2016 Statistics: .281/.311/.458, 12 HR, 25 SB, 15.0 K%, 3.8 BB%, 574 PA
2016 Level/Roster Status: Double-A/Non-40
Dustin Fowler has been one of the Yankees’ best prospects for a couple of years now, but he gets very little attention because of all the other names around him. When a system is filled with the likes of Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Clint Frazier, and Gleyber Torres, it’s easy to lose track of a light-hitting outfielder who didn’t look like much of a prospect at first.
Drafted out of high school in the 18th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Fowler didn’t look like much of a prize until he started making his way onto prospect lists. He moved quickly through the system, hitting .298/.334/.394 with 30 stolen bases in his breakout 2015 season. This year, he played at Double-A Trenton for his age-21 season. Now the No. 12 prospect in the system, you can add him to the list of unending outfield depth that the Yankees possess.
Fowler hit .281/.311/.458 with 25 stolen bases over 574 plate appearances in his 2016 season. At first glance, it looks like he might have taken a step back, but it’s important to note the addition of power to his game. He hit 12 home runs this year, along with 30 doubles and 15 triples, all career bests. Fowler also led all of minor league baseball in triples, following in the footsteps of former Yankees farmhand Ben Gamel the year prior.
The power addition is especially nice to see, considering he only walked at a 3.8% rate, which is obviously not good. His K-rate has lowered slightly to 15%, but we’ll have to see how that continues to develop going forward. Fowler’s 69.4% success rate on the bases could also use some work, but the Yankees can take their time with him. Some have compared him to the next Brett Gardner (one of the many), but he will have to work on his plate discipline before that comp sticks.
A lot of credit should be given to him for improving his work in the field. He started out in the corner outfield positions for his first two seasons before becoming Trenton’s starting center fielder. He’s reportedly improved his instincts in getting to the ball as well as his ability to throw.
He might have spent time in Triple-A if the organization didn’t have so many minor league outfielders. With Ben Gamel, Aaron Judge, Jake Cave, and Mason Williams in the mix, you can see why Fowler was never going to get a chance this season. However, he could see reps in Scranton at some point next year, depending on what happens to the team’s current depth chart. If he’s up there at any point, his development in center should take precedence over others players like Cave or Mason.
When assessing Fowler, it’s important to reiterate his age. He was a high school signing, so his power needed time to develop. He was also three years younger than the league average in Double-A this year, which makes his performance there even more impressive. Add it all up, and you have a player with a lot of potential who just needs more time to hone his craft.