Daily Dish: Opening Day

Dexter Fowler has earned comparisons to Andre Dawson for his raw tools and athleticism, and last night he showed a glimpse of why. The Rockies outfielder made his full-season debut for low Class A Asheville with a bang, as he went 2-for-4 with two home runs as the Tourists took down Savannah 6-1.

Colorado took Fowler in the 14th round of the 2004 draft out of Milton High in Atlanta. He was considered a tough sign because he had the option of playing either basketball at Harvard or baseball at Miami. After trading Larry Walker to the Cardinals, the Rockies freed up some extra cash and signed Fowler for $925,000.

Because he did not sign until late in 2004, Fowler did not play in a pro game until last season, when he hit .273/.357/.409 with four homers in 220 at-bats for Rookie-Level Casper while switch-hitting for the first time. The 19-year-old is halfway to his 2005 home run total in only one game and did it in style; his first home run was as a lefthanded hitter while his second was from his natural right side.

“This is a guy with all kind of athletic ability and character that is off the charts,” said one scout who saw Fowler this spring. “It’s going to be a process for him with the bat, but there is something there. His raw power is not too different from Cameron Maybin’s.”

The comparison to Maybin seems even more fitting now that Fowler is playing in Asheville, Maybin’s hometown. As a youngster, Maybin was a batboy for the Tourists and starred at Roberson High before signing as the 10th overall pick by the Tigers in the 2005 draft. Maybin had a nice debut of his own for West Michigan as he went 2-for-4 with a  triple in his first at-bat.


• Good news for Phillies phans (sorry, had to throw in a Philadelphia euphemism there) after Cole Hamels‘ 2006 debut at high Class A Clearwater Thursday. Hamels, facing a rehabbing A.J. Burnett,
tossed six shutout innings, allowed just three hits and whiffed seven
in the Phillies’ 3-1 win against Dunedin. Hamels topped out at 92 mph
with his fastball, but had all three pitches working. “It was a nice
little night with Cole versus Burnett,” Clearwater pitching coach Scott Lovekamp
said. “Hamels threw all three pitches for strikes and got strikeouts
with all of his pitches. And he was efficient, getting in six innings
with just 73 pitches. He minimized his pitches very well and really
showed a lot of maturity.” And just as a note of positive encouragement
for Blue Jays fans as well–Burnett, who struck out two and walked two
over four innings, topped out at 97.

• The pitching matchup in the EL was in Bowie, where Phillies righthander Scott Mathieson squared off against Orioles righty J.J. Johnson.
Johnson, a fifth-round pick in 2001, allowed an unearned run on six
hits and whiffed six over five innings. Mathieson stuff was nearly as
good, fanning five over 5 1/3. But he allowed three runs on four hits,
including a two-run shot on a hanging slider to Bay Sox left fielder Jeff Fiorentino.
“I thought (Mathieson) was well-composed, he pitched aggressively and
attacked hitters with his fastball,” Reading pitching coach Tom Filer
said. “But his slider was very inconsistent. I don’t remember him
throwing one good, quality slider. I just think he was so pumped up
that he didn’t give it a chance to develop.”

• Righthander Mike Pelfrey’™s professional debut was a rousing success. The Mets’™ 2005 first-round pick didn’™t sign until January but looked sharp in throwing six scoreless innings for high Class A St. Lucie on Opening Day. The Mets beat Vero Beach 1-0, though Pelfrey didn’™t get a decision. He struck out six and gave up just two hits, needing 68 pitches. Pelfrey told TCPalm.com that his curveball wasn’™t as good as he would have liked, but St. Lucie manager Gary Carter was more than pleased with his outing. “He loves to pitch in, and you could tell the Dodgers hitters weren’t able to swing,” Carter said. “I want to be able to call a Pelfrey into my office four to five starts from now to say, ‘Hey, you’re going to the big leagues.’ That’s what it’s all about.”

• For another solid Double-A pitching matchup, the Southern League offered Mobile righthander Cesar Carrillo facing Carolina righthander Anibal Sanchez. Carrillo allowed a run on three hits, walked four and struck out two over four innings. “Carrillo wasn’t as sharp as I’m sure he would have liked to be, but he battled,” Mobile manager Gary Jones told the Mobile (Ala.) Register. “When he reached his pitch limit, we figured that would be enough.” Sanchez had good stuff, striking out seven over 4 2/3, but got hit hard. In his debut with the Marlins since coming over from Boston as part of the Josh Beckett deal, Sanchez allowed five runs on six hits.

• While the Tulsa bats were red-hot in a 9-8 Opening Day win against Wichita Thursday night, there is one bat in the Texas League that is hard to ignore. Arkansas shortstop Brandon Wood had never faced Double-A pitching, but it didn’t seem like too much of a hazard. Wood went 2-for-4 with a double, homer and a walk in his Travelers debut. “He knows what he’s doing up there,” Travelers manager Tyrone Boykin told the Springfield News-Leader. “He can hit all pitches. When you are able to get guys on base, you have guys that can drive in runs in Wood, (Matt) Brown and (Bobby) Wilson and (Greg) Porter.”

• High Class A Wilmington has one of the more prospect-laden lineups in the Carolina League, and last night the quartet of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Mickey Hall and Ian Bladergroen combined to go 9-for-17 with six RBIs–and Ellsbury, Lowrie and Hall all hit triples in the Blue Rocks 8-2 win at Myrtle Beach. Lowrie, a first-round (supplemental) pick last year out of Stanford, had the biggest night of the three–going 2-for-4 with four RBIs. “Jed is so far advanced as far as maturity,” Wilmington manager Chad Epperson told the Delaware News-Journal. “He can handle himself and has already shown leadership qualities . . . I think he’s going to be a special player for years to come.”

Contributing: Matt Eddy, Chris Kline, John Manuel, Alan Matthews, Matt Meyers.

Want more on how prospects did? Check out today’s Baseball America Prospect Report.