After years of being a “lesser-known” New York Yankees prospect, Dustin Fowler is finally making his presence felt by the organization.It’s really hard to pinpoint where New York Yankees outfield prospect Dustin Fowler fits into the organization’s long-term plans.
He could very well end up being a trade chip in the near future, but after a solid 2016 campaign in Double-A Trenton and an excellent showcase in Tampa this spring, seeing his first big-league call-up in 2017 is the opposite of far-fetched.
New York selected Fowler in the 18th round of the 2013 June amateur draft out of West Lauren’s High School in Dexter, Georgia in a draft class that also featured Clint Frazier, John Ryan Murphy, Billy McKinney, Aaron Judge and Tyler Wade.
He was assigned to the Gulf Coast League in 2013 for his first stint in professional baseball where he slashed .241/.274/.384 and totaled 43 bases in 30 games. The Yankees assigned Fowler to Single-A Charleston for his first full season in 2014, where he spent time between right and center field.
The then-19-year-old slashed .257/.292/.459 but out of his 66 total hits, 28 were for extra bases (13 doubles, six triples and nine home runs). After going 74-for-241 (.307) to begin the 2015 season, Fowler earned a promotion to High-A Tampa in June, where he slashed .289/.328/.370 and followed that impressive stint with an invitation to the Arizona Fall League as well as to spring training the following year.
Fowler played in Double-A Trenton for the entire 2016 campaign and absolutely tore it up. He slashed .281/.311/.458, including 30 doubles, 15 triples, 12 home runs, 88 RBIs and 25 stolen bases en route to an Eastern League All-Star selection. At 21-years-old, he was a lot younger than the average Double-A player but nevertheless succeeded.
After conquering the level, he was invited to Yankees’ spring training camp for a second consecutive year where he is, once again, turning heads.
In 12 games played, Fowler owns a .333/.417/.524 slash line with two triples and two stolen bases. One thing we were looking for out of the kid was to be more disciplined at the plate (65 walks compared to 252 minor league strikeouts) and while he’s walked three times compared to six K’s, he has seen only 1.92 pitches per at-bat compared to his minor league rate of 2.48.
Yes, there’s always something to nit-pick.
Fowler, despite excellent tools and results, will likely begin 2017 as the centerfielder for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, but there are a couple of reasons to anticipate his Bronx debut come as early as this season.
First off, he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft at the end of the year so New York will likely add him to the 40-man roster in the near future but the contemporary outfield situation could make room for a major league promotion.
Mason Williams just returned to action after being shut down due to an inflamed left patella and Tyler Austin, who could have been an option as a corner outfielder, is no longer in the picture until June.
Behind Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks the only healthy 40-man roster players who saw time in the outfield in 2016 are Matt Holliday (644 innings), Rob Refsnyder (158.2 innings) and utility infielder Ronald Torreyes (four innings).
With the questions surrounding Judge (specifically whether or not he can adjust to major league pitching) and the unavoidable injuries that may occur down the stretch, Fowler could be advanced to the major leagues if needed.
Although his prospect status isn’t even close to the éclat that comes with Frazier, Blake Rutherford, James Kaprielian and Gleyber Torres, he very well may have an impact beyond a mere trade chip.
“I believe in my abilities,” Fowler said. “I don’t really get into the hype and everything. I try to stay away from that as much as possible, but I believe in my abilities and I do everything I can on and off the field to help my career. Hopefully, I can keep it going, stay healthy and get better and better.”
Right now, all he can do is proceed to open eyes, soak in the prestigious names and World Champions that serve as mentors in camp and take it back with him to the Electric City. If it all comes together, the Bronx could be on his radar sooner rather than later.