This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
Report on Dexter Fowler
We'll continue our look at 2009 rookies with Colorado Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler,
Dexter Fowler was drafted by the Rockies in the 14th round of the 2004 draft, out of high school in Milton, Georgia. He was considered a candidate for the first or second round, but his stock dropped on draft day due to baseball and basketball possibilities in college ball. It looked like he would be heading to the University of Miami Hurricanes for baseball, but at the last second he signed with the Rockies for $925,000. His pro debut in the Pioneer League in 2005 was okay but not great for the context (.273/.357/.409 with 18 steals). He began to improve his power production with a .291/.368/.457 mark in the Sally League in '06, but an injury-plagued 2007 season saw reduced production (.273/.397/.367 in the Cal League). Fully healthy in 2008, he had a strong season for Double-A Tulsa, played for the US Olympic Team, and saw late action for the Rockies. He earned an outfield job for Colorado this spring and is currently hitting .294/.368/.647 through his first five games, hitting two homers and collecting one steal so far.
TRADITIONAL SCOUTING REPORT
Fowler is 6-4, 185 pounds, a right-handed thrower and a switch-hitter, born March 12, 1986. An exceptional athlete, Fowler has very good speed and a strong throwing arm. He runs great routes and has turned himself into an excellent defensive outfielder. He is still learning to use his speed on the bases, though his stolen base success ratio has gradually improved.
Fowler is a natural right-handed hitter and didn't start switch-hitting until turning pro. He shows more power from the right side, but makes contact from the left and isn't expected to have a big platoon differential once he gains additional strength and experience. He will flash power to all fields, and while he may never be a big home run guy, he is hardly punchless, and will be a consistent threat for doubles and triples. His strike zone judgment was shaky early in his career, but he's made huge improvements in that department over the last two years. His combination of speed, walks, and decent power make him a perfect fit at the top of the order.
Rather raw when drafted, Fowler has worked hard to improve. Scouts and coaches praise his work ethic, intelligence, and upbeat, infectiously positive personality. He could have played basketball at Harvard, testimony to the power of his intellect as well as his athleticism. His "no body fat" lean muscular build has shown some vulnerability to injury, so durability might be a concern.
Fowler is a career .299/.393/.451 hitter at the minor league level, including .335/.431/.515 last year for Double-A Tulsa. He drew 65 walks against 89 strikeouts in 421 at-bats. His stolen base success ratio has improved over the last two years, and his walk rate boosts his OBP of course. His MLE last year equates to about .300/.370/.450 in Colorado, or about .275/.330/.385 in a neutral park. The reasonable strikeout rate, good walk rate, and improvement up the ladder are all positive markers for his future. Unlike many speed-demon types, Fowler has legitimate pop in his bat, which should help prevent pitchers from just overpowering him. Although additional Triple-A time would be good for his development, he earned his way onto the roster this spring and looks very good, granted it is very early in the year. I don't think it will hurt him, as long as he's getting sufficient playing time to develop his skills and doesn't rust on the bench.. At age 23, he has plenty of projection left.
FANTASY INVESTMENT VALUE
Fowler should provide speed right away, making him a strong rookie investment. The power may take a bit more time to fully manifest itself, but in the long run he projects as a .280+ hitter with moderate power, plenty of speed, a high OBP, and excellent defense. Playing in Colorado may artificially help his numbers, providing a statistical boost even if he struggles with his overall approach in the short run. Overall, given his balance of tools, skills, and excellent intangibles, he is one of the best rookie investments you can make for both the short run and long run.
For full reports on Fowler and over 1,000 others, pre-order the 2009 Baseball Prospect Book, available only at Johnsickels.net. Now Shipping!
Article first appeared 4/14/09