A jack of all trades, Fowler’s role is the most flexible in the lineup.
Dexter Fowler is an interesting case, similar to ‘tweeners in basketball like Derrick Williams. While the idea of height is not relevant in this case, the fact is that Fowler doesn’t quite fit into a traditional player archetype. He has a decent eye, but not good enough to serve in the top of the lineup. He also has a decent amount of pop, but once again, it’s not enough for him to be a slugger.
2017: .264/.363/.488, 18 home runs, 64 RBI’s in 491 PA’s
2017 as #5 hitter: .364/.417/.636, 1 home run, 3 RBI’s in 12 PA’s
Career as #5 hitter: .400/.438/.667, 1 home run, 4 RBI’s in 16 PA’s
As such, he is best in the most transitional spot in the lineup. Despite an average that is a bit lower than you would want out of a five hitter, Fowler’s OBP and decent slugging ability gives him a nice niche to fill as both middle of the lineup protection and a “leadoff” for the bottom of the lineup.
Whether he needs to be a middle of the lineup spark plug or act as reliable protection for DeJong, Fowler’s “jack of all trades” style works best as the bridge between the top and the bottom of the lineup. However, Fowler’s spot in the lineup is arguably the most volatile.
With a higher average in 2017 and a more reliable track record in St. Louis, many people would argue Yadier Molina is better suited for this spot because of his lower strikeout rate and a history of being a reliable, clutch hitter. However, there are two main factors I believe make Fowler a better option here.
The first is Fowler’s slugging percentage, which was higher than Yadi’s due to the fact Fowler had the same amount of doubles and home runs in 53 less plate appearances. In addition, Fowler had nine triples last season, while Yadi has had seven in his entire career. Fowler’s RBI numbers are diminished simply because he spent most of last season as the leadoff hitter.
The second reason, which partly plays into the first one, is speed. Yadi’s lack of speed has contributed to him registering a significantly lower BABIP than Fowler’s .305 mark. This also directly relates to the potential for extra base hits, which not only increases run production, but gives the next hitter an opportunity to drive you in.
Fowler’s style allows him to be put in an assortment of roles and spots in the lineup, and Yadi’s strong numbers make it easier to take Fowler out of this spot than any. However, I do think that, assuming he produces as he should, this is the best spot for both him and the Cardinals as a whole.