash line of .319/.376/.425 with three homers, 13 doubles, 18 RBIs and 31 runs scored in 49 games.

But Fletcher did it while playing a variety of positions, filling in at third for Rendon and at shortstop for Andrelton Simmons. This season, however, Fletcher will be the club’s primary second baseman, and Maddon believes it will help him become an even better player because he won’t have to worry about being ready to play so many positions.

“You’re probably going to see the best version of him,” Maddon said. “Barring any injuries, his focus will primarily be on one spot. Although if you ask him, he's so rounded and he so just wants to play baseball every day, regardless of his spot in the batting order or position, that it's probably not relevant to him."

Fletcher said his routine will likely change as a result, as he used to do infield work at a variety of positions each day. Now, most of his work is at second base. But Fletcher wasn’t sure what kind of an impact staying in one position will have on him.

“I don’t know if it’ll add anything,” he said. “But it’s kind of nice to be able to get all my work at one spot.”

Fletcher is also excited to work with his new double-play partner on defense in shortstop , who was acquired this offseason in a trade with the Orioles. Fletcher and Iglesias worked together to turn a double play in the first inning against the Reds on Tuesday night, and Fletcher can’t wait to pair up for more during the regular season.

“He’s awesome,” Fletcher said. “His energy is off the charts. He’s a real positive guy and brings energy to everyone around him. I’ve been lucky to play with Simmons and Iglesias. They are two of the best defenders in the game. So he’s different, but his hands are unbelievable and he’s really smart and has great instincts. It’s been really fun.”