The sleeper series has gone out west, to the American League, in an attempt to find some potential break-out players for next season, or some talented players who typically excel under the radar. I present to you: Dexter Fowler. The outfielder just completed his first season in Minute Maid Park with the Houston Astros having been traded there last offseason from the hitter friendly confines of Coors Field, home to the Colorado Rockies.
Many disregard Fowler as an average centre fielder. And, in honesty, it isn't hard to see why. Fowler posted a rather poor WAR of 1.4 last season - which ranked him fourth last among all qualified centre fielders. But don't let the low WAR fool you. Fowler could well be primed for a huge season.
Over the past few seasons Fowler has been one of the best in the game at getting on base. He has a career BB% of 12.5, and according to Steamer Projections, he should be good for a BB% of 12.9 next season. He ranked fifth among all centre fielders in OBP last season - coming in just .002 points behind American League MVP, Mike Trout.
|2012 OBP||2013 OBP||2014 OBP|
In terms of getting on base, Fowler couldn't be much better. But, in order to truly break out next year, he will have to add some power to his repertoire. For three straight seasons Fowler's ISO - isolated power - has dropped and his SLG - slugging percentage - was a mere .399, but these numbers do give me some hope.
First, although he was hitting in the aforementioned hitter friendly confines of Coor Field, I still take some solace in the following. In 2012 his slugging was an excellent .474 and his ISO a strong .174 - which would've put him among the top twenty outfielders this season - proving Fowler does have some power lurking about. He just needs to find it, once more.
Evidently, his current power numbers don't excite me, but they do lead me to make a comparison to Michael Brantley. The same Brantley who is on the heels of a break-out season, in which he compiled a WAR of 6.6, unsustainable or not. Quick disclaimer: I'm not saying Fowler is destined to have a Brantley-esque breakout, but he has the same potential to break-out.
|Dexter Fowler (2014)||.122||.399||21||4||8||.347||.276||4.0||21.4||-20.6||1.4|
|Michael Brantley (2013)||.112||.396||26||3||10||.320||.284||3.3||25.7||-10.8||1.6|
Over the past few years, both have been solid on offense, but with limited power and, both have been hindered by poor defensive play. The two seasons were quite similar, and with some luck, and some developing power, Fowler could be due a break-out - Fowler had a similar LD% to the likes of Chris Carter, and had a higher LD% than Giancarlo Stanton.
So, Fowler may have some power on the way, with a bit of luck. What makes the potential power even more exciting is the fact that he has been an on base machine, as described above. Even with his power lacking last year, Fowler ranked ninth among all centre fielders in OPS - ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury, and just .006 behind Adam Jones, who gathered plenty of MVP fanfare.
While many recognise Fowler's incredible OBP, many also dislike his high BABIP. His BABIP screams regression after posting a rather high .351 last year. However, if you were screaming huge regression, you were wrong, to a certain degree. Fowler, over his career, has averaged a BABIP of .348, and should be able to sustain a BABIP of over .330 - going by his ZiPS projected BABIP of .339. With lots of balls in play falling for hits, and lots of walks, Fowler will almost certainly post another insanely high OBP.
Fowler's aforementioned defensive abilities have always hindered him, but 2014 couldn't have been any worse, really. With an appalling DRS of -20, Fowler ranked in the bottom five in all of baseball. That said, his average over the last three years has been -11, and with the arrival of Jake Marisnick, Fowler will hopefully see more time in left field, in front of the defensive friendly confines of the Crawford Boxes in Minute Maid Park.
All considered, you should consider Dexter Fowler. Power could well be on it's way, hopefully. And you know what, even if the power doesn't develop as I hope, his on base abilities make him a nice addition to your fantasy team. Don't let the defense put you off either, it should improve next season. Just cross your fingers for a Brantley-esque breakout, people.