2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Candidate — Dexter Fowler
Anyone paying any attention the Cubs offseason has to admit that they are absolutely loaded with talent. Picking out a position player that could either fly under the radar or be a player that is key for them to advance to the playoffs is difficult. There might be more Cubs picked in fantasy drafts than any other team. Moreover, if you count Kyle Schwarber as a catcher (as most platforms do) then you could easily see four different positions with Cubs in the top five.
This doesn’t even include Jason Heyward because he isn’t a top flight fantasy talent, but he is easily one of the top five right fielders in baseball when you factor in his defense. Our readers are probably already tired of all of my ramblings about Ben Zobrist, so the field of possible breakout candidates is pretty slim. So, we settle in on Dexter Fowler. Fowler is hardly a breakout candidate in the same sense as the other players we’ve covered, but he is an unsung player on that team and a player that could benefit from their largesse.
The tale of Dexter Fowler is a tale of two careers. He had his career at sea level and his career in the mile high air of Denver. For most players, that kind of divide can easily be seen in the numbers, but that wasn’t the case with Fowler. Fowler was healthy in 2015 for seemingly the first time in his entire career. He managed nearly 700 plate appearances and therefore surpassed 100 runs scored for the first time in his career. Since most people want to see relevant statistics, we will focus only on his stats that he has earned since playing at sea level.
Where he has been
The most important statistics are the ones you don’t see here. Fowler is hardly an on base machine in the traditional sense, but for this day and age he is about as good as they come. He has lived north of .360 for most of his career, so he fits very nicely on top of the Cubs’ order. That remains a big deal because of all of the talent hitting behind him. So, he is in line to repeat the performance in the runs category that he had a year ago.
Of course, strong performance in runs scored isn’t enough to vault an otherwise average outfielder up the charts in five category leagues, but when you add in the walks he becomes a very decent sleeper prospect in six category leagues. As a player who gets you a little bit of everything, he fits as a pretty good third or fourth outfielder in standard twelve team mixed leagues.
Where he will go
Past is prologue. Fowler has had one healthy season in the last several, so the projection systems all expect him to miss some time. Even if he is completely healthy, the Cubs will have to find some way to get Jorge Soler into the lineup at some point and Javier Baez might also find his way into the outfield a few times as well. Jason Heyward can play center field, so there is no guarantee that Fowler will get the same 600 or more plate appearances he got last year even if he is healthy all season.
The Rosy Picture
Assuming that he gets regular playing time, Fowler is a good bet to give you a little bit of everything. There are far too many outfielders for him to considered elite even if you count his walks, but he is good enough to be a third or fourth outfielder in standard mixed leagues. That is particularly true if those mixed leagues have walks or OBP as an additional category.