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What to expect from Fowler with A's

May 9, 2018

Dustin Fowler is back in the big leagues.The A's recalled MLB Pipeline's No. 99 overall prospect from Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday ahead of Oakland's game against the Astros.:: Complete prospect coverage ::Fowler, Oakland's No. 5 prospect, earned his second Major League promotion after a strong first month in the Pacific

Dustin Fowler is back in the big leagues.
The A's recalled MLB Pipeline's No. 99 overall prospect from Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday ahead of Oakland's game against the Astros.
:: Complete prospect coverage ::
Fowler, Oakland's No. 5 prospect, earned his second Major League promotion after a strong first month in the Pacific Coast League during which he batted .310/.333/.484 with 13 extra-base hits (three home runs), 18 runs scored and eight stolen bases in 131 plate appearances and 30 games. He'd been hot lately, too, slashing .410/.425/.821 with nine extra-base hits across his last 40 plate appearances (nine games).
Athletics' Top 30 | Athletics prospects stats
For those who don't remember, Fowler suffered a career-threatening knee injury in the first inning of his Major League debut with the Yankees last year on June 29 against the White Sox in Chicago. The starting right fielder in the contest, Fowler ruptured his right patella tendon when he collided with an uncovered metal electric box down the right-field line while pursuing a two-out fly ball in foul territory. His injury required immediate surgery, ending his 2017 campaign, and he subsequently sued the Chicago White Sox.
Yet, Fowler's injury didn't keep the A's from targeting the now-23-year-old at last year's Trade Deadline, and they acquired him with right-hander James Kaprielian (also injured at the time) and speedster Jorge Mateo from New York in exchange for Sonny Gray.
After a long and arduous recovery, Fowler was fully healthy this spring in his first A's camp and impressed club officials with his all-around consistency in his first game action since June. He hit just .222 in 19 Cactus League contests, but showed the across-the-board tools that have endeared him to evaluators across the game.
The Yankees gave Fowler the largest above-slot bonus ($278,000) to any player in their 2013 Draft class, selecting the West Laurens (Dexter, Ga.) HS product in the 18th round on the basis of his five-tool potential.
Flash forward five years and Fowler has become just that -- a prospect with five tools that grade as 50 or better on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 represents Major League average.
The Georgia native has blossomed offensively during his ascent of the Minors, showing good feel to hit early in his career and then adding more power in recent years. Combine those qualities with his plus speed and his ability to play a quality center field (and therefore all three outfield positions), and we're talking about a player capable of hitting .280 with 20 home runs and 20 steals from atop a lineup.
A 6-foot, 195-pounder, Fowler utilizes a compact, but impactful stroke that enables him to generate hard contact across the entire field. He broke out at the plate in 2015, when he batted .298 (sixth among Yankees farmhands) in 123 games between Class A Charleston and Class A Advanced Tampa. He recorded a career-high 30 stolen bases, fourth in the system, and ranked second with 70 RBIs.
Fowler became a more complete hitter the next year with the move up to Double-A Trenton, turning in a .281/.311/.458 batting line with 57 extra-base hits (12 HR, 15 3B, 30 2B), 88 RBIs and 25 steals. In 2017, Fowler got off to a red-hot start with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting .293/.329/.542 with a career-high 13 home runs in 70 games, before joining the Yankees in late June and getting hurt shortly thereafter.
Fowler's speed arguably is his strongest tool and gives him impact potential on the basepaths as well as in the outfield. He made strides defensively during his time in the Yankees' system, thanks in part to his work with organizational outfield instructor Reggie Willits, who helped Fowler improve his jumps, reads and routes en route to becoming a plus defender. That progress has netted him more time in center field as he's climbed the ladder, and he logged each of his 29 starts at the position with Nashville prior to his promotion.
Center field also represents Fowler's clearest path to playing time in the big leagues, as he's a more natural and obvious fit at the up-the-middle position than any combination of Mark Canha, Chad Pinder or Jake Smolinksi.
How much playing time Fowler receives over any of the aforementioned players is yet to be seen, but the youngster's hot-hitting down in Triple-A and overall superior skillset makes him the clear-cut best option to handle everyday center-field duties in Oakland.
The return of Boog Powell, currently on a Triple-A rehab assignment for a knee injury, will soon add another fold to the situation, though it's possible that both he and Fowler could see time at either outfield corner, spelling Matt Joyce and Stephen Piscotty as needed.
Even if Fowler's role fluctuates in the early stages of his A's career, he has all the ingredients needed to develop into an above-average everyday player capable of contributing in all facets of the game.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.