Projecting Dexter Fowler

There were 2 distinct groups of Cardinal fans early in the off-season: those that wanted Dexter Fowler and those that didn’t.  After the trade market blew up and Fowler signed, most of both groups were happy; he was the catalyst of the World Series Champion Cubs and filled the need for an outfielder (that didn’t cost the farm system).

The question now is which Fowler will we get: the 4.6 WAR player from the Cubs or the roughly 2.0 WAR player that he was prior to last season?

I’ve plugged the numbers into my projection model and wanted to compare those results to those of Steamer, FanGraphs’ Depth Charts, and Bill James (ZiPS isn’t available yet).

At age 31, I’m looking at Fowler being closer to his pre-2016 form.  I show him playing in 125 games and slashing a line of .268/.358/.411.  He’ll have 123 hits, 10 of which are homers.  He’ll score 73 times and drive in 43.  He’ll be 13 for 18 in stolen base attempts.  I see him being worth about 2.4 win in 2017.

A 2.4 WAR will put his dollar value roughly at the $14.5M he’ll be making next season.

Steamer seems a little more optimistic on his playing time; they show him being in 138 games.  He’ll slash a .255/.359/.394 line, with 134 hits and 13 homers.  He’ll score 80 times and drive in 53.  They show him stealing 14 bases in 21 attempts and being worth a WAR of 2.1.

The FanGraphs’ Depth Charts has the same slash line (this model uses a mixture of Steamer and ZiPS, so some of the stuff will be close to what Steamer shows right now) in 142 games.  They see 128 hits and 12 homers with 77 runs and 50 RBIs.  He’ll have 13 stolen bases against 6 caught stealing.  His WAR is 1.9 in this system.

Bill James’ projections (from his 2017 Handbook) have Fowler playing 145 games; he’ll slash .265/.371/.416 with 140 hits and 13 homers.  James has 90 runs projected and 48 driven in.  He thinks Fowler will be 14 for 21 when stealing bases.  He doesn’t project WAR in his book.

Here’s a side by side comparison:

Projections G R H HR RBI SB CS Avg OBP SLG WAR
Nyrdcast 125 73 123 10 43 13 5 0.268 0.358 0.411 2.4
Steamer 138 80 134 13 53 14 7 0.255 0.359 0.394 2.1
FG Depth Charts 142 77 128 12 50 13 6 0.255 0.359 0.394 1.9
Bill James 145 90 140 13 48 14 7 0.265 0.371 0.416 N/A

Outside of my games projected, there aren’t too many differences.  If you were to take my numbers and adjust for a similar amount of games as the other projections, you would have hits of 136, 140, and 143, which would exceed all other projections and explain the higher batting average in my model.

The games thing is my biggest concern.  Since he’s been in the majors, he’s only played above 140 games twice (2012 and 2015); he’s only exceed the 125 game threshold 4 times (he did have 2 seasons where he played 125 games).    That’s in 8 seasons after his initial call up in 2008.  I find it hard to believe that he’ll exceed 125 games.

Historically, Fowler has shown a little more power than I’m projecting. The reason for the decrease is the ballpark; I’ve done some adjustments to show the effect Busch Stadium has on the typical numbers. All of the parks that Fowler has played in typically have favored hitters while Busch is the opposite.

Fowler has also shown the ability to swipe a bag a little more than I think he will; this is due to age and the Cardinals’ reluctance to steal bases. As Fowler ages, that speed is going to gradually slow down.

Overall, I’m happy with the numbers my system threw out and would be happy to see these as the final lines for Fowler.

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