Balance and consistency in a major league lineup is the perfect combination. Without both, the outlook for an upcoming season will undoubtedly be grim. This year, the Orioles will march into Opening Day with both attributes covered after signing Dexter Fowler to a deal that looked like a good one for the O's ... Yovani Gallardo or not.
Fowler's game brings much more to the table than a mere stable bat at the top of the lineup. Many forget because of his small-market history - but this guy can really play ball.
Over the course of his career, he's proven to be a model of consistency for outfielders across the league, steadily putting up above-average numbers on offense with a valuable glove to bring along. During his time with the Rockies, Astros and Cubs over the past seven seasons, the 29-year-old has done plenty left in the tank throughout his contract in Baltimore.
His OBP numbers consistently hover around the .360 mark, with averages above .250 in six of the last seven years. Last season, in his worst year as a pro, Fowler still put up a .250/.346/.411 slash line with 20 stolen bases and a .988 fielding percentage ... not to mention he played he played in a career-high 156 games. Imagine that!
In his worst statistical season, Fowler still managed to put up numbers that folks here in Baltimore would love to see from an every-day corner outfielder.
The basic math adds up to a simple product - the Fowler piece is a huge one in 2016's puzzle, one that might just lead to a lineup that turns heads and cashes in division-leading run totals by the end of the season.
Since the departure of Brian Roberts, the hole atop the lineup has been painful. Buck Showalter has tried to force round pegs into square holes (Manny Machado, anyone?) and it hasn't been his fault. The skipper has done what he's had to do with a roster that has lacked a steady, unwavering top of the lineup guy.
With Fowler in place at the top, the stars can come out to shine where they're needed - not wondering where they'll be slotted every day they walk into the clubhouse and take a glance at Buck's lineup card.
For a while there, the entirety of the clubhouse looking at the daily lineup was akin to high-schoolers checking a piece of paper in the hallway to see who made the final varsity cut.
With Fowler signed, names can be locked into place as the first batch of spring training games approach.
Think about the potential! After Fowler, there's a legitimate "meat of the lineup" that is quietly one of the most impressive groups when healthy. Not only do Machado, Adam Jones and Chris Davis provide strength and balance, but there's a fresh Matt Wieters (a reliable .250/.320/.450 bat with pop) and powerful Mark Trumbo behind that group.
Just those six bats alone make up a group with scary potential.
When you add in power potentials of Jonathan Schoop and Hyun Soo Kim you get an everyday lineup that matches up fairly nicely with the other 29 clubs around the MLB, even with J.J. Hardy.
Let's be realistic - when a team has a lineup with Hardy being the worst offensive weapon, there's clearly something brewing that can lead to massive production on a nightly basis.
As seen in years past, this core group has major issues with consistency without a true one-hole hitter. Realistically, it's a simple theory. In baseball, every lineup needs an unfailing leader who can dig into the batter's box at 7:05 every night and begin a three-hour dogfight. Think of all the home runs the Orioles power hitters are going to hit this year. Fowler is a guy you know will get on base for them.
When you look at his track record, there's no reason to believe Dexter Fowler can't offer just the boost the O's have been looking to find for years.
Here's to a steady leader ... welcome to Baltimore, Dexter!