In the hours before the 2021 regular season began, the Los Angeles Angels signed David Fletcher to a five-year contract extension, locking him in Anaheim for the remainder of his prime. In the week following, he really struggled to make contact with the ball, something that defined his first few seasons in the major leagues.
Through eight games, Fletcher was batting just .194 with an OPS of .438. Given the small sample size, there was no reason to be concerned, as Fletcher’s talent has never been in question. Since then, he’s broke through and improved significantly at the plate, something he attributes to better timing.
Fletcher spoke about his early struggles, saying that he’s starting to feel much better about getting on base to help the batters behind him, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“I think my timing has gotten better at the plate,” Fletcher said Saturday. “I got off to a little bit of a slow start but the results are going to come. For me, it’s just about feeling good at the plate and getting on for the guys at the plate behind me.”
Fletcher specifically said he was never worried as he knew he was going to figure it out as the season progressed, and that struggles are just part of the game.
“It wasn’t really tough, we’re only about a month into the season,” Fletcher said. “It was really only the first week or so of the season that I was kind of struggling a little bit. But that’s just part of the game.”
Fletcher is now up to a .264 batting average on the season, which is still a step down from where he’s been throughout his career. This means there’s even more room to improve for one of the Angels most important batters.
Getting back up to the .290 he batted in 2019, or the .319 he batted in 2020, will require adjusting to pitchers who are now throwing to him in a different way. Everyone knows about Fletcher’s ability to turn balls high out of the zone into hits, meaning pitchers are starting to throw a lot more low strikes.
Once he can adjust to this completely, there’s no reason he can’t be one of the best leadoff men in baseball.
Mike Trout continuing excellence in early part of season
While Fletcher is working back through some early difficulties, Mike Trout has had no issues, playing some of the best baseball of his already storied career. Angels first baseman Albert Pujols called Trout’s ability to sustain greatness “scary,” and that it’s something he thinks can continue for a long time.