'Austin Jackson, Magglio Ordonez' photo (c) 2011, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I asked a simple question Wednesday on the BaseballGuys' Twitter Pagefor 2012, would you rather have Austin Jackson or Dexter Fowler. To my surprise the answer was Jackson with about 70 percent of the vote. Am I in the wrong in thinking that Fowler will be the better fantasy performer in 2012 (you can find my rankings of both outfielders in the BBGuys 2012 Draft Guide)? Here are my thoughts on this battle royale.

2011 fantasy stats:

Fowler: .266-5-45-84-12 in 481 at-bats

Jackson: .249-10-45-90-22 in 591 at-bats

If we allow Fowler another 110 at-bats to match Jackson's total, an assume he would continue to perform at the same rate he flashed over 481 at-bats, his line would end up being .266-6-55-103-15. All of a sudden that gap between the two shrinks, it not disappears, does it not? Moreover, by “non-fantasy measures,” Fowler was easily the better performer last season.

Fowler had a .363 OBP, .432 SLG and .796 OPS Jackson had a .317 OBP, .374 SLG and .690 OPS

So can you see why I was so shocked that Jackson, resoundingly, was the choice amongst my Twitter followers. Fowler bettered Jackson last year in the following categories: doubles, triples, walks, AVG/OBP/SLG. Fowler also tied Jackson in RBI and scored just six fewer runs in 28 fewer games played. So tell me folks, what is the big draw with Jackson? I bet it has more to do with his team than it does with Jackson.

The Tigers will boast the top power hitting duo in baseball in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. I don't think anyone is going to dispute that fact. If those two guys do their normal thing in the #3 and #4 slots in the lineup, whoever on the Tigers is asked to fill the leadoff role and hit in the second hole are bound to score a ton of runs. That's sound reasoning. It's also a pretty strong bet that Jackson will hit atop the Tigers' order, not because he should hit there mind you, but because they don't really have a better option (their entire starting lineup may not steal more bases than Michael Bourn). Keep this in mind. Jackson is a strikeout machine. You can live with that when a guy is hitting 30 homers, but when he's batting at the top of the order and has 14 homers in his career that guy shouldn't be striking out in more than a quarter of all of his at-bats. Due mostly to that K-rate, Jackson will have a very difficult time reaching the .293 batting average he posted in 2010 (that mark was almost entirely the result of his major league leading, an unsustainable, .396 BABIP. Predictably that mark regressed to .340 last season and with it his batting average receded). Not only does the fact that he may struggle to hit .271, his career average, weigh Jackson down, you should also pay attention to what it does to his ability to get on base. Through two seasons Jackson has n OBP of .331 a mere five points above the big league average of .326. Simply put, Jackson doesn't have the skills to hit at the top of anyone's batting order.

On the other hand, Fowler does possess the skills to bat leadoff. Not only does he have a substantially better OBP (career .355), Fowler also has ample speed (even though he swiped only 25 bags the last two years he stole 27 bases in 2009). Fowler also showed marked improvement in the second half last season after his demotion to the minors as he hit .288 with a .880 OPS over his last 68 games. Jackson will never post an .880 OPS. Fowler also got on base at a .381 clip in the second half leading to 51 runs scored over 68 games. Add in that he's in the best shape of his life after training this offseason with Jason Giambi and Troy Tulowitzki, an I'm certainly taking Dexter Fowler over Austin Jackson on draft day.

By Ray Flowers


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About Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.

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