Dexter Fowler: Has Time Run out for the Colorado Rockies Center Fielder?

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIJune 10, 2011

DENVER, CO - APRIL 29:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Colorado Rockies reacts after striking out in the eighth inning against pitcher Chris Resop of the Pittsburgh Pirates at Coors Field on April 29, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Pirates defeated the Rockies 3-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Dexter Fowler was supposed to be the Colorado Rockies’ center fielder for the next 10 years. He was supposed to be a dynamic, switch-hitting leadoff hitter that would use the large Coors Field outfield to triple teams to death.

While Fowler has tripled teams to death over the past two-and-a-half years (tied for the major league lead with 29), he hasn’t done much else. The reality is that Fowler has been a disappointment in a Rockie uniform.

And now it appears the Rockies are ready to move on from Fowler as their center fielder.

The Rockies called up OF Charles Blackmon earlier in the week and Rockies manager Jim Tracy views him as his everyday left fielder (Carlos Gonzalez moves over to center) and leadoff man. 

“Yeah, I’d like to see that eventually,”  Tracy said in an interview with The Denver Post. “It’s very important right now for us to give Charlie a chance to settle himself in a little bit, and don’t just thrust him in at the top of the order. We’re also trying to get Carlos Gonzalez completely untracked.

“If, in fact, these things start to go in the direction that you’d like to see them go and Charlie shows himself well at this level, would I shy away from leading him off? I definitely would consider that. He has speed, he has power, he has an understanding baserunning-wise.

“He fits the criteria to put up there, but there are other things we’re trying to get untracked right now. I’m not in a position to just jump right into that just yet.”

It sounds as if Fowler’s role will be as a fourth outfielder/pinch-hitter when he comes off the disabled list. Fowler is hitting .238/.340/.348 this season with no HRs, five triples and two stolen bases. He’s also striking out 31 percent of his plate appearances this season, which is a career high.

Fowler’s struggles this season and throughout his career can be attributed to two factors.

First, Fowler has always failed as a left-handed hitter. When more than half of your plate appearances have come as a left-handed batter and you can’t produce, that’s a problem.

Fowler has a career slash line of .243/.338/.380 in 879 PAs as a left-handed hitter and his striking out 28 percent of the time as a LHB as opposed to 21 percent of the time as a RHB. Fowler’s wOBA as a RHB is .349 and is .321 as a LHB.

A lot of players who are switch-hitters have drastic splits, but what keeps a majority of those players in the lineup is that they are a star from one side of the plate. Fowler isn’t a star from the right side of the plate, so his left-handed struggles are exaggerated.

Second, Fowler hasn’t proven he can hit away from Coors Field. That’s nothing new for the Rockies to deal with (see Cargo from last season), but again, the players who have had dramatic home and road splits have been superstars at Coors, so the Rockies can deal with it.

If Fowler is going to hit .225/.313/.333 away from Coors like has in his career, then he needs to hit .350/.420/.485 at Coors. Fowler is hitting .287/.385/.452 for his career at Coors, which is good, but not great.

If Blackmon establishes himself at the major league level and becomes the player Tracy envisions, then Fowler’s career in Colorado might be fading faster than LeBron James in the fourth quarter of an NBA Finals game.