Reds fans frustrated with Stuart Fairchild are ignoring his true value

Stu has caught a number of unjust criticisms this season.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Stuart Fairchild
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Stuart Fairchild / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

For some odd reason, Stuart Fairchild has become a punching bag of sorts for a number of Cincinnati Reds fans this season. The former second-round pick, who bounced around to a couple different organizations before finally returning home to Cincinnati, outplayed the competition during spring training and was part of the Reds Opening Day roster.

Fairchild has played in 32 games this season and is hitting just .205/.287/.308 with two home runs and nine RBI in 76 at-bats. Now, if all you do as a fan is stare at that slash line, it's no wonder that you think Fairchild has no business on this team.

But Fairchild bringing more to this ball club than that meager .595 OPS. Fairchild is the Reds' most versatile outfielder, and though he lacks elite arm strength, the 28-year-old has been Cincinnati's best defender this season.

Reds fans frustrated with Stuart Fairchild are ignoring his true value

Is Fairchild an everyday player? No, not by a long shot. Has Reds manager David Bell been forced to use Fairchild as a regular this season due to injuries? Absolutely!

Remember when Jonathan India and Jake Fraley each missed a number of games due to illness? Or how about Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Tyler Stephenson both missing several games after being hit-by-pitch? Throw in the injuries to TJ Friedl and Matt McLain, plus the suspension of Noelvi Marte, and it's easy to see how Fairchild has found his way into the lineup more often than he should.

But, when set up for success — against left-handed pitching — Fairchild has played quite well. Against left-handers this season, Fairchild is hitting .304/.396/.413. Against right-handed pitching, Fairchild is hitting just .063 with a .274 OPS. It's obvious that Fairchild has no business being in the batters' box with a right-handed hurler on the mound.

But Fairchild has also provided tremendous defense this season. According to Fielding Bible, Fairchild leads the Reds by a wide-margin in defensive runs saved (DRS) with 6. His closest competitor on the team is relief pitcher Brent Suter with 2 DRS. If outs above average (OAA) is your cup of tea, Fairchild is tied for the team-lead alongside Encarnacion-Strand and Will Benson.

So while Fairchild isn't an everyday player, he certainly doesn't deserve the harsh criticism he's received thus far in 2024. If the Reds were fully healthy, he'd be the perfect platoon partner for Benson or Jake Fraley.

With so many injuries, Fairchild is being put in troublesome situations. If the Reds ever get back to full-strength, Fairchild can fill that role that fits him like a glove — platoon outfielder.

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