Evaluating the Talent: Dexter Fowler

If any member of the dismal 2011 Rockies deserves a “most improved” award, it has to be Dexter Fowler. He’s the only one who was demoted to Triple-A and actually seemed to make something of his time there. He greatly improved his swing from the left side of the plate, he upped his slugging percentage, and he didn’t get caught stealing quite as much. There’s still room for some baserunning growth, but we’ll take it one thing at a time. All in all, Dex made a lot of progress last season and, more importantly, showed that he was willing to work for that progress. That’s more than can be said for some of the roster-fillers we were stuck with.

Fowler will be the Rockies’ starting center fielder in 2012, flanked by Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer. That’s not the best defensive outfield in the bigs, but it’s solid. Fowler’s defense can be hit or miss, as in he often hits the ground and just as often misses the ball, but he just needs a little bit more discipline and better timing. Last year he showed that he can be taught to play better offensively, so it follows that he can be taught to field better as well. He needs to learn when to go for the diving catch and when to play it on the bounce. He dives a little too often, which causes more problems than it solves when the catch isn’t made. He could learn a lesson or two from Cargo, king of the diving catch. On the other hand, Fowler is the one you want in center because of the ground he covers. Those long legs may not steal enough bases to be worth their keep, but they can run far at Coors Field.

In the lineup, Fowler will lead off. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sold on him in that spot. He really seemed to thrive last season with runners on base, and his average is better with a runner in scoring position (.304) than it is with nobody on (.247). In 10 at-bats with the bases loaded, he hit .600 with 3 extra-base hits and 12 RBI. That’s what you want in a 6-hole hitter. But Jim Tracy is never going to put him anywhere other than lead-off because he’s supposed to be a base-stealer. Maybe he will be that someday, but it isn’t his strength right now. In any case, I think we can expect solid production from Dex in 2012, both in the field and at the plate. He’s got room to grow, but he’s earned the right to play every day.

Where should Fowler be in 2012? Colorado.

Where will Fowler be in 2012? Colorado.

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