Cardinals OF Good for Fantasy

St Louis Cardinals LogoThere’s no doubt that the Saint Louis Cardinals have built an amazing MLB team year after year. Their franchise’s ability to scout talent, teach the players, and field a competitive team has worked well for them. What’s more, their solid team results in plenty of fantasy baseball options for you to draft. There’s talent all around the diamond, particularly in the rotation, but I’m most excited about their two young outfielders, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuck. Let’s take a quick look at each player.

Stephen Piscotty

Piscotty wasn’t exactly young for his MLB debut, but he wasn’t so old that we should worry. He entered the 2015 season as a top-5 Cardinals prospect on some lists, but some were concerned he wouldn’t hit well considering his less than impressive showing in the hitter-friendly PCL. He had pretty good plate discipline, and though he didn’t walk a ton, he had a high contact rate. He retooled his swing and did well enough to get noticed in 2015 when the Cardinals struggled with injuries at first base and outfield. A line-drive approach resulted in the predicted high BA, and he hit 7 home runs as well.

Moving forward, I like his chances for a .270+ batting average long-term, but bear in mind he had an unsustainable BABIP in 2015, so the .300 isn’t going to repeat just yet. He has the potential for a high LD% and a BABIP above the norm, but he won’t be competing for the batting average title. What I do like in his game is a hard hit rate well above average, due to that line drive approach and the ability to hit maybe 20 home runs in a season. His HR/FB was a bit above league average, but his FB% was a bit lower than expected in 2015. If he converts a few more grounders into fly balls and keeps hitting the ball hard, I wouldn’t be shocked at 25 homers in 2016 or 2017. He sported a decent 7% walk rate and an okay contact rate; with more exposure to the majors, there’s a good chance those numbers go up a bit, improving his outlook.

The only concern in 2016 could be playing time. The Cardinals have two first basemen in Matt Adams and Brandon Moss, but Piscotty should still get some time there for three reasons: (1) Adams is going to be coming back from a long injury, (2) Moss can play OF as well as 1B, and (3) both Adams and Moss are lefties, whereas Piscotty bats right-handed. Add in the fact that Piscotty can play both corner OF spots, plus the likelihood of injuries to the team during the season, and I don’t see why he won’t net 500+ AB. I wouldn’t set a .270, 20 HR season in stone, but it’s entirely possible, along with strong runs and RBIs on an annual contender. Piscotty’s ADP right now is 205, but he’s being taken as high as the early 110s. If he goes as early as that, there’s less profit because you can’t expect another .300 BA from him. If he’s near his ADP, I’d happily jump on him a bit before that.

Randal Grichuk

As optimistic as I am about Piscotty, I’m more eager for Grichuk to get a full season under his belt. In 2014 Grichuk’s power was already on display in the minors, and he managed 3 home runs in several short stints on the major league roster. He left a good impression on the team with a strong September that year: .320, 2 HR in 50 AB. His strong defense and power potential led him to make the Opening Day roster in 2015, and after not getting much playing time in April, he hit for a high batting average in May. He then followed up with a very consistent June through August, hitting between .278 and .282 with 4-5 home runs each month. An elbow injury derailed the end of his season, but there’s a bright future ahead of him.

First, let’s get the red flags out of the way. His approach is nowhere near as solid as Piscotty’s. He has a dangerously low contact rate that’s under 70%, and he doesn’t walk much, though he improved in the second half. That 31% strikeout rate is also worrisome. That being said, this profile fits in this era of swing-and-miss power. Lots of hitters have this profile, and a few are very successful despite it, but others struggle and lose playing time due to these issues. I believe Grichuk provides enough defensive value and power to get full-time at bats and work through any slumps he may experience.

For 2016, I don’t see a high BA due to his strikeouts and free-swinging ways. He’s far more likely to be below .270 than Piscotty, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up in the .240-.250 range. However, there are some reasons for optimism that he can stay ahead of the major league averages when it comes to BABIP, aiding his BA. He has good speed even if he doesn’t yet steal tons of bases. He showed a LD% growth in the second half, and if he can maintain part of that, it’ll help boost his BABIP. The sample sizes from first to second half were relatively small, but with a young player, I’m more likely to take them as a sign of improvement.

Now, let’s get to the real reason you’ll draft Grichuk: the power. He finished 2015 with a 19% HR/FB and a solid 42% fly ball rate. That’s a solid line for HR production, and I have no trouble pegging him for 25 home runs next season, with an upside of 30+. Add in his good speed scores, and he may put up 10 SB if he’s allowed to run. There’s a lot to like there, and in an era where a lower batting average isn’t a deal breaker, he’ll provide great value given an ADP of 183. I’m taking him well above that, and I feel I’ll still make a solid profit.

Piscotty and Grichuk should have no problem reaching 500+ AB if healthy. Both can play multiple positions, though Grichuk’s are all in the OF and so are less valuable for fantasy purposes. The Cardinals find ways to win, and to get their hot players in the lineup. If you build your #2 and #3 OF around these two players (or #3 and #4 in a 5 OF league), you’ll have a great start to your outfield depth.

 

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Kevin Jebens
Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.
Kevin Jebens

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