Dustin Fowler on His Biggest Adjustment

Dustin Fowler may need to make an adjustment. The 24-year-old outfielder is coming off a rookie campaign that saw him slash an anemic .224/.256/.354, with six home runs, in 203 plate appearances. The Triple-A portion of his season was encouraging — a .310 BA and an .817 OPS — but his performance against big league pitching fell short of expectations. He went into the year ranked as Oakland’s No. 4 prospect.

He’d already made a notable adjustment. Prior to being acquired by the A’s in the 2017 trade deadline deal that sent Sonny Gray to the Yankees, Fowler had lowered his hands at the urging of then hitting coach, P.J. Pilittere. The reason was twofold: the team that drafted Fowler out of a Dexter, Georgia high school felt it would help him tap into his power. Every bit as importantly, his left-handed stroke wasn’t consistently catching up to high-octane heat.

Fowler talked about the 2016 adjustment midway through last season.

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Dustin Fowler: “I hadn’t had much coaching growing up, so I was very raw. I’d just had small-town coaching — not the big coaching I needed — so going into pro ball was the first time I got some real one-on-ones on how to hit.

“I was very tall in my stance. I was upright, and my hands were over my head. Ever since grabbing a bat, I’d put them up there. My hand-eye coordination was good enough to make it work against pitching that wasn’t as good — slower pitching — but it worked less and less here. There’s a big difference from high school to pro ball. The pitches here harder, and I wasn’t catching up to balls. I was just fouling them off, or making fly-ball outs.

“They had me lower my hands and get more into my legs, trying to get my swing as short as I possibly could. That’s probably the biggest adjustment I’ve made. To this day, I’m making more and more adjustments — micro adjustments — but it’s all good. You’re always going to be working to get better.

“I hit nine home runs my first year in Low-A. When I made contact, I was doing well. But as I started progressing, it wasn’t always there. They were like, ‘OK, we want you to be more of a power guy.’ That’s when we started making my hands quicker to the ball. This happened in Double-A, working with P.J., my hitting coach.

“We started slowly on the down, on finding the right place. Again, they had been drastically high. I put them down at my waist, and from there we worked them up, week by week, until I found a spot that was short, but at the same time natural enough that it wasn’t a mechanical swing. I still needed to be able to use my hands freely. We eventually got to around my ears — maybe a little lower — and that was the spot I needed to be at to make my swing as short as I could.

“Getting my rhythm right was part of the adjustment. Having my hands up, then coming down, was my trigger. It was my timing. Once I moved my hands, I was literally from here to here — I was shorter — so I started doing a little bat wiggle. That became my timing mechanism. When the pitcher starts to go, and I get ready to load, I cock my bat toward the pitcher a little bit. From there, I’m ready to go.

“We made the adjustment during the second half of that season. The first half I scuffled — I think I was hitting .250 at the break — so we sat down. It was like, ‘We have to make an adjustment. What’s the best way for us to do it during the season?’ It’s usually an offseason thing to work on something like that, but we came up a plan and went into the cage. Once we got me to the right spot, I started hitting everything flush. I think I hit something like 10 home runs in the second half.

“In the American League, people want power numbers. They want home runs, home runs, home runs. I’m not a prototypical power guy — I’m not a Matt Olson — but there’s enough in there that (the Yankees) wanted me to tap into it. They wanted me find that happy medium between being a power guy and an average guy.

“It’s not much different [with the A’s]. The coaches here know how my swing works, and they like how it works. What we mostly need to work on is my mindset. Facing big league pitchers, you need to keep your mindset, and your approach, the same every night. That’s the biggest adjustment now. We’re going to keep the mechanics of my swing the same. If there are little things to clean up, we’ll clean them up, but other than that, we’re going to try to keep it the same. I think my swing will work fine at this level.”

We hoped you liked reading Dustin Fowler on His Biggest Adjustment by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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fordhamflash
Member
fordhamflash

He should also work on swinging less. He has the tools, but he swings too much to profile as a high-OBP player, which hurts his chances at playing every day

Ivan_Grushenko
Member
Member
Ivan_Grushenko

Yes he seemed to take almost no pitches.