2023 stats: 28 G, 93 AB, .301/.350/.441, 115 OPS+, 0.7 bWAR
- Date of birth: September 2, 1997 (26 years old)
- 2023 earnings: $720,000 minimum salary (via Spotrac)
- 2024 status: On 40-man roster, Pre-Arb, 2 options remaining.
As the Diamondbacks rebuild enters an entirely new phase, the team’s ability to develop or acquire talented depth will be one of the defining features of their success. That’s exactly where players like Dominic Fletcher fit into those plans. While his major league career has barely begun, it would be unfair to characterize him as simply a depth piece. He certainly has the potential to be a starting outfielder with a floor closer to a fourth outfielder, although the gap between those two outcomes will come down to his performance at the plate. Originally drafted in a very productive 2019 draft that saw the D-Backs nab Corbin Carroll, Drey Jameson, and Ryne Nelson, Fletcher was a standout performer on a good Razorbacks team that has already produced three major league players.
After forgoing his senior year at the University of Arkansas, Fletcher had his development curtailed by the pandemic in 2020 and then struggled to show the kind of promise he had in college during the 2021 MiLB season with a troubling proclivity to strikeout (109 Ks to just 25 walks) particularly concerning. Evidently, he took the coaching seriously and came back in 2022 with a vengeance, posting an impressive .347/.409/.591 (.999 OPS) slash line at Amarillo before being promoted to Reno. He wasn’t quite able to translate his torrid performance in the Texas League to the Pacific Coast (.301/.368/.452 and .820 OPS) but he was still able to put together a good overall season. Even with the slight step down between levels, Fletcher had clearly put himself on the precipice of getting the call to the majors in 2023.
He didn’t have to wait long for that call as he was recalled at the end of April amid the brief injury scare to Corbin Carroll and was immediately slotted into the lineup as a defensive replacement in a blowout loss to the Rockies. Despite the game result, Fletcher wasted no time collecting his first major league hit with a double in the gap being one of only a handful of extra base hits for the D-Backs on the day. He collected semi-regular playing time throughout May, mostly against righties, and amassed a .303/.346/.461 (.806 OPS) slash line for the month. Unfortunately, this performance was not sufficient to keep him with the big league club as he struggled during his first full road trip and hit just .167/.231/.222 (.453 OPS) across a tough nine-game stretch. Coincidingly, Jake McCarthy had finally found his swing in Reno with a .460 batting average over eight games after posting an abysmal .143/.229/.238 (.467 OPS) through the first month of the season. The team decided to go with the hot bat in McCarthy despite the excellent defense from Fletcher including possible game-saving catches like this one:
This would become a theme for both Fletcher and McCarthy who seem to occupy a similar space in the front office’s evaluations to this point as fourth outfielders backing up the newly re-signed Lourdes Gurriel Jr, Corbin Carroll, and Alek Thomas. It certainly doesn’t hurt the comparison that they are both one of the few lefty outfielders currently on the depth charts and their similar defensive-focused profiles. However, that is where the comparison mostly ends in my opinion as Fletcher showed more potential in his limited playing time than McCarthy did in 2023:
While in Reno, Fletcher continued his impressive offensive performance that he started at the major league level by amassing a .328/.418/.397 (.815 OPS) slash line over 13 games with the Aces. Evidently, the front office had seen the adjustments they were looking for as they recalled the young lefty while optioning Pavin Smith back to the Pacific Coast League. Frustratingly, he was again unable to translate that success to the major leagues as he compiled a good-not-great .267/.353/.267 (.620 OPS) slash line over six games heading into the All-Star Break. Apparently, Phoenix is only big enough for one Dominic at a time. It also marked the final cup of coffee at the major league level for Fletcher who languished in Reno for the rest of the season despite demonstrating some surprising power that masked a poor batting average with a .252.380/.504 (.884 OPS) slash line the rest of the way. Adding insult to injury - literally in this case - Fletcher suffered a broken index finger at the end of August that sidelined him through the end of the season.
As we enter the final weeks of 2023 and start to transfer our focus to 2024, it seems as if Fletcher will likely occupy a similar space next season as he did this year. Namely, backing up the aforementioned trio of outfielders and McCarthy for any sign of regression or injury. Again, it is too early to make any kinds of conclusions about Fletcher’s potential as there are entire libraries worth of lists made up of players who have a hot month at the plate before cratering. But in my mind, he certainly seems worth a longer look at the major league level. Currently, Fangraphs has him listed as part of the projected bench, but given that we are still around 100 days away from Opening Day 2024, there is still plenty of time for the usual roster churn that is part of the offseason. Personally, I hope to see Fletcher have a greater role for 2024, but I’ve been wrong many, many times before and I’ll be wrong again.