The Savior Of Houston’s 2014 Draft
Even if you don’t follow the minor leagues closely, you probably know by now that Houston Astros outfield prospect Derek Fisher had himself a day on Saturday. Fisher was promoted to High-A Lancaster in time for Saturday’s game and mashed three home runs in the first three innings of his debut, two of which were grand slams. Fisher added a three run double later in the game to finish with 12 RBI, breaking a Cal League record that stood for 61 years.
I can’t seem to find any video evidence of last night’s performance so I’m not entirely sure that it’s real but here is a clip from earlier this season. It’s difficult to see where the ball lands but the play-by-play guy makes reference to it landing in the Mississippi, which seems entirely possible presuming it landed at all. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a single person at the game that can verify.
Of course, one game shouldn’t change your evaluation much but now seems like a good time to investigate the 2014 supplemental first rounder’s past and future.
Fisher was selected by the Rangers in the sixth round of the 2011 draft and was offered an above-slot bonus but decided to head to Virginia for a three year career that included two trips to the College World Series. He produced an OPS just south of .900 in both his freshman and sophomore seasons and raked on the Cape in the summer of 2013, to the tune of .333/.523/.383 and more walks than strikeouts. There’s much to like about that line but the slugging percentage is curious for a player perceived to have plus raw power in his bat; perhaps it was an adjustment period to wooden bats? A broken hamate and resulting .260/.316/.362 triple slash with only three long balls in his junior season didn’t offer any clarity. Despite obvious first round tools, the dip in production was enough for him to slide to the 37th selection, where the Astros snatched him up with the pick they received as part of the return for Bud Norris at the 2013 trade deadline.
Fisher took to pro ball immediately, tearing up the New York-Penn League in a 39 game stint after the draft. His .303/.378/.408 line laid to rest any lingering injury concerns. Fisher also swiped 17 bags in 21 attempts, showing off above-average speed and base stealing instincts that weren’t really a part of his game at UVA. The Astros assigned Fister to Low-A Quad Cities to open 2015, where he built on the successful half-season in the NYPL. The six homers he mashed as part of a .305/.386/.510 line were the first statistical manifestation of the 60+ grade raw power evaluators have seen in his stick since he was prep talent. That power production is even more impressive when you consider that Quad City is one of the least hitter-friendly parks in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. Fisher also added another eight steals to his professional resume, further boosting his quick-rising fantasy stock.
It goes without saying that Fisher’s debut is going to distort his full season counting stats to some degree but I do expect that him to continue to post attention grabbing numbers in Lancaster. The Hangar was the most home run friendly park among all Cal League stadiums last season and Fisher’s plus hit tool should allow him to reach his in-game power potential. Add in the speed and it’s easy to dream on Fisher’s future as a run scoring, run producing threat to achieve 20/20.
Fisher played left field in his High-A debut, with fellow highly-regarded prospect Brett Phillips manning center. That’s no surprise, as Phillips is widely regarded as a center fielder while concerns about Fisher’s arm have him ticketed for left. Phillips doesn’t have much left to prove at Class-A and should be moving on to Double-A Corpus Christi before too long, so Fisher could find himself an everyday center fielder again soon. This probably doesn’t concern you unless you play in a league where specific outfield position matters but I know there are some of you out there.
With such a short track record, Fisher fell outside of our top 125 outfielders at the beginning of the season but prospects David Dahl, Josh Bell, Jesse Winker, Nomar Mazara, Raimel Tapia, Clint Frazier, Hunter Renfroe, and Nick Williams all ranked between 44 and 73. It’s not a stretch at all to imagine Fisher somewhere in that range in our 2016 rankings, provided he continues converting his enviable tools to on-field production.