From the first batting practice of the Arizona Fall League season, Surprise manager Carlos Subero took notice of Dustin Fowler.
While trying to get to know all the new faces who would be playing on his team for the next six weeks, the veteran skipper could tell the Yankees' No. 18 prospect could make an impact in his limited playing time.
"I liked Fowler since Day 1. … He [stuck] out in BP, hit the gaps, seemed to have good bat control," Subero said. "He was a taxi player, so we only got to see him play twice a week, but I remember the hitting ability was there, even playing every fourth day."
Fowler was coming off a breakout season in which he garnered a midseason promotion to Class A Advanced Tampa and broke into the Yankees' top-30 prospect rankings. Being assigned to the taxi squad wasn't going to slow him down.
After missing the first half of the 2014 season, Fowler was determined to be healthy and play a full campaign. While others in his 2013 Draft class such as top Yankees prospect Aaron Judge and No. 6 Eric Jagielo were beginning the year in Double-A, the center fielder returned to Class A Charleston to start the 2015 campaign.
"I try not to think about [success of peers] too much, just do my own thing and stay focused and do everything I can for myself and not try to think about it and discourage myself," Fowler said. "Just try my best to get as healthy as possible, as strong as possible and just injury-free."
Starting back with the RiverDogs turned out to be pivotal to Fowler's success. The 20-year-old hit .307 with 31 RBIs and 18 stolen bases in 58 South Atlantic League games before he got bumped up to the Florida State League on June 22.
"Just trying to drive the ball to all sides of the field and not worry about the long ball as much as possible and just try to stay within myself and not do too much to the baseball," said the Dexter, Georgia native. "I didn't know it was going to be as soon as it was, but to finally get the callup, it was an honor.
"It's a great feeling knowing [the Yankees] have my back and have interest in me; it kind of helps me out. Helps me out a lot knowing they like me and are going to do everything they can to help me."
With the confidence and success came Fowler's first mention on the Yankees' Prospect Watch. Now he was in the mix with the guys who had been selected before him in the Draft and promoted ahead of him throughout the season.
Fowler finished the season with 70 RBIs -- just two behind Judge, who led the organization -- and 30 stolen bases. He earned a spot in the Arizona Fall League along with Yankees' No. 7 prospect Ian Clarkin and No. 9 Tyler Wade, also members of that 2013 Draft class.
"It's an awesome experience, just being out here with all the top prospects of all the organizations and seeing how they do things and base yours off what they do and just learn new things every day," Fowler said. "Just talking to the outfielders and what they do to get better jumps and better reads and just chit-chat stuff."
With the rosters shuffling and some players leaving the AFL, Fowler claimed a full-time spot, and immediately Subero was able to see more of the 20-year-old's potential shine through.
"You can see he's a line-drive hitter, knows how to handle the bat well. He can steal a base, he has good speed, is aggressive on the bases, a good fielder -- seems to be a center fielder. Left field, his routes are a little different," the manager said. "He's definitely a player that you like on your team, has good intangibles, good ballplayer."
Now that the hot stove has been turned on, the Yankees have said they aren't opposed to trading top prospects -- a grouping that now includes Fowler. But even with the rumors flying and trades made in the Fall League right in front of him, the center fielder is just keeping his eye on the ball.
"I just try not to think about it too much and I try not to put as much on my plate as possible," he said. "I try to just play the game that I know and love and whatever happens happens."
Perfection by the Pound-er: With three scoreless starts, Brooks Pounders (1-0) is the only eligible pitcher left with a perfect ERA. The Royals right-hander has worked around five hits without issuing a walk over 12 AFL innings. Pounders has amassed 14 strikeouts and also leads the circuit with a 0.42 WHIP as the Saguaros remain atop the AFL West.
Walk the line: After spending 93 games with Michael Reed this season, Subero has watched the Brewers' No. 17 prospect work on his vision at the plate. Now in the AFL, he is seeing it pay off. Through 11 AFL games, Reed has more walks (11) than strikeouts (seven) -- something he has yet to accomplish in the regular season. The Minnesota native will look to continue his patience as he celebrates his 23rd birthday on the penultimate day of the AFL regular campaign Wednesday.
Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.