Dexter Fowler's return to the Cubs in February was one of the early-spring surprises of 2016, as it was first reported that he was nearing a deal with Baltimore. Returning for a second season on the north side of Chicago, Fowler was once against the catalyst for a potent lineup, which allowed him to parlay his career-high .393 OBP into 84 runs despite the fact that a hamstring injury limited him to 125 games. In addition to his work atop the lineup, Fowler graded out as an improved defender in center field by positioning himself deeper in the outfield on a regular basis. Fowler cashed in ahead of his 31st birthday, signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Cardinals in December. He's an everyday leadoff hitter capable of providing double-digit homers and steals, as he's done in four of the past five seasons.
Fowler (illness) went 1-for-3 with a RBI and a run in Wednesday's spring league game. Fowler was back on the field for the Cardinals after missing the previous two games with an illness. The 31-year-old didn't miss a beat in his return, collecting another hit and bringing his average to .357 (10-for-28) through 14 games this spring.
Fowler (illness) was a late scratch from Monday's lineup, Ben Fredrickson of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The Cardinals leadoff man reported to the clubhouse Monday afternoon with the intention of traveling with the team and starting later that night. However, he wasn't feeling well and did not board the team bus. Harrison Bader replaced him in the outfield Monday night, and with the team off Tuesday, the hope is Fowler will be ready to go by Wednesday afternoon's home game against the Nationals.
Fowler went 2-for-2 with two runs in Wednesday's 9-3 Grapefruit League win over the Nationals. Fowler looks like one of the offseason's best investments, as he's already proven to be a dynamic table-setter in the leadoff role he'll occupy during the regular season. Wednesday's production brought the veteran outfielder's spring line to .462/.619/.538 with one double, three RBI, seven walks and a pair of stolen bases. The pace of his success at the plate is naturally unsustainable, especially considering Fowler has hit .300 only once over eight-plus major league seasons. However, one missing element from his otherwise stellar spring thus far that does figure to come around in time is the long ball. Although rightfully renowned for his speed, the 30-year-old has demonstrated solid pop over the years as well, smacking double-digit home runs in his two Cubs seasons and in four of the last five campaigns overall.
Fowler drew a pair of walks, scored twice and stole a base in Saturday's 8-7 Grapefruit League victory over the Marlins. You could hardly have drawn up Fowler's debut as the new Cardinals leadoff man any better, as both of his at-bats had a positive impact on the scoreboard. He draw a five-pitch free pass in the first, promptly swiped second, and then eventually came around to score on Matt Carpenter's sacrifice fly. Following his second walk, Fowler came home again courtesy of Carpenter on the latter's third-inning two-run blast. Even though he only took two swings overall, Fowler was nevertheless very satisfied with his debut. "The way we manufactured that run in the first inning was key. If we can do that we'll win a lot of games."
Fowler, who inked a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Cardinals in December, is expected to improve the team in several ways, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports. "I think he's going to be a great fit, all the way around, in this community, on this team, in the lineup, in our clubhouse," manager Mike Matheny said. "[I'm] very, very excited about having him with us." The veteran outfielder, who helped the Cubs to their championship since 1908 last season, was brought to the division-rival Cardinals with the aim of improving the team's outfield defense, as well as to serve as a dynamic leadoff presence. The Cubs were notably 64-20 when Fowler had at least one hit last season, a testament to his table-setting skills at the top of the order. Additionally, his .367 career OBP when leading off ranks him as the fourth-best in that category for players with a minimum of 820 plate appearances since his rookie 2008 campaign. Fowler's savvy on the basepaths, which includes eight consecutive seasons with double-digit swipes, is also highly coveted by his new team, considering the Cardinals were last in the NL with 35 stolen bases in 2016. A residual benefit of his presence atop the lineup is that Matt Carpenter, who's served in that role for the last four seasons, will be able to slot into a spot more conducive to run production. Meanwhile, his ability to lock down center field will shift Randal Grichuk to left, where his glove will be considered an upgrade over the likes of the departed duo of Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss, who started a combined 143 games at the position in 2016.