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Post-Hype Analysis: Dexter Fowler

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Post Hype Analysis: Dexter Fowler

Colorado Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler was a hot prospect two years ago. Where does he stand as we enter 2011?

Dexter Fowler has been in the majors for two seasons now. He hit .266/.363/.406 (94 OPS+) in 2009, then .260/.347/.410 (92 OPS+ ) in 2010, with virtually identical amounts of playing time both seasons (518 PA in '09, 505 in '10). He's stolen 40 bases in 69 attempts. He's drawn a fair number of walks (124) in 1050 PA, but also strikes out a considerable amount (225 whiffs). His WARs improved from 0.4 in '09 to 1.7 last year, primarily due to better defensive performance last year.

He hasn't been terrible, but he has been a disappointment considering the expectations generated. I had him as a Grade A- and the Number Six hitting prospect in baseball entering 2009, for example. His makeup and personality drew raves in the minors, he was obviously athletic and tool-laden, and while there was some BABIP luck boosting his minor league numbers, I felt the combination of tools, personality, and improving performance as he moved up the ladder augured well for his future.

Well, what about it? Is this all there is to Fowler?

Fowler is just 25 years old and it is way too soon to conclude that this is all we'll get out of him. Take a look at his Sim Scores through age 24: Lou Brock, Ray Lankford, Charlie Duffee (1890s player who didn't last long), Luis Matos, Jim Landis, Bernie Williams, Alexis Rios, Marquis Grissom, Mike Menosky (1910s player), and Torii Hunter.

That is a highly intriguing list. The two throwback players Duffee and Menosky were long-term busts, both out of the majors by age 28 although both had some short-term success. Luis Matos last appeared in the majors at age 27 in 2006. But everyone else on the list ended up having a long and successful career, with the top guy developing into a Hall of Famer. Indeed, the statistical parallels with Brock are eerie: Brock had an OPS+ of 92 at age 23 and 91 at age 24, with 40 steals in 69 attempts, in 1077 plate appearances (Fowler has 1050 PA) though that age, virtually identical to Fowler.

No, this doesn't mean that Fowler is going to turn into Lou Brock or Bernie Williams or develop the amount of power that Torii Hunter did. But it does show that it is possible, and that of ten very similar players through age 24, seven of them went on to have very good careers. It is way too soon to cut bait on Fowler.