St. Louis Cardinals: The Tommy Pham plan

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Oct 9, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham (60) is congratulated by manager Mike Matheny (22) after the game against the Chicago Cubs in game one of the NLDS at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham (60) is congratulated by manager Mike Matheny (22) after the game against the Chicago Cubs in game one of the NLDS at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports /
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St. Louis Cardinals fans got a sneak peek of the outfielder last season, but what role will he play this year?

Tommy Pham is the new Jon Jay in 2016, St. Louis Cardinals fans. Circa 2011 Jon Jay is what I mean. Before he was a starter, Jay was a versatile bat off the bench. A lightning plug before he was given full duty due to trades and injuries. Pham can be that guy in 2016 and beyond, if he stays healthy. That seems to be the motto for the “older” Cardinals in 2016. “If they can stay healthy”, good things can happen.

Tommy Pham has endured a treacherous stretch in his professional career up to this point. He has never played more than 114 games in a season and that was back in 2009 at Palm Beach. He’ll be 28 years old(March 8th) before the regular season kicks off in April. The clock is ticking on this guy, but something tells me 2016 could be the year he finally arrives.

Pham is such an interesting talent. He can hit for power, has speed, plays above average defense in all three outfield spots and doesn’t strike out 30 percent of the time. He can burn you with a single, double, triple or home run and at times, collect 2-3 of those in one game alone. He is one of the bets General Manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny are making this year. A bet that something more can be expected from this kid outside of 100 games and some potential left on the table.

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Pham noted at the Winter Warmup that he has acquired new hybrid contacts that should improve his vision dramatically. Better contacts for me would be great for finding my phone in a dimly lit movie theater. Imagine what it can do for a Major League player facing moving 92 mph fastballs and devastating breaking pitches.

Pham, in a small serving of 52 games and 173 plate appearances, compiled a .347 on base percentage and .477 slugging percentage. He did that with average less than great vision. What happens when he throws a Prius on his eyeballs in 2016? Good things.

In order to counter act the health issues, especially in his legs, Pham saw a dietitian who told him to engulf a few more vegetables. A classic steak and meat lover in Pham made a switch to his diet plan and that could lengthen his career or at least make him more viable in 2016 and 2017. It’s crazy what more bell peppers can do for a man’s swing.

Whenever you mention Pham’s name in a crowd of Cards fans, they immediately admit his potential but frown upon the fact that he can’t stay healthy. Pham hasn’t stay healthy for a full season in quite some time. Imagine a movie theater that is going to show a popular show that should delight an entire audience and the projector keeps breaking after 30-45 minutes. It’s not disappointing. It’s underwhelming.

Something will go wrong in 2016 for the Cardinals. Randal Grichuk or Matt Holliday will get hurt. It’s a proven thing for this club to encounter bumps in the road medically. When that happens, Pham will be enlisted. Stephen Piscotty will be playing right field and Brandon Moss will be battling Matt Adams for first base starts. Pham is going to get his shot to prove to Cardinals fans that he can be the centerfielder they pine for. He can be the outfield secret weapon they called for.

Next: Piscotty will be a force in 2016

Steamers at Fangraphs has Pham playing in 69 games and getting 302 at bats, hitting .265 and slugging .405 with six home runs and 30 RBI. That’s a rough projection because it’s unclear how much Pham will play because he doesn’t have a defined role. He’s a 4th outfielder if you classify Moss as first base help only. For the Cardinals sake, let’s hope Pham gets in some action.

Whether it’s a late game replacement or pinch hit or a string of starts, Pham’s versatility can add a lot to the Cards in 2016. It could finally be his time.

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