Viewed first as an average minor league corner outfielder who required repetitions he did not receive in high school, Ronnie Dawson has emerged as the next speedy center fielder in the Astros’ system.
The club’s 2016 second-rounder was a high school football star. Dawson did not focus on baseball until he matriculated to Ohio State, where he emerged as a third-team All-American in his junior season.
“There was more than normal ceiling with him for a college player, just because of the lack of reps to date,” assistant general manager Mike Elias said. “He wasn’t just a raw tools guy, but it’s not surprising me that he’s having a little more of a late blossom in his minor league career.”
Dawson is a 23-year-old lefthanded batter who split his season between high Class A Buies Creek and Double-A Corpus Christi, where he was promoted in late July. The “late bloomer” title can be misleading, Elias acknowledges, for a player who hit .258/.333/.428 with 16 home runs and 35 stolen bases in 119 games.
Dawson’s power began to show up on the stat sheet once he exited the Carolina League—where the fences and wind ensnare many fly balls—and moved to the Texas League.
Dawson slugged .518 in his first 114 Double-A at-bats, swatting six homers and six doubles while showing both pull-side power and opposite-field game power which has excited the organization.
Dawson’s strikeout rate is slightly inflated—26 percent this season—but Elias claims strike-zone control is coming along.
“We’re starting to see it come together in terms of the at-bats getting better, the results at the plate, the stolen bases, the stolen base percentage,” Elias said.
Dawson’s dynamite defense in center field allows him time to develop his offense while still ascending the system. In an organization where Myles Straw and Derek Fisher stand out as center field vacuums, Dawson is demonstrating a similar defensive trajectory, though he does not possess Straw’s elite arm
“(Dawson) has taken his speed and gone from, frankly, someone that we viewed as just an OK left fielder in college to now a really good minor league center fielder,” Elias said. “It gives him more bandwidth in terms of moving up the chain if he can play center field. It gives him more margin for error with the bat.”
• Because Myles Straw remained with the major league club throughout its playoff run, the Astros sent Drew Ferguson to the Arizona Fall League in Straw’s place. Though he missed more than two months with an injury, Ferguson hit .305/.436/.429 at Triple-A Fresno this season.
• In an expected move, Houston officially announced it entered into a Player Development Contract with the Round Rock Express, moving its Triple-A operations from Fresno.
• Double-A righthander Forrest Whitley, the club’s No. 1 prospect who threw just 26 regular-season innings while combating various injuries and a drug suspension, struck out 19 in his first 12 AFL innings.