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What to do about the Derek Fisher Experiment

It’s been a little over a year since the Blue Jays acquired Derek Fisher and the results have been… pretty ugly.

A former first-round pick of the Houston Astros, Fisher was an interesting reclamation project for the Jays to take a flyer on. He came into the 2017 season ranked as MLB’s No. 83 prospect and played 53 games on an Astros squad that ended up winning* the World Series.

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Despite putting up big numbers in Triple-A (a .289/.379/.520 line over 238 games) Fisher was never able to crack a pretty deep Astros’ outfield and earn consistent playing time. So, last July, they sent him to Toronto in exchange for Aaron Sanchez, another reclamation project, reliever Joe Biagini, and prospect Cal Stevenson.

It was a pretty hefty price to pay, but it goes to show how much the Blue Jays’ front office valued Fisher and his untapped potential. If given an opportunity, there was reason to believe that this guy, who hits the ball really, really hard, could turn into something. For a team working through a rebuild, it was worth a shot.

But here we are, 13 months into the Derek Fisher era, and there isn’t much to show for it. We’ve seen very little of the player with tremendous power and great wheels and a lot of the player who whiffs both at the plate and in the outfield.

In Fisher’s second game with the team last summer, this happened…

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And then, last night, we got this…

I don’t even have to dig into the analytics to point out that Fisher’s defence has been insanely bad, because we’ve all been able to see it, but FanGraphs has him at a whopping -7 defensive runs saved across 90 innings this season.

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The frustrating thing is that Fisher has shown some promise with the bat this year. In 2019, he produced an ugly .161/.271/.376 line after arriving to Toronto, but, this year, he’s slashed a .226/.359/.452 line, showing some good discipline and power at the plate. I mean, it’s obviously a small sample as Fisher missed a few weeks of action due to a quad injury, but it’s encouraging nonetheless.

Personally, I would love to see Fisher get an extended opportunity to unlock his potential offensively. It took Teoscar Hernandez, another toolsy player from the Astros system with a big bat and questionable glove, quite some time to figure things out, but now he’s arguably the team’s best hitter.

If it were a meaningless season like last year, then sure, trot him out there. But, given the fact the Blue Jays are in a playoff race, can you really afford to throw Fisher out there and hope that he figures it out with the bat, knowing full well just how big of a disaster his defence is going to be? There really isn’t space this season for trial and error.

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So, what now? What do you do about the Derek Fisher experiment?

The Blue Jays very clearly believe in this player. They paid a pretty high price to acquire him last summer and they’ve now designated two other outfielders, Billy McKinney and Anthony Alford, for assignment instead of him.

Fisher is out of options, so he needs to prove himself at the Major League level. But, the difficulty is that the Jays can’t afford to have him booting the ball around in the outfield with the hope that his bat makes it all worthwhile.

Another thing to consider, Teoscar Hernandez is set to return from the Injured List fairly soon, which puts the team in a difficult situation.

Somebody will have to get optioned to make room for Hernandez. Jonathan Davis has options, but he’s actually been effective for the Blue Jays, both offensively and defensively. Santiago Espinal also has options, but, again, he’s been a very useful utility player for the team. There are also a handful of pitchers with options, but we all know how important it is to have a deep pitching staff.

At this point, Fisher seems best suited as a designated hitter, pinch hitter, and pinch runner. But is there really room on the roster for him to be in that role without much of a track record of success at the plate?