February 13, 2009
To prepare you for the upcoming draft season, the Noise, every Friday until opening day, will feature a lesser-known prospect that has excellent odds of making an indelible fantasy impact this season. Obvious products David Price and Matt Wieters, and charitable Bon Jovi songs, need not apply.
Colorado's top prospect Dexter Fowler secretes athleticism, not sweat.
Once recruited to play basketball at Harvard, the giraffe-long outfielder is an intriguing product who's just starting to tap into his gigantic potential. Similar in style and substance as Washington's Elijah Dukes -- sans threatening handgun texts -- Fowler is slated to battle Ryan Spilborghs for opening day centerfield duties. Based on the competition's uninteresting skill set, the youngster's odds of emerging victorious are favorable. However, an initial timeshare is also very possible.
Highly intelligent, Fowler is a quick study who's made remarkable adjustments during his brief professional career. Most scouts labeled the 22-year-old a "project" two years ago citing swing flaws. Their observations were justified. The kid, a natural righty, learned to hit from the left side just five seasons ago. Since then, scouts have said his weight distribution and hand position through the zone has greatly improved.
Inevitably when everything clicks, he'll be a perennial 20-20 producer. Rockies farm director Marc Gustafson is a believer:
"He can do a lot of things that are pretty special. He can track a ball on defense as well as anybody with his speed. Once he gets to it, he's got great leaping ability, can make a diving play, and will come up and make a good throw. He's got what many people consider to be five tools and he's got the ability to change the game. As a switch-hitter he can drive the ball in the gap for a home run or lay down a bunt for a hit. Once he's on base he's a joy to watch. If he needs to steal a base, he's getting better at that. Obviously, we're pretty happy to have him in the organization."
Judge for yourself:
Realistically, salivating seasons may be a year or three away. He's burned rubber on the basepaths in the minors (averaged 27.7 SB/year from '06-'08), but only reached the bleachers once every 46.8 Double-A at-bats a year ago. Still, his mitt is major league ready, and given his eagle eye (13.4 BB% in '08), excellent contact rates (86 CT% last year) and tremendous all-around talents, he's someone worth monitoring this spring. Heck, any Rockies hitter with plus across-the-board tools should be stalked...with cameras.
Overpowered during his short September audition last year (4-27, 5:0 K:BB), Fowler has reportedly added 15 pounds of muscle to his listed 6-foot-4, 173-pound frame. If his talents are harnessed, a breakthrough season is plausible.
Obviously, Fowler shouldn't be considered in shallow mixed leagues, yet. But, for those who relish a more challenging "only" format, a $5-$8 purchase could be a bargain come September.
Image courtesy of Getty