Athletics

A's 2019 projections: Dustin Fowler still hoping to live up to the hype

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A's 2019 projections: Dustin Fowler still hoping to live up to the hype

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

Dustin Fowler entered his rookie season with a lot of hype, but could never quite live up to it.

The A's young outfielder hit just .224/.256/.354 with six home runs and 23 RBI in 69 games last year. Fowler performed much better in Triple-A, slashing .341/.364/.520 with four homers, 17 doubles, 27 RBI, and 13 stolen bases in 55 games.

The 24-year-old will enter 2019 looking to build on that production at the Major League level. Fowler figures to battle for playing time with Nick Martini and Mark Canha in left field, and possibly Ramón Laureano in center.

The left-hander was ranked as the A's third-best prospect by MLB Pipeline after coming to Oakland from the Yankees in 2017 as part of the Sonny Gray trade. Now with a full season under his belt following major knee surgery, he should feel more comfortable facing big league pitching.

Defensively, Fowler struggled as well last season, finishing with -8 defensive runs saved. He should be able to improve on that part of his game based on his natural tools, including above-average speed and a serviceable arm.

Baseball Reference projects Fowler to hit .239/.292/.384 next season with nine home runs, nine doubles, 34 RBI, and six stolen bases. We expect his batting average and on-base percentage to be significantly higher, as he has proven to be a great all-around hitter in Triple-A.

[RELATED: Jurickson Profar's versatility will be showcased in 2019]

The biggest challenge for Fowler next season will be finding a rhythm despite inconsistent playing time. If he can do that, he may even capture the starting left fielder job.

Projection: .271/.334/.404, 8 HR, 13 doubles, 37 RBI, 12 stolen bases

Cleveland Indians follow Washington, could change controversial name

Cleveland Indians follow Washington, could change controversial name

Have we seen the last game between the A's and the Cleveland Indians as they're known today? Just hours after the NFL team in Washington announced it would consider changing its racist nickname, Cleveland's MLB franchise released a statement indicating that the team was open to discussions on changing the "Indians" nickname.

The franchise has used the "Indians" moniker for over a century, switching over from the Cleveland Naps back in 1915. Broncos, Bluebirds, Lake Shores and Bustlers all also are nicknames the franchise has had in its lengthy history.

[RELATED: How Black MLB players are confined by baseball's conservative culture]

 

Cleveland's management clearly has understood how the nickname could be considered offensive, as it removed the controversial "Chief Wahoo" alternate logo from the team's uniforms and most apparel at the end of the 2018 season.

Public pressure has mounted in the wake of sweeping support across the nation for reform to fight systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. 

It won't be a surprise if we see not one, but two major American sports franchises completely rebrand with a new nickname and mascot before 2020 wraps up.

[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]

A's still deciding on alternate training site due to coronavirus issue

A's still deciding on alternate training site due to coronavirus issue

The A’s activated a 60-man player pool to start training for the upcoming 2020 baseball season. Most of those players will work out of Oakland Coliseum during a three-week camp to prepare for games that count. The rest will go to an alternate site that the A’s have yet to determine.

“That has not been easy,” A’s general manager David Forst said Friday. “We’re working on that. We have a lot of players and staff members waiting by the phone anxious to hear when they’re leaving and when they’re going. I’m spending a lot of time working on that, as are a lot of other people.”

Stockton was the most obvious location. The A's Single-A affiliate resides there, so it seemed natural the Ports would host members of the player pool not training in Oakland and, eventually, those not part of the 30-man roster.

The A’s didn’t cement that site due to increased concerns over spikes in coronavirus cases and the heightened restrictions that followed.

[RELATED: A's have no opt-outs, injury issues entering training camp]

Stockton remains a possibility, though the A’s have explored other options in relatively close proximity to their home base. The ongoing public health crisis that delayed the MLB season, canceled the minor league baseball campaign and created a need for a reserve squad capable of filling in for the MLB players injured or infected, plays a part in the ultimate selection.

“Stockton is in the mix,” Forst said. “Anywhere we’ve looked around here, the situation with the virus is a factor. San Joaquin County, Stanislaus County -- we’ve looked around Alameda County -- how each county is handling things and their particular orders come into play when we’re looking into alternate sites.”

The A’s obviously need a quality baseball complex and housing around it for their players to temporarily reside, making options somewhat limited. Finding the right spot, and soon, will be important as players start to prepare in earnest for the season ahead.