When will Fisher make a difference for the Astros at the major league level?
The Astros fourth-ranked prospect, Derek Fisher, seems to have it all. Currently, the right fielder for the Astros Triple-A affiliate Fresno, Fisher has the potential to be a five-tool corner outfielder at the major league level. However, even as he shows his potential in the minor leagues, there are some warning signs for Fisher that Astros fans should be worried about.
Who is Fisher?
A three-year outfielder at the University of Virginia, Fisher signed with the Astros in 2014. Ever since he entered the farm system, the 23-year-old has shown that he has speed, stealing 17 bases in 21 attempts in 2014.
However, speed did not end up being the only aspect of Fisher’s game. Starting in High-A Lancaster in 2015, he hit 16 home runs and drove in 63 RBIs in only 344 plate appearances. With a .262 batting average, Fisher also led the JetHawks with 23 stolen bases.
That power and speed combination continued with Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno in 2016. Fisher combined for 21 home runs and drove in 76 RBIs while swiping 28 bags in 35 attempts.
With a successful 2016 season, he earned a featured role on the Astros major league Spring Training roster in 2017. Fisher obliged, hitting .310 with five extra-base hits and driving in 13 RBIs. With .958 OPS, Fisher also stole 11 bases in his 28 spring training games.
Fisher seems to be well on his way to making an impression at the major league level this season. However, if you look deeper into his minor league numbers, it may seem that Fisher may not be as ready as Astros fans think he is.
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What is the issue?
Like many young hitters in the Astros system, the problem with Fisher is a number of times he strikes out. Last season between Fresno and Corpus Christi, he struck out 32.2 percent of the time. In three seasons in the Astros system, Fisher has struck out 24.8 percent of the time.
Some people may say that the strikeouts are just the product of being a patient power hitter. Fisher is patient, walking a career high 83 times with the Hooks last season. However, there are examples of other hitters in the Astros system that have had similar issues going into their major league debut. Let’s just say that it did not transfer well.
One of the major comparisons can be seen in the highly touted first base Houston prospect A.J. Reed. In 2016 at Fresno, Reed hit .291 with 15 home runs and drove in 50 RBIs in 70 games. However, when he got called up to the major league roster, Reed had struck out 22.6 percent of the time.
Being known as a relatively patient hitter in the minor leagues, those strikeout numbers did not transfer well at the major league level. In 45 games with the Astros in 2016, Reed struck out 21 times in 57 at bats, hitting only three home runs with a measly batting average of .164. Even with the demotion to start the 2017 season, Reed still has struggled, striking out 29.7 percent of the time in his first 17 games at Fresno this season.
Fisher has the tools to be successful at the major league level. However, consistency in the batter’s box is necessary to be successful at the major league level. Strikeouts are a major part of that. He could be the next big thing in Houston, but he is not quite there yet.
***Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and MiLB.com***