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Players aren't always the sum of their parts. Sometimes you watch a baseball game and see a guy do it all. He makes a diving catch in the outfield. He lines a low an away curve ball to the opposite field for a single. He goes first to third on a single. He turns on an inside fastball and blasts a ball into the seats. See that guy on display and you think your witnessing an all-star. That could be what you think when you watch Dexter Fowler on a good day. Unfortunately, there are plenty of down days too. Add into that mix the fact that Fowler is no longer on the Rockies, he was dealt to the Astros in the offseason, and people aren't exactly shoving each other to the ground to try and add the switch hitting outfielder (it's not like a scene from Godzilla or anything).
What has Fowler done? Here are some numbers.
He's a career .270 hitter.
He gets on base with a solid .365 OBP.
He's never hit 15 homers in a season.
He's stolen at least 12 bases in 5-straight years averaging 17 a season the past five years.
He's scored at least 70 runs in 5-straight seasons.
He's never had 55 RBIs in a season.
Admittedly there nothing to love in those numbers. The power is bland, the speed is nice, the runs scored are solid, but with much in the way of ribbies this just isn't a fascinating fantasy history for Fowler.
Some more negatives.
Fowler has hit only .241 with a .694 OPS on the road.
Fowler has hit only .253 at night.
Fowler has hit only .258 versus right-handed pitching.
Despite all of that I'm suggesting, you guessed it, that you target Fowler in your drafts. Have I lost my marbles? Have I spent too much time huffing paint in my newly redone bathroom? Have a spent too much time with adult movies stars drinking hooch? Have I simply not slept enough as I've been working night and day trying to get the 2014 FantasyAlarm Draft Guide, powered by BaseballGuys, completed? I'm going to answer no to all of those questions (especially the ones dealing with porn stars and booze). Here's why.
(1) Fowler won't play in Colorado, and that hurts. But guess what? According to Park Factors Minute Maid Park in Houston was 9th in runs last season, not exactly awful. Minute Maid was also 6th in homers last season. It's not Coors Field, but folks, Park Factors show that Minute Maid was a better park in 2013 for homers than Coors Field.
(2) The Astros outfield is awful. I saw that which leaves the Astros with only one choice – to play Fowler every day. Period. He's never had 485 at-bats in a season. He honestly should have 550+ this season and 585 isn't impossible. Fowler simply must play every day. 'But Ray, you said Fowler hit only .258 against right-handed pitching.' True I did but, and there is always a but, I never said he couldn't be productive against righties. Yes his average hasn't been there against righties but he has posted a .777 OPS. While that isn't at all exciting, it's better than the overall OPS of guys like Pedro Alvarez (.770) and Pablo Sandoval (.758) last season.
(3) Fowler gets on base. It may not be a category most leagues track, but getting on base obviously affords one a better chance to score runs and steal bases (yes, they pay me to write such jaw droopingly intelligent things). Fowler has posted a mark of at least .363 in four of the last five years and owns a career mark of .365. That's pretty strong. Compare that .365 to the career rates of guys like Jacoby Ellsbury (.350), Starling Marte (.332) an Adam Jones (.322). Per 550 at-bats for his career Fowler averages 92 runs scored. That's pretty good is it not?
(4) Fowler has always been slightly above the league average with a 0.55 BB/K ratio in his career. Fowler had a mark of 0.62 last season, a career best thanks to the best walk rate of his career. Patience helps him out.
(5) It's always been vexing that a guy who owns a 22.8 percent line drive rate and .348 BABIP is a career .270 hitters. Numbers like Fowler owns should lead him to hit .300. He did that once in 2012, but in the other four seasons the past five years he's hit in the .260's. So do you go with the history of Fowler or the logic of the numbers that suggests more could be in store? Perhaps you split the difference and hope for a mark better than his career level?
Fowler has 20/20 talent, even in Houston, if he can stay on the field long enough to play 150 games. Does he get there? That is anyone's guess. The good news is that you won't have to draft him as if others think he will do anything remotely like 20/20. Fowler is going to fall in most drafts, an at some point it's going to make a lot of sense for you to consider adding him to your squad. Just make sure it's late enough, say as your 4th outfielder, that you won't feel burned if you end up getting the type of numbers that we're used to seeing from Fowler – solid but not exactly awe inspiring.
By Ray Flowers