Dexter Fowler trade: Fowler's risk is worth it

Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

The first big Major League acquisition under general manager Jeff Luhnow doesn't come as much of a surprise. He found the Astros a leadoff man who can get on base in the former Rockies outfielder, but will he stay healthy enough to make the Astros GM look smart?

Astros fans have adored general manager Jeff Luhnow's ability to steal minor league prospects from other organizations over the past couple seasons. Today, he tried his hand at acquiring a Major League ready player and it looks like he did a pretty good job.

It appears that Houston's acquisition of former Rockies' center fielder Dexter Fowler was right up the alley of the Astros front office. Fowler, who boasts a career on-base percentage of .365, should fit right in to the top of the Astros 2014 lineup. Fowler will take his share of free passes (65 walks in 492 plate appearances in 2013), while also swinging and missing quite a bit (105 strikeouts in 119 games). Fowler's on-base percentage would've led the 2013 Astros by 19 percentage points.

For his career, the 27-year old is slashing .270/.365/.423 while playing his home games at Coors Field. Fowler has progressively added power to his game as well with 25 home runs in his last two seasons combined, with 13 of those bombs coming in his 2012 breakout campaign.

In 2012, the left-handed hitting Fowler hit .300/.389/.474 with a career high 53 RBIs in 143 games. In 2013, it appeared as it would be a similar story as Fowler put together a monster April where he slashed .305/.411/.621 with eight home runs in 95 at-bats. But as the season wore on, his production suffered as his body did not hold up. A hit by pitch on the right index finger plus problems with his left knee led to multiple DL stints.

As a result, this move does come with some risk. Fowler's great 2012 came in 143 games, but he has not played in more than 135 games in a season since his rookie year in 2009.

It's safe to assume that Fowler will be manning center field when the Astros hit the field in 2014. He has only started one game away from center field in his 667 career games. But that also doesn't mean he's a fantastic fielder either. Many advanced fielding statistics aren't fond of Fowler, including Fangraphs where he has not yet posted a positive defensive WAR or a positive UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating).

Fowler does bring some speed to the table (19 steals in 2013), but hasn't shown much of it since his rookie year where he stole 27 bases. The Astros likely won't be shy if they get him on the basepaths.

Otherwise, there is some minor ramifications about Fowler's fit in the organization as a whole. Such as, where does George Springer play when he dons an Astros uniform? Is Springer a better center fielder right now than Fowler? That's a very tough question to answer. Also, what happens to guys like Robbie Grossman and L.J. Hoes when Springer and Fowler are inevitably in the same outfield. We shall see.

Still, with all that said, this is a very good pickup for the Astros. The big question with Fowler is his health, but if he plays in at least 140 games this deal has a ton of upside for Houston.

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