Dexter Fowler is a skillful guy. Along with being thoughtful and engaging with fans, he possesses some of the best plate discipline in baseball, is an above-average offensive threat, and plays solid defense in centerfield. So say his 2016 stats anyway which by most WAR metrics was his most productive season to date. For a refresher, in 551 plate appearances Fowler slashed .276/.393/.447, good for a career-high 129 wRC+. According to FanGraphs, he was also an elite base runner something which will be welcomed in St. Louis with open arms.
A favorite (albeit possibly meaningless) Fowler-fact from 2016 is this: On June 21, 2016, Fowler headed to the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring. He didn’t return until July 22. In his absence, the 103-win Cubs squad missed him and went 11-17. There were a lot of straws that stirred that drink, but Fowler leading off and setting the table for the likes of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo was pretty dang important.
So what to make of a centerfielder entering his age-31 season while coming off a career year? Seeing a repeat of that slash line seems like a tall order but I maintain that his ability to get on base is neither a newfound skill nor one that is likely going away anytime soon. Since 2009 (via FanGraphs Leaderboards), there have been 74 players with at least 4,000 plate appearances and Fowler’s 12.7% walk rate ranks 7th. Look to see Matt Carpenter and Aledmys Diaz driving him home plenty of times in 2017.
With that, what do you think? Should we expect to see major regression from Dexter Fowler in his new environment or is he just now hitting his stride?
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