ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 17: Outfielder Sam Fuld #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays signs some autographs just before the start of the game against the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field on April 17, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
We're less than three weeks in to the season but anybody who's watched a baseball game thus far or checked out a box score should know that if there's any player who's exciting fans of all teams and playing to the best of his ability in which no one saw forthcoming, it's Sam Fuld. A well known sparkplug, Fuld has played beyond the potential that anyone has ever imagined he would reach. Hec, most if not every scout who saw him play in the minors or at Stanford would probably suggest that going to Grad School would suit Fuld better than playing every day to one day reach his goal of playing Major League Baseball. Well, if those scouts haven't lost their job yet, they oughtta be pretty close to.
Still, even if Evan Longoria comes back in the next couple of weeks and lights up American League pitching, even if David Price pitches like David Price, even if the rest of half of the rest of the team starts hitting, even if Jake McGee gets his act together -- the Rays have a tough road ahead.
The aforementioned semi-sparkplug is gradually and will eventually deflate and come back to earth. For example, the night before last he entered the game with a wRC+ of 197. Well, following an 0-3 performance and no game saving catch, surprisingly, Fuld now has an wRC+ of 175. However, should he still be contributing a great deal despite seeing his numbers decline, could Fuld be a popular name come the July 31st trade candidate?
Obviously, the Rays are nowhere near out of it and one shouldn't expect that they will fade away so quickly. A rough April is something the Rays have been subject to in the past and someone who counts any team out after a sub-.500 April is, well, an idiot.
The one thing about Fuld is that his numbers so far aren't due to luck as much as they are to solid hitting. In 62 plate appearances thus far Fuld boasts a 90.1% Contact % and a 96.3 Z-Contact % while swinging at 39% of balls he saw (swing %). To go along with that, a .377 BABIP doesn't exactly suggest he will not at least hit closer to his potential peak which is what you'd expect from a solid regular.
He's already put together an 0.9 WAR as well and defense has been a big part of his game so far. Fuld's saved two and a half runs in the outfield while mostly playing left field. Although versatile, Fuld brings much more than that as his range and arm are both well above average.
There isn't a perfect comparable for a player such as Fuld who had been traded three months in to a breakout season who wasn't expected to follow up on his performance in future years with the respective club -- Let's just be honest; Sam Fuld isn't going to be hitting the cover off the ball (or at least not .390) for the next five years, unless we're talking tennis balls that is. With that said, Sam Fuld wont be arbitration eligible until after the 2013 season and while one can expect a 4th outfielder type of player in Fuld going forward, there are usually teams and general managers who buy in to a strong first half such as the one Fuld is having.
Alas, Andrew Friedman knows how to do business and if trading Sam Fuld to bring a piece back in return is the right thing to do, he'll execute. A lot has to go right for Fuld as well though as he isn't a lock to be even near where he is now come July. For a guy to come as far as he has whether it be memorizing the MLB Rulebook at age 5 to graduating from Stanford -- You can bet it must be nice to be Sam Fuld either way.