The 2013 MLB Draft was big one for the New York Yankees, as it was the beginning of the youth movement currently transpiring within the organization. Aaron Judge, Ian Clarkin, and Tyler Wade are all atop the Yankees top prospect lists, Nick Rumbelow already got a taste of the big leagues and Eric Jagielo was one of the pieces that helped acquire Aroldis Chapman.
Later in that draft, in the 18th-round, the Yankees chose Dustin Fowler out of West Laurens High School in Georgia. A 2015 breakout season saw Fowler springboard up the Yankees’ farm and become one of the top ten Baby Bombers in the system.
Fowler had a decent half-season debut in the Gulf Coast League and a nice 2014 campaign in his full-season debut at Charleston, but nothing jumped off the page that screamed an elite organizational prospect. A hot start in Charleston would change all of that.
Fowler scorched South Atlantic League pitching, slashing .307/.340/.419 with 16 extra-base hits (nine doubles, three triples and four home runs) while stealing 18 of 25 bases last year. Mid-June saw Fowler jump a level to the Florida State League, and he didn’t miss a beat. Against more advanced pitching, Fowler slashed .289/.328/.370 while snagging 12 more bases in 18 attempts. Combined, Fowler hit .298 and drove in 70 runs, finishing second in the Yankees organization, trailing only Judge’s 72.
So, what can be expected from Fowler? Does he have a place in the Bronx?
Fowler has been an enigma at the plate when it comes to power, showing nice pop in his Charleston 2014 debut with nine home runs, but hitting a mere four last season. Some — like MLB Pipeline — seem to feel he still flashes 20/20 potential, whereas others see Fowler as more of an average-type hitter that can use his speed to become an extra-base machine with high stolen base potential.
He isn’t a huge presence, standing 6-feet and 185 pounds, but he has pretty sound mechanics with his swing. He seems to have adjusted his stance very slightly, which may help with his power development.
Fowler has also settled into his role as a centerfielder, which if he sticks would lessen the importance of his power development. Playing primarily from the corners his first two seasons, Fowler simply didn’t have the hit profile that projected to be a big league right or left fielder. His speed gives him the range to succeed in center and he has posted the best range factor (2.04) and fielding percentage (.991) from the middle of the outfield over the course of his career. He also threw out 11 base runners from center last season, a number that was eight better than his entire career previous to 2015.
The one downside at the plate is that Fowler lacks the plate discipline one would hope someone of his speed would possess. The promising aspect is that his strikeout rate has dropped every season (19.5 percent in 2014, 17.3 percent in ’15 and currently 15.7 percent in ’16), but he simply does not draw walks, averaging right around five percent for his career. He could improve on his base running awareness as well, sitting at a 67 percent success rate over the course of his career.
For more analysis and video on Fowler’s progress, read my full article at Today’s Knuckleball by clicking on the link below.