While Dexter Fowler is an up-and-coming speedster, he is not going to catch Carl Crawford this year, but my aim here is to show how he could someday. Last year Fowler was very impressive in his first full year, stealing 27 bases and getting on base at a decent clip. This may be his one advantage over Crawford and something that can help him down the line.
While Crawford is a great player, he does lack plate discipline. He has a good contact rate, but with a career walk percentage of only 5.2 percent his career OBP sits at .332. That is average at best and a strong reason why this great speedster has only surpassed 100 runs twice in his career. If he could supply a .350-plus OBP he would be much more valuable.
Fowler, on the other hand, has shown he knows how to take a walk and that will only make him better with each passing year. His walk rate last year was 12.9 percent giving him plenty of chances to steal and score with a .363 OBP even though he showed he was a bit of a free swinger with a 26.8 percent strikeout rate.
While the better OBP will help Fowler steal bases and score runs, he won’t have the average that Crawford does. So if you play in a 5×5 league with batting average, you can expect Fowler to continue to hit around the .270 mark. He might improve a bit, but he’ll never be the .300 guy that Crawford can be.
For power, Fowler has to grow into his body. Crawford also hit only five homers in his first full year. Fowler has the makeup to hit more and playing in Colorado is still beneficial. It’s unlikely he reaches the 15-plus level of Crawford in 2010, but down the road he should.
The reason you go to either of these guys is speed. Fowler stole 27 bags last year and Crawford was able to swipe 60. Crawford has swiped 50 or more bags in all but two of his full seasons. Fowler doesn’t appear to have those wheels, but with growth and practice he could be looking at 40 to 50 a season.
According to the Bill James speed score, they compare really well on the bases. Crawford was at his lowest in 2009 with a 7.7 speed score. Likely a fluke, but it was essentially equal to the 7.6 score for Fowler. Again Folwer is likely a step back, but is only one year into his career while Crawford is going to be 29 this season.
This pick is a similar grouping and not really a direct “clone” choice. I don’t expect Fowler to be in the Crawford value range in 2010, but for draft or auction cost Fowler might be the better bet for your limited-power speedster. I can’t see paying top dollar for the Crawford- or Jacoby Ellsbury-type when you can get Fowler or Nyjer Morgan, Michael Bourn or Dernard Span.
Speaking of Span, he might make the best comparable to Fowler. Span has the best plate discipline and contact of the group, while his OBP of .392 should make sure he scores 100 or more runs in 2010. With Crawford going around No. 17 and Fowler going 251 you can see why it’s just as well you wait for the Colorado Speedster. Span fits in right in the middle at 121 ADP and would make another great choice. If you can collect one of these speedsters for 2010 you should be making an excellent choice and making solid ground in your steals category.