There’s plenty of hype surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals’ center fielder Randal Grichuk. Can he answer the bell in 2016?
When St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak traded Jon Jay to the San Diego Padres and elected not to sign a big bat in free agency after Jason Heyward decided to walk, it showed that the Cardinals have a great deal of faith in outfielder Randal Grichuk.
Part of that faith rides on the back of Grichuk’s rookie season in 2015 when he hit .276 with a .548 slugging percentage, .877 OPS, 17 homers, 7 triples and 23 doubles in just 323 at bats.
This season, Grichuk takes over as the Cardinals everyday center fielder, and he’ll be looked at to provide a lot of power for a Cardinals’ offense that ranked just 25th in homers and 19th in OPS in 2015.
So, what’s the best/worst case scenario for Grichuk?
Best Case: Grichuk goes on a tear
The best case scenario, obviously, for Grichuk is that he goes on an absolute tear and shows that his power is indeed real. I’m not talking 25 or 30 homers, either.
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Instead, a tear that includes 35 homers or more and close to 100 RBI on the season while maintaining a .280/.350/.540 line with a .870 OPS for the right-handed bopper. Add to that 38 doubles and nine triples and you’ve got the makings of a young star for St. Louis.
Now, these are of course the loftiest of projections. But the best case scenario for Grichuk and the Cardinals is that he goes on a tear such as this and proves that he is the guy that can carry this offense into the future. Grichuk showed flashes at times last season that he could be that guy.
Last season, Grichuk performed the best at home hitting .282 with a .577 slugging percentage, .925 OPS and 10 home runs at Busch Stadium. What’s more, when men were on base Grichuk hit .291 with a .646 slugging percentage, 1.009 OPS, nine homers and 39 RBI. It’s easy to dream about what Grichuk can do with a full season of at bats, and he will finally get the chance to show the Cardinals in 2016.
But what is the worst case scenario?
Worst Case: Grichuk pulls a Matt Adams
If 2016 continued to be another injury riddled season for Grichuk it would certainly be awful, but it actually wouldn’t be the worst case scenario.
Remember when Matt Adams hit 17 homers with a .839 OPS in just 296 at bats in 2013? Cardinals fans were hailing the first baseman as possibly the next solid power hitter since Albert Pujols left for L.A. With expectations sky high in 2014, Adams took over the full time first base duties and hit just 15 homers with a .779 OPS in 527 at bats.
To me, the worst scenario that could play out for Grichuk in 2016 is if he completely underwhelms and regresses from the expectations that are in place.
If Grichuk gets a full, healthy season of at bats and hits well under 20 homers with an OPS under .800 it would be a disaster, and it would leave the Cardinals questioning if their young center fielder can really put it all together in the Majors. Not to mention the backlash from Cardinals fans that Mozeliak would endure for not going out and signing a big free agent bat in the offseason.
So, what is my prediction for Grichuk?
My Prediction: Grichuk puts together a promising season
I believe Grichuk will put together a solid first full season for the Cardinals.
The power is real and he will put it on display in 2016 to become the first Cardinals hitter to hit 30 plus homers since Carlos Beltran did it in 2012. I’m writing Grichuk down for a .268/.337/.515 slash line with 31 homers, 91 RBI and a .810 OPS — good enough for his first All Star game appearance.
Now, this is all depending on if Grichuk really is over the arm injury he had last season and can stay healthy for 600 at bats this year. The Cardinals are hoping he can. If so, I believe the Cardinals have a great power bat for many years to come in St. Louis. It’s about time, too. It’s been too long since Cardinals fans have had a dynamic young player that can hit majestic homers the way that Grichuk can.
What do you think? As always, drop me a line on Twitter and comment below on your predictions and expectations for Grichuk this season.