Evaluating The Talent: Dexter Fowler
Full disclosure: I am making sure to cover Fowler as one of the very first of this series so that I have the opportunity to cover some things in case the team decides to trade him down the road.
Fowler is a hot name on the trade market as this winter wears on. Image: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
I have a long and complicated history with Dexter Fowler. Let’s start with something simple: he has an awesome name. That would be true in any walk of life, but especially as a professional athlete. It perfectly fits a guy with the sleek set of athletic skills that Fowler possesses; you wouldn’t want to have a chubby catcher named Dexter Fowler. But for a switch hitting center fielder, it works. Dexter Fowler is a cool guy with a cool name.
Next let’s talk about him batting first in the lineup. More than once I have balked at Fowler as a lead-off hitter, noting his infuriating tendency to strike out too much and the fact that he does not steal bases (despite being a fast runner). I am here to say that I have learned my lesson, thanks to smart bloggers and writers who explain statistics better than I ever can and thanks to managers like Joe Maddon (well actually, just Joe Maddon). Fowler hit his stride and posted an .863 OPS in 2012; you want an impact bat like that to come to the plate as many times as possible in any single game. You bat Fowler lead-off, and you enjoy the moments when his speed does change the game as a bonus. Play him everyday and bat him in the lead-off spot. Period.
Having said that, Fowler’s left-handed swing still bugs the heck out of me. I was firmly in the camp of people who wanted him to junk switch hitting and become a right-handed batter full time. I stand by that opinion. Some people say that Fowler’s swing from the left side resembles a Nike swoosh when he is falling into bad habits. I say that is generous; it looks like a swoosh when it’s going well. It looks like a demented golf swing that would make any T-Ball or slow pitch softball coach blush when it’s going wrong. But hey, that’s just my opinion, and if Fowler can repeat his success from that side moving forward then…well…whatever.
One other thing about baserunning. Those stupid mistakes need to stop. Just…no. They need to stop. His speed will make other teams nervous without him trying to be a hero and running into outs.
In the field, Fowler is a wonder to watch and plays center field pretty much exactly the way it should be played. Maybe somebody who is equipped with a better understanding of advanced metrics would have more criticism about his play in the field, but I do not. When it comes to his fielding, I just gush. It’s a beautiful thing.
All told, I believe Fowler is absolutely essential to any hope the Rockies have of finding success in the somewhat near future. He is a unique and spectacular talent, and this team took those lumps right along with him as he figured it out. They were patient, and now they need to reap the benefits of that patience.
So…do not trade him.
Where should Fowler be in 2013? Playing center field and batting lead-off every single day for the Rockies.
Where will Fowler be in 2013? Barring any nonsense or “video game trade” offers, playing center field and batting lead-off for the Rockies.