Fowler’s next contract will begin in his 30s and he won’t be getting younger. His defense is average at best, but generally regarded as sub-par in center field. And his injury history suggests he isn’t the picture of ideal health.
But as Brett recently noted, it’s easy to take issue with Steamer’s projections for Fowler because the skill set that makes him an offensive asset (strike zone control, work counts, gap power) aren’t in decline right now.
However, maybe we aren’t accurately portraying Fowler’s value moving forward. It’s conceivable that Fowler is more valuable to a team like the Cubs or with the kind of depth the Cubs offense provides than he would be to another offense.
This Hardball Times piece from 2014 details how offenses are exponential in nature:
The exponential nature of offense means a good hitter in a good lineup is worth more than that same hitter in a bad lineup. On a good offense, that hitter is more likely to come to the plate with more runners on, more likely to get driven in once he’s on base. And, the lineup turns over more often, meaning he gets more plate appearances. Not only is he more valuable to a good lineup, but he’s even more valuable to a better one – the effect builds on itself.
Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant ranked 6th and 14th, respectively, in plate appearances with runners on base. Fowler was the player who Rizzo drove in the most (27) times. Same with Bryant, who knocked in Fowler 26 times.
While middle-of-the-order hitters receive headlines and highlights for home runs and RBIs, it’s easy for a line-up catalyst like Fowler to get lost in the madness.
Fowler (or a player of his ilk) has the potential to make a team’s line-up better in at least two or three spots. That innate ability to cause a chain reaction down the line-up could possibly be the underrated part of Fowler’s game.
And, at the top of a great lineup like the one the Cubs project to throw out there, Fowler could be especially valuable.