Searching for Dexter Fowler(s): Finding Value in Fantasy Baseball

If Dexter Fowler or any of the other Dexter Fowler-type players mentioned below are sitting on your fantasy baseball waiver wire, then stop what you’re doing right now and snag them. What follows mainly applies to deeper mixed-leagues, but frankly, I’m a little tired of reading the musings of “experts” on how this or that guy is “viable only in NL-only” or “shallow-mixed” leagues. That’s all well and good, but let’s cut the crap: we want guys who produce counting stats, and Dexter Fowler and those like him do precisely that for leagues big and small. They score runs, steal bases, hit home runs, get on base, and more, but for some reason, people don’t give them the credit they deserve. For instance, Fowler, with his 10 HR, 66 R, and 16 SB, just finally cracked the ESPN Top-250 list this past week; but he’s still ranked behind the likes of Logan Morrison. See what I mean? But I digress.

Here’s my point: If you’re like me — and you probably are, to the extent that you love playing Rotisserie/fantasy baseball — then you’re looking to find value on the waiver wire or via trade; you’re looking for undervalued players who produce counting stats. Sounds easy enough, and if you look at the ownership rates of a few guys I’m particularly keen on, then it really is easy to find these guys free of charge; guys like Dexter Fowler (owned in 57% of ESPN leagues), David Peralta (27%), Preston Tucker (27%), or Marlon Byrd (34%). Are these names flashy? No, not really, but who cares; they produce.

There are plenty of other, similar players who all have a few things in common relevant to us baseball-minded folk: they produce in at least three categories and are probably on your waiver wire or sitting on someone’s bench ripe for a trade offer from you. Why these players — and those like them — are so under-owned is, in many cases, the result of playing time (i.e., platoons), but I also suspect the ownership percentages are skewed by 8-team leagues . In deeper leagues, however, like those I care about, Dexter Fowlers are must-haves.

Here’s at look at how the Dexter Fowlers I’ve identified (and there are many more) can help you. I’ve also provided some stats and thoughts on why so few people have grabbed these particular guys. In any case, these are guys you’ll want down the stretch.

Dexter Fowler: How many guys have double-digit home runs and stolen bases in MLB this year? Eighteen. 18! Fowler, recall, was once a highly touted prospect in the Rockies organization, and while he never quite turned into the superstar many had projected, he has had a fine career, and hitting in front of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo (and lately, ahem, Chris Coghlan) is helping Fowler have one of his finest seasons to date. Currently on pace to destroy his single-season career high homer total of 13 set in 2012, Fowler is also on pace for his first 20 SB season since his rookie year, while remaining among the league leaders in runs scored (currently 4th in the NL at 66).

Let’s take a step back for a second: Fowler has 10 HR and 16 SB. That’s fantastic in its own right, but he gets zero love (or 57% love, as it were). The knock on Dexter, of course, is his low batting average. However, that argument is starting to fall apart, as the average is on the rise and it’s been dragged down by a career-low .297 BABIP (career BABIP of .342). Not to mention Fowler takes a ton of walks, thus helping buoy his run and stolen base totals in the absence of hits. And on top of the great counting stats and rising average, Fowler is a switch hitter, leaving him immune to benching in the face of tough lefty/righty matchups.

For perspective, consider this: Christian Yelich is ranked ESPN’s number 35 outfielder for Roto 5×5 leagues (117 player overall); Fowler is ranked OF #59 (230 overall). Here are their stats; I have no idea what drugs ESPN is taking, but I want some.

Yelich (owed in 67%): .263; 35 R; 6 HR; 25 RBI; 10 SB (note: he did spend roughly three weeks on the DL and is without the benefit of Stanton)

Fowler: .243; 66 R; 10 HR; 27 RBI; 16 SB.

Here’s more perspective: According to ZiPS projections, Yelich is on pace to finish the season with stats in all categories almost identical to what Fowler has achieved by July.

Why the disparity in rankings? You tell me — potential, I suspect, but you don’t need a PhD in statistics to tell you that Fowler is vastly outperforming Yelich this year, and we are well beyond the days where the small-sample size caveat holds water. Yelich, to his credit, is a fantastic hitter and has a bright career ahead of him, but he’s got nothing on Dexter Fowler in 2015.

Here are a few other Fowler-types to keep in mind:

David Peralta: The dude crushes right-handed pitching. Peralta, a converted pitcher, has an average batted-ball velocity of approximately 95 MPH according to baseballsavant.com (that’s really, really good). He currently owns a .281/.351/.493 triple slash with 9 HR and 48 RBI, though he rarely plays against lefties (which is perhaps stupid, but a topic for another time) despite a recent vote of confidence by Chip Hale for his improved ability to mash lefties as well.

Bottom line: Peralta flat-out hits. He’s been on a roll since Inciarte went on the DL, and thanks to the maddening way in which Hale manages his lineup, Peralta is not an everyday starter — but against righties, which make up the majority of National League pitching (by far), Peralta holds prime real estate in Arizona’s lineup and should be in your lineup as well, and ahead of guys like, for instance, Christian Yelich. And maybe even Dexter Fowler, depending on your particular needs. In addition to Peralta’s 9 HRs in 288 ABs, he’s also stolen five bases and regularly slots in the 2-hole when he’s not batting cleanup.

In a stacked Arizona lineup, opportunities to score and drive in runs are plentiful — as he’s shown over the past two months. If nothing else, just bench him against lefties and start him against righties, whom he absolutely destroys, which reminds me of Preston Tucker.

Preston Tucker: A highly regarded prospect in the Astros organization, Tucker was called up from Fresno in May. He got off to a hot start, cooled in June, but here in July/August, Tucker is again raking. Known as “Bam Bam” for his likeness to Fred Flintstone’s pal (or grandfather?), Tucker is 25 and has crushed 77 homers (minors & majors) since 2012, after being a 7th round pick in 2012. His platoon splits aren’t pretty; you won’t want to start him against the few lefties he’s allowed to face, but what he does to righties almost makes me feel bad for the pitchers: He’s slashing .296/.356/.568 against righties (OPS of .924 if you don’t like math), with 5 HR in 46 AB’s since the All-Star break.

Start Tucker with confidence; he bats second or cleanup against righties, and with Gomez in town, Jake Marisnick (a righty) is the odd man out more often than not — Tucker and his .924 OPS do too much damage to bench against RHP. Also note that Tucker gets more starts than does Colby Rasmus (until the return of Springer, when they both likely sit) another guy I like, incidentally, for his power vs. righties. Tucker’s power is real; his ISO is a lovely .204 and his .265 batting average aligns well with his minor league numbers, and his BABIP is a sustainable .299 given his hard-contact rate and minor league numbers.

Marlon Byrd: He’s hit 18 home runs and, in his last 60 games (roughly), is hitting over .290 with 15 home runs. He’s owned in 34% of ESPN leagues. Byrd has hit 25 and 24 homers the past two years, respectively. Enough said.

As I mentioned, there are plenty of other Fowlers out there, and I will cover those in my next post. Hint: Gerardo Parra (72%!); Colby Rasmus (5%); Jarrod Dyson (7%).



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Scott
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Scott

I really like the premise and content. Great work. I have been riding Preston Tucker while Mookie’s been on the DL and plan to play match ups with him and Joc when I get Mookie back.

One critique/comment:
These are all outfielders and 3OF formats could also skew the ownership down. If you have any players at other positions up your sleeve that’d be really useful.

I’m thinking your Yelich/Fowler analysis would apply for a situation I’m looking at: Lawrie (upside!) vs Valbuena (production w/ upward trending ugly BA). both are 2B/3B eligible in my deep league and there’s probably no way Lawrie is one of my 12 keepers in a 16 teamer but I just can’t pull the trigger on it.

Good Wood
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Good Wood

Fowler has been great this year. My OF is composed almost entirely of Fowler types. I have Fowler, Maybin, Michael Taylor, and Austin Jackson. Of course I have McCutchen too. And Soler. But moderate power/moderate speed CFs (of which McCutchen is the ideal model) seem to be underrated and an easy source of across the board stats. My strategy this year was spend big on IFs and scrounge for OFs. It’s worked out nicely so far.

Patrick Linder
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Patrick Linder

I’ve had my eye on Fowler for awhile and was surprised other people weren’t talking about him. He’s the perfect under-the-radar guy. Loved seeing it broken down so clearly. I hadn’t dug into Tucker like this. Looks like I should have. Great article. Keep it coming if you have other overlooked players.

Whiz
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Whiz

Great article. A real thorough break down and right to the point analysis on who you should target.

Kevin
Member
Kevin

Definitely enjoyed this one.

I have found that Adam Eaton is fairly available (after a very poor start) and offers similar production to Fowler.