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Wednesday Rockpile: Dexter Fowler, 2012's Breakout Star

This is the year that Dexter Fowler becomes a beast. No really, I'm serious this time. Colorado's center fielder had himself a homer in yesterday's loss to the Cubs. We can expect to see a lot more of the same in 2012 -- at least, a lot more than the five dingers Fowler hit last season.

After all, Fowler was phenomenal in the last few months of 2011, putting up a .880 OPS, 140 sOPS+, and 37 extra base hits in the 68 games after the All-Star break. Hoping to build on that success, Fowler is bigger and stronger this year. One might even say that he was in the best shape of his life. Keith Law (ESPN Insider) certainly believes that Fowler will improve over 2011 into a valuable big leaguer.

I'll go one further than that -- in 2012, Fowler will be at least a 4 win offensive player for Colorado if he's healthy. People are wondering where the wins are going to come from that will lift Colorado from 73 wins into playoff contention. A drastic improvement by Fowler will go a long way toward bridging that gap.

Besides his great center field defense (advanced metrics disagree, but those things never seem to get Rockies outfielders right), Fowler's best attribute is his ability to turn a single into a double and a double into a triple. In 2011, despite his weak 1st half Fowler hit doubles and triples at a rate of 60 per 150 games. That's in the top 5% in the league in production, folks.

I believe that with his improved power stroke and muscle mass, Fowler will be hitting a lot more balls this year that turn into triples because of his long strides. More of his gappers will become four-baggers, and his improved contact tool will mean less strikeouts. Fowler could legitimately be in the top 5 of the league in extra base hits in 2012 provided his health is good, that's how elite this ability is.

In short, I fully expect Dexter Fowler to make the jump to a great -- maybe even elite -- offensive player in 2012, just as Cameron Maybin did last year for the Padres. I'm a believer in Fowler's 2nd half offensive explosion...are you?


Los Links!

Fowler's more accomplished outfield mate, Carlos Gonzalez, talks about overcoming the burden of his mega-extension in this piece by Thomas Harding.

Colorado are hoping that their veteran additions will result in better situational hitting this year.

The Rockies believe that Casey Blake will be a productive player if he's healthy. He certainly has been productive in the last few years when healthy, but we'll see if Father Time has caught up with him.

Christian Friedrich got some advice from fellow lefty Cliff Lee this off-season. Let's hope that some of Lee's pitching acumen rubbed off on him.

Tristan Cockcroft at ESPN Fantasy writes at length about Jhoulys Chacin -- specifically, about what happened to him in the second half last season.

Troy Renck's mailbag handles questions about Michael Cuddyer, off-field shenanigans, Todd Helton, and more.

Former Rockie Ian Stewart talks about his easy transition to the Cubs.

Fangraphs has some positional power rankings, with the Rockies coming out on top at shortstop. They ranked 12th at 2B, 25th at 1B, and 20th at C.

SI's Tom Verducci writes about a MLB in the near future in which the DH is in both leagues. Yuck.