St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill should give Fowler a breather
By Matt Graves
In light of recent (or not so recent) performance trends by St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielders Tyler O’Neill and Dexter Fowler, the argument should be made that they should swap places for some time.
St. Louis Cardinals‘ right fielder Dexter Fowler is struggling. It’s not a secret. Fowler’s struggles at the plate have been discussed all season, and despite a solid series in Milwaukee last week, his average still sits at .171. He adds to that with an anemic -1.2 WAR. Again, this article is not being written to rain on Fowler’s already dim parade, it’s to provide an opportunity for a solution.
Fowler has not forgotten how to hit, he is just going through a very prolonged slump and on top of that, he may be “hurt”. The Cardinals still have to pay Fowler $49.5 million over the next three years. No other team is going to add that contract to the books, so why not just give the guy a second chance. The perfect way for that to take form is in baseball’s greatest lie: the made up injury.
You can accept it, you can deny it, but the made up injury for struggling veterans who have too much time in the majors is a thing. There is perfect plausible deniability in saying a player is hurt. If he is, then he needs the rehab. If he’s not, there’s no way to force the player to be checked out by non-team doctors.
For example, there is speculation that Greg Holland’s “hip impingement” was a little suspect. Now look at how he came back, healthy as ever! There is also the potential added benefit of having a different hitting coach giving him instruction.
So Fowler’s one option is to be placed on the 10-day DL with his own “hip impingement” or something of the like, but the other is to outright him straight to waivers. This would be a big hit to Fowler’s confidence and reputation for sure, but there are two outcomes from that. Either he becomes a highly-paid minor leaguer, or another team takes him and his salary, as unlikely as that would be.
But assuming he stays in the organization, Fowler’s new chance starts in the minds of you guys, the fans. Stop blaming a slump on a guy’s moral character, and be willing to forgive and forget the beginning of the year when he does turn it around.
While Fowler is 32 years old, players almost never decline as much as he has in as little time. Before calling me a Fowler apologist, hear this: Fowler should not be given his second chance in St. Louis.
Enter Tyler O’Neill
In two separate stints with St. Louis this year, Tyler O’Neill has hit just three home runs. That’s not where the excitement comes from though. In the minors, O’Neill has swatted 17 bombs this year to go along with a .310/.371/.655 line at AAA Memphis. Moreover, MLB pipeline recently tweeted this:
The only person to homer at a higher percentage than O’Neill is the Royals power hitting right fielder Seuly Matias who is playing at A-ball. Matias hits a homer in 10% of his at bats compared to O’Neill’s 8.2%.
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So why not call up the Cardinal’s number two prospect and let him split time with Harrison Bader in right field? O’Neill’s is our number two prospect for a reason, let the young man play! He can’t put up worse numbers than what Fowler is giving us right now. The option would also be there for him to be a late-inning pinch hitter.
While it would be a somewhat embarrassing pill for Fowler to swallow, I believe it’s a necessary one. Why continue to let his poor performance hinder the Major league club? A common made up injury would allow Fowler to play everyday without pressure until he can get himself right. The minors is a perfect place to let it happen.
Letting Bader and O’Neill share right field has very few harmful impacts to the team as both have proven to provide value when they play. O’Neill did show his still a raw talent through his earlier stints with the big club. Why would the Cardinals continue to let a veteran continue to get his confidence pounded into the ground by the fans and this slump?