There was plenty of excitement heading into the 2021 season for Dexter Fowler as the switch-handed hitting outfielder was traded to the Angels from the St. Louis Cardinals on February 4. This trade reunited Fowler with manager Joe Maddon, after they had spent two seasons together with the Chicago Cubs (2015-2016) and won a World Series Championship in 2016, breaking the 108-year-old drought. On paper, Fowler joining the Angels would complete a star-studded outfield trio which included Justin Upton in left field and perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout in center field.
Once the regular season began, Fowler got off to a slow start in his first six games, batting .250 (5-for-20) with 1 RBI and 3 Runs Scored. Unfortunately, the Atlanta, GA native would see his season come to a screeching halt in the second game of a four game series against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL. With the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning, David Fletcher would lace a ground ball to shortstop Bo Bichette who tossed over to second baseman Marcus Semien for the casual 6-4 forceout, but as Fowler slide late and awkwardly into second (ruled safe after a challenge, giving the Angels a 1-0 lead), it was clear he was in fierce discomfort. Grabbing his left leg and not able to walk off the field under his own power, the injury cart came out and it would be the last time Fowler would see the field this season.
After further evaluation by the Angels medical staff, it was deemed Fowler indeed tore his left ACL and required season-ending surgery. With the loss of Fowler being the first injury to plague the Halos, his spot at the time was to be platooned by Juan Lagares and Taylor Ward.
During the rehab process, Fowler continued to stick with the Angels in the dugout alongside Trout, coaching young players and bringing a relaxed and joyful attitude towards the clubhouse. This was definitely a breath of fresh air to see on a daily basis because most players may have packed up and headed home for the entirety of the rehab process, but as a veteran with a long successful track record in the league, his leadership qualities were put on display especially when Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell were called up in the middle of the season.
Fowler even kept busy by making his television debut on the “MLB on Fox” panel with Chris Myers and Dontrelle Willis in July.
7 Games / 20 AB / .250 Avg. / .286 OBP / .250 SLG / .536 OPS / 5 H / 0 HR / 1 RBI / 3 R / 1 BB / 1 SB
BEST OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
In an extremely small sample size, Fowler’s bat came in clutch on April 5 against the Houston Astros. Down 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Fowler stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and lined a single into left field, scoring Albert Pujols and cutting the deficit to just one, 5-4. His perfectly executed single against his former team kickstarted a four-run rally and an eventual 7-6 victory. This win snapped the Astros four-game winning streak and moved the Angels in a tie for first place (4-1) five games into the season.
BEST DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
EVERYTHING! With only 7 games in the outfield (6 games started), Fowler did not have much time to create a signature defensive moment with the Angels. Overall, he impressed during his 49.2 innings in right field by displaying a 1.000 Fielding Percentage in seven defensive chances.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2022
On November 3, Fowler became a free-agent after finishing the remaining 1-year, $12 million contract that carried over when he was traded to the Angels. Fowler did not sign with a team before the MLB Lockout began on December 2 and it will be interesting to see where he lands once the lockout is lifted, especially with making a full recovery from his knee injury. It seems highly unlikely he would make a return to the Angels with a healthy Upton, Trout, Marsh and Adell on the roster. However, if the Halos have to trade away Marsh or Adell in order to bring in a top-tier starting pitcher, Fowler could be a valid option considering his relationship with Maddon and the familiarity of being an Angel already in 2021.