Patrick Teale

Dustin Fowler had another really good season and he says it's because he's not trying to force the results.

Dustin Fowler hasn't just become one of the better all-around players in the Yankees farm system but one of the top prospects overall. He has systematically improved every area of his game over the years and he says at its root is the mindset of not forcing the issue, allowing the game to come to him, and taking a general step by step approach to his development.

He had another good year in 2016, following up his .298, five home runs showing a year ago by hitting .281 with 57 extra-base hits and 25 stolen bases for Double-A Trenton this season.

"It was a great year," he said.  "Going into Spring Training, obviously getting a big league invite was awesome, and then going into minor league Spring Training not knowing what direction I was going to go -- was I going to repeat high-A a little bit or go to do Double-A -- I was able to go to Double-A and have a great year, stay strong throughout, and stay healthy."

Staying strong throughout though might be an understatement because he got better as the season went on.  In fact, he hit .305 in the second half of the season and clubbed nine of his career-high twelve home runs after the All Star break.  In hindsight he says it took him a little while to find his bearings at the Double-A level.

"I think a little bit.  I'd say in the beginning I was over-amped a little bit.  Trenton's a big park and I was hitting the ball into the air too much and I was getting a lot of fly ball outs, and not being able to use my speed.  In the second half I was able to hit more line-drives and get balls in the ground [more].

I was seeing the ball better and hitting line-drives better and luckily I was able to drive the ball out of the park. Just getting in the mindset of hitting the ball on a line and on the ground allowed me to avoid hitting pop ups and hit balls out of the park."

Perhaps trying a bit too hard to justify to everyone his promotion to Double-A at the beginning of the season not only messed up his approach but disrupted some of his hitting mechanics too.

"Yeah I think I was trying a little too hard and my hands kind of got a little too high sometimes," he revealed.  "I'd have to drop them when I was hitting so I was creating a lot of space and hitting the ball up.  Me and P.J. our hitting coach worked a lot in the cages with it and found a way to get from point 'A' to point 'B' as quick and easy as possible, and we were able to get my swing a lot shorter and I was able to produce more squared-up baseballs."

Fowler has steadily become one of the more reliable run producers down on the Yankee farm, almost to the point where he now expects to have a good season each year.

"I knew I needed another big year to prove myself and show that I'm able to play well every year.  I knew I was going to start staying on the high end of the [batting] average but the power definitely shot [up] this year.  My power numbers jumped back up this year so I was definitely pleased with that happening."

His power increase is quite evident and so is the speed.  He went to work on his speed over two years ago to increase his modest stolen base total in Charleston [three] that year and the results have been nothing short of staggering, swiping 30 a year ago and 25 more this season.

The speed increase has also helped on the defensive side of the ball too.  It wasn't all that long that Fowler was a somewhat big question mark defensively in centerfield and now is one of the more reliable defenders there.

"Me and [outfield instructor] Reggie Willits worked so hard these past couple of years," he said.  "My defense has come a long way and now being able to be an everyday centerfielder helps out so much.  Honestly, it's so much more fun now being out there and getting to balls I couldn't get to in the past, trying and tracking them down now."

He's been able to check off a lot of boxes over the past two years. Improve hitting? Check! Improve speed? Check!  Improve defense?  Check!  Improve power?  Check!

The one area of his game, however, that hasn't dramatically improved since his 18th round selection back in 2013 has been in the walks department.  As great a year as he had this past season, he walked just 22 times and sported a .311 on-base percentage.

"I think as a whole I know the strike zone pretty well," he opined  "I hit for a pretty good average and a pretty good idea at the plate but I kind of have both a gift and curse of having such good hands that I'm able to put a lot of balls in play that I don't want to.

"If I swing at a ball out of the zone I'll make weak contact but for the most part I was pleased with my strike zone discipline.  Obviously the walks weren't there again but hopefully with every at-bat I take that next step and walk more and more.  If I don't press too much, the walks will come."

And that's what he says is the biggest lesson he has learned over the years while he systematically develops his overall game; do the work but don't try to force the results.

"I still think there's a lot of improvement to come.  I'm just trying to take it step by step and I'm trying not to force things.  The worst thing I could right now is try to force stuff.  I'm just going to let things happen and see where everything goes.

"I've got a lot of video of my at-bats, my defense, and my base running so when I'm at my best I'm able to refer back to that, keep that mindset, and be as consistent as possible like I did in the second half."

He likes where both his game and his mindset are these days, and it's quite evident he proved he can handle the Double-A level.  He has an eye towards 2017 and he's hoping for more of the same going forward, and he also says he knows who he is as a ball player.

"Yeah, I think me being able to play a full year in Double-A, I think me personally I'm ready to go up to Triple-A but there's so much talent in our organization that you just never know.  I'm just going to keep my head up.  If I get sent back to Double-A I'm going to play just as hard and prove that I don't belong there, that I belong in Triple-A.

"I think I'm going to be an all-around player; be able to hit for average, be able to hit for a little bit of power, be able to produce havoc on the base paths, be able to be an everyday centerfielder and track down a lot of balls, and help the team out as much as possible.  I'm a grinder.  I do everything I can to help the team out," he concluded. 

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