Should Dexter Fowler Give Up Switch-Hitting?

DENVER, CO - : Dexter Fowler #24 of the Colorado Rockies hits a two RBI double against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Dexter Fowler is a promising 25-year-old center fielder. A lot of teams would love to have him, even if they had a crystal ball that told them he wouldn't improve at all. The Colorado Rockies, though, think there's a chance he can be even better. From Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post:

There has been discussion of (Dexter Fowler) abandoning switch-hitting when he does play again. Fowler has struggled from the left side because of his hand positioning. His swing path is long, and pitchers attack him consistently with sliders down and inside.

The old convert-from-switch-hitting gag, eh? Here’s a comprehensive list of players who made a dramatically successful conversion from switch-hitting in the majors in the past two decades:

Orlando Merced

I ordered the list by WAR to make it easier to sift through. Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli made the change in the minors and he’s done okay, but still has substantial platoon splits. Another Yankee, Eduardo Nunez, also made the conversion in the minors, and that seems to be working out just fine.

Here are the players other than Merced who made the switch-hitting switch in the majors:

Snow was still wretched against left-handers after the change, but he improved enough to never go back. Jefferson was even worse after the conversion. Valentin tried it for a few weeks before giving up, and Ortmeier's conversion was similarly short-lived. So the goal is to emulate Merced, who went from a .193/.284/.253 hitter against lefties to a .258/.335/.410 hitter after the conversion.

Except, that’s about what Fowler already hits as a left-handed hitter, which is the side he might give up. He’s a career .248/.338/.380 hitter in 753 at-bats against righties, which adds up to a 94 OPS+. That's not great. But is it enough to demote Fowler, or to go all mad scientist on him in the majors?

It seems like a fairly strange gamble. It's not as if Fowler is some amalgamation of Albert Pujols and Matt Kemp as a right-handed hitter -- he has a  .282/.369/.414 career line against lefties. If he ups his numbers against righties to that level, he'll be one of the best center fielders in the game. It will take time and patience, though, which contending teams usually don't stock in bulk.

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