Top 50 Prospects: #19 - John Bowker

John Bowker was the middle outfielder picked when the Giants opened the 2004 draft with 3 in a row, but don't let the others overshadow him. A disappointing 2005 season shouldn't repeat once you look deeper into his numbers.

Date of Birth: 07/08/1983 Position: RF Height: 6'2" Weight: 190 Bats: L Throws: L
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd Round (#100 Overall) of the 2004 Draft
2005 Stats
San Jose - High A .267 .319 .414 .733 464 66 124 27 1 13 67 36 108 3 7

There’s something about being the middle child that gets you overlooked. The same might be true of the middle draft pick.

In 2004, the Giants shocked a lot of fans and observers by drafting three outfielders in a row to open the draft. Eddy Martinez-Esteve was the top pick for the Giants in the 2nd round. Clay Timpner ended the streak in the 4th round. But 3rd rounder John Bowker gets a little forgotten at times with those teammates.

The threesome had Giant fans excited after hot starts in 2004, with Bowker himself hitting .512 in 10 games at the rookie level and finishing by hitting .323/.390/.520 in Salem-Keizer. All three started 2005 in San Jose. But while EME went on to be co-MVP of the San Jose Giants and Timpner served as an exciting leadoff man, Bowker’s final numbers came out disappointing, with a .267 batting average and a .733 OPS.

What happened? A slow start was the biggest culprit, hitting .210/.268/.329 in April and .211/.272/.267 in May, hitting only 2 home runs and 9 extra base hits overall during the first two months before starting to get warm in June, going .268/.310/.378. The final three months were a different season, as Bowker went .307/.357/.509 over the final half of the year, with 10 home runs to start looking like the player Giants fans were expecting.

Looking at the numbers deeper, it appears the change was prompted by much better hitting against left handed pitchers. Being a left handed hitter himself, there’s always worries about being able to hit left handed pitching. The first 3 months Bowker hit only .180/.212/.213 against southpaws, leading to fears of a Snow-like platoon figure out of him. But in the final 3 months, Bowker posted a .342/.458/.579 line against left handed pitching, though he didn’t face them as often.

So who is the real Bowker? It’s probably closer to the second half version, though Bowker may continue to have some issues against left handed pitchers. Even with the second half, he only had 2 home runs off of left handed pitchers all season. But Bowker’s quick hands and strong batting eye should help him keep his numbers up. Bowker’s swing doesn’t put a lot of lift under the ball, but he hits it hard and square and puts a prodigious amount of power into the ball. In game 4 of the California League Championship, Bowker hit a line drive home run (off of left hander Arturo Lopez) that screamed over the right field wall and broke the scoreboard at Municipal Stadium! It may not have been a shower of sparks a la The Natural, but it hit the board with such force, it knocked out the balls and strikes counter, leaving the fans to keep track of the count and the number of outs by themselves.

What the future holds for Bowker is a big question. Bowker could deserve a move up to AA Connecticut, but he did have the weakest numbers of the 4 primary outfielders in San Jose, and behing EME, Timpner and Nate Schierholtz, he may not get pushed to Connecticut right away since at AA and above, there isn’t a fulltime DH to help players get more at bats. Then again, one of those outfielders may get pushed up to AAA, which would open a spot for Bowker. And the San Jose outfield picture will again be crowded with Horwitz, Wagner, and possibly Mooney and Copeland contending for High-A spots. Too much will depend on the spring training performances of Bowker and others to say for sure where he’ll start the season. But wherever he plays, don’t expect another disappointing season. Bowker should have a breakout performance in 2006, especially if he spends any time back in San Jose, and will start showing back up on the radar of Giants fans.

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