When Jason Heyward left for the Chicago Cubs, I was certain that it would mean that general manager John Mozeliak would take that money and spend it on a big bat like Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes. But in true Mozeliak fashion, that just wasn’t the case. Looking ahead to 2016, the Cardinals are putting all their eggs in one basket with a pair of young outfielders.
LF: Matt Holliday
Matt Holliday returns from the quad injuries that hampered him last season. It will be interesting to see if Holliday can bounce back after playing in less than 121 games for the first time in his career. I believe he will. Holliday not only has something to prove to the critics, but to the Cardinals as well.
After this season, St. Louis has a $17M team option that they can either pick up to keep Holliday or opt for a $1M buyout to let him hit free agency. Holliday stated this week that he hopes to retire with the Cardinals, but he will have to earn that right with a solid bounce back season for the Cardinals to give him that opportunity.
If he can stay healthy I expect Holliday to put up some solid numbers. How about his first 25-plus homer season for the Cardinals since 2012? That might be enough to keep him in St. Louis. We’ll see.
CF: Randal Grichuk
Randal Grichuk will take over as the everyday center fielder for the Cardinals in 2016. Last season he proved that his power potential is real by swatting 17 homers in just 323 at bats. The big question is if he can stay healthy.
Grichuk has displayed throughout the minors and again last season with his arm injury, to be a bit injury prone. But if he can stay healthy this season, the 24-year old can be one of the most dynamic hitters this Cardinals’ offense has, and the team needs him to be after electing not to sign that big bat in the offseason.
Grichuk’s greatest struggle is with the strikeouts. He struck out 110 times last season or 31.4 percent of the time. That’s where he will have to make strides in his first full season as a starter. But if he can stay healthy, I believe Grichuk can be the first Cardinals hitter to eclipse 30 homers in a season since Carlos Beltran did it back in 2012.
RF: Stephen Piscotty
Stephen Piscotty opened a lot of eyes last season when he came up and hit .305 with 7 homers, 15 doubles, 4 triples, and 39 RBI in just 63 games. Eyes opened even wider when the 25-year old blasted three homers in the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs.
Piscotty can flat out hit. With all the hype surrounding Grichuk, let’s not forget a guy who already looks like a veteran when he steps up to the plate — cool, calm and collected. I said it earlier in the offseason, but Piscotty will be an offensive staple for the Cardinals for years to come.
Piscotty really didn’t have too many slumps in his brief taste of the majors last year, though. So, I’ll want to see if he can handle the grind of a 162-game season. The Cardinals are banking on it. I am, too. I expect big things from the Stanford product. I project Piscotty for a .280/.360/.477 line with 21 homers and 85 RBI in his first full season.
Next: The Starting Rotation