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Workshop: What’s the play on Dexter Fowler?

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Fowler dials eight, again (USAT)

I don't blame anyone who listed Dexter Fowler on their breakout list before the season. Fowler was coming off a career-best 2012 campaign (.300/.369/.474), he has a mix of power and speed (at least theoretically), he's entering his Age-27 year, and he plays half of his games in the ultimate hitting paradise. There's all sorts of plausible upside here.

Most Yahoo! drafters didn't go after Fowler aggressively in March, as it turns out. His ADP was a modest 218.7, the 56th outfielder off the board. Ben Revere, on average, went three rounds in front of Fowler. Andre Ethier flew off the board five rounds earlier.

No one really wants to make fundamental ranking changes through 15 games of the new season, but we're left with a conundrum of sorts with Fowler. He's off to a smashing power start, clubbing seven home runs over his first 53 at-bats (have a look at the most recent one, which departed Thursday afternoon against the Mets). We can't even pin the spike entirely on Coors Field, given three of the home runs have come on the road (heck, two of them came in Petco Park, of all places).

So what's the play now, fake baseballers? Are you buying, selling or holding on Fowler?

We've been through the reasons for optimism already. The age, the home park, the career trajectory. I don't blame the Fowler supporter who wants to sit pat.

Then again, it's not hard to throw cold water on the story and build a contrary argument. Fowler's HR/FB rate is a ridiculous 50 percent (hat tip to amigo D.J. Short for that stat), and he had a modest 28 career homers into the season. Fowler is still a mediocre option when it comes to stealing bases, no matter his physical gifts; he's 1-for-2 this year and just 65-for-99 on his career. He gave us 27 steals back in 2009; he's returned 13, 12 and 12 in the years since. He's not really walking more or striking out less through the first couple of weeks; those rates are in line with career norms.

The road numbers could also be a problem as the flow of the season kicks in. Fowler has a career .295/.394/.494 slash in Denver, but it falls to .248/.333/.377 on the road. It's widely believed that Colorado players do worse on the road than expected because of how breaking pitches move less in the thin air of Coors Field; the Rockies offense has to adjust to full bite when it hits the road after an extended homestand. It will be interesting to see how this issue affects Fowler later in the year.

My gut feel on Fowler right now: he's around a $16 outfielder on a Shuffle Up, similar value to his teammate Michael Cuddyer (or maybe a Josh Willingham/Josh Reddick type; obviously these players all have differing profiles). Basically this makes Fowler a playable OF3 in a standard pool. I'm not convinced he'll ever learn the craft of base stealing, and I know the home/road splits present a heaven and hell way of life. In some formats you might be able to play the shuttling game, but I know that's not practical in some other formats.

Let's get your take in the comments; sign in, please. How should we play this one? Has Fowler been traded in any of your leagues? What's the most you'd give up for him? What's the least amount you might accept in a deal? The podium is yours.

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