It is no secret that the Yankees' farm system is loaded. When Brett Gardner wins a Gold Glove for his defense in left field and is still the subject of trade rumors, you know there is a decent amount of outfield talent in the minors. Big name prospects like Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier draw a significant amount of attention, with 2016 first round pick Blake Rutherford also providing hope for the future. But at Double-A Trenton, centerfielder Dustin Fowler has forced his way into the conversation.
Fowler was selected in the 18th round of the 2013 draft. But despite the fact that he turns 22 just before the new year, the lefty played the entire 2016 season at Double-A. The Yankees' decision not to promote him to Triple-A might not have even had anything to do with his play, as the Triple-A Scranton team had a full outfield for most of the season.
Instead of lamenting his ill fortune, Fowler used his extended stay in Trenton to develop his power. For the season, he had a .281/.311/.458 slash line, with 12 home runs and 15 triples. He also stole 25 bases and drew praise for his defense in centerfield. During the 2015 regular season, he had a combined isolated power of .097 in 123 games.
The most exciting thing about his extra base hit outburst in 2016 was that he had the lowest strikeout rate of his career. On the season, he struck out just 15% of the time, while walking 3.8% of the time. His low walk rate suggests that his plate discipline might not be where the Yankees would want it to be. But in order for his strikeout rate to be that low while he is swinging at bad pitches, his ability to make contact must be well above average.
Even his .458 slugging percentage might be deceiving, as he might have more power left in the tank. In August, he was profiled by the YES Network, in the following clip:
Most of the video is devoted to his speed and defense, but he gave an interesting quote around the 2:45 mark:
"I think my ability to be a contact hitter, plus me being aggressive, makes me put the ball in play. Especially in this park, the wind knocks down a lot of balls. So me being able to keep the ball on the ground, low in the air helps out a lot [with] being able to use my speed."
The Trenton Thunder play in the Eastern League, which is considered to be much more pitcher friendly than its counterparts out west. As a lefty, Fowler will have the short porch in right field at his disposal if he wants to hit for more power.
As a prospect, Fowler brings the same dynamic toolset as players like Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier, also demonstrating the ability to perform at a young age. More so than the other high profile prospects, he has also shown the ability to put the ball in play. When combined, these two factors could mean that he will be making an impact in the Bronx as soon as anyone else in the farm system, and even that fails to account for his potential to play good defense at a premium position. People might not know Dustin Fowler's name right now, but it is very likely that they will soon.
Data is courtesy of Fangraphs.