by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
After a devastating knee injury cost him his chance to play for the Yankees in ’17, Dustin Fowler is looking like a key piece for the Oakland A’s moving forward. Whether he’s the centerfielder on Opening Day or not (and as it turns out he won’t be), it’s obvious that Boog Powell doesn’t offer much of an impediment long-term and it’s a matter of when (not if) Fowler is brought up to the Majors. How high is his ceiling? Could he emerge as a must own immediately? Here’s what we need to know:
A’s #5 Prospect
Hits – Left-Handed
Age – 23
Triple-A – .293 (87-297), 13 HR, 43 RBI, 49 R, 13 SB
What We Said:
Fowler appeared primed to make an impact for the Yankees last season, but suffered a significant knee injury in his first MLB game which promptly ended his season. In 297 AB at Triple-A he hit .293 with 13 HR and 13 SB, and those numbers would’ve justified a “B+” grade. However there are two significant issues that can’t be ignored:
- Will the knee injury cost him the speed aspect of his game?
- Will he be able to improve his plate discipline? (He posted a 13.0% SwStr% at Triple-A and could be exposed at the Major League level)
There’s ample upside, but we can’t ignore the risks.
The key is his knee and how it will impact his on-the-field production moving forward. Keep in mind that he was just beginning to tap into his power potential, after hitting 30 doubles, 15 triples and 12 HR at Double-A in ’16 and adding 19 doubles and 8 triples at Triple-A last season. It was beginning to look like he could grow into a perennial 20+ HR hitter and he’s stolen as many as 30 bases in a minor league season. He was able to steal 3 bases this spring (without being caught), which should help to ease the concern.
However he only added 2 extra base hits (both doubles) and moves to a less favorable home ballpark. He still should be able to hit around 15 HR, leaving him as a potential 15/25 option assuming he can make consistent contact. As we noted he did swing and miss a lot at Triple-A last season, though he kept the strikeout rate in check (20.1%). That came after a 10.8% SwStr% at Double-A in ’16 and he has generally not shown much walk potential:
- Double-A – 3.8%
- Triple-A – 4.8%
With 12 K vs. 2 BB over 44 AB this spring, it’s easy to imagine him being exposed and struggling initially. No one is going to doubt Fowler’s upside, but there are going to be bumps along the road. Don’t be surprised if he spends more time at Triple-A, regardless of where he opens the 2018 season.
Current Grade – B
Upside Grade – B+
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs
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