Randal Grichuk will be the first St. Louis Cardinals player to swat 35+ home runs since Albert Pujols did in 2011.
Everyone is expecting the St. Louis Cardinals’ power production to decline in 2017, and while it’s unreasonable to expect this year’s team to match last year’s total of 225 long balls, there might be more pop in the lineup than what initially meets the eye.
Yes, Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss are gone. They each hit 20+ home runs in 2016. Jedd Gyorko probably won’t hit thirty dingers again this year. However, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, and Matt Carpenter accounted for more than twenty homers a piece last season and return to the lineup this season as regulars.
What’s impressive about Grichuk’s total of twenty-four home runs is that he played part of the summer in triple-A Memphis, and spent the first half of the season being shuffled in and out of the lineup.
In the last two seasons, Grichuk has swatted forty-one home runs in 769 at-bats. That’s roughly a home run every nineteen at-bats. If he takes 600 at-bats this season at that pace, he’ll hit thirty-two home runs. But that pace is likely to improve if he is starting every day in left field instead of being on a yo-yo between Memphis, the big league bench, and the starting lineup.
Since being traded to the Cardinals after the 2013 season, the Cardinals have gushed about Grichuk’s potential for power. He’s displayed streaks of it in the majors, but again, part of that is due to him being in and out of the lineup. It’s difficult for a major-league hitter to maintain a level of consistency under those circumstances, and even more difficult for a young player who is still developing.
If Grichuk gets a real chance in 2017 and produces, there’s no reason to believe he won’t lead the team in home runs and make a push for the 40-homer plateau.
Piscotty and Carpenter will likely be in the 20-25 home run range again, and Aledmys Diaz, who finished 2017 with seventeen home runs, could eclipse twenty with a full season (he spent a month on the disabled list in 2016).
And while Gyorko probably won’t hit thirty again, could the Gyorko/Jhonny Peralta timeshare at third base combine for more than thirty home runs? Probably. Remember, Peralta missed the better half of the 2016 season but led the team with twenty-one home runs in 2014.
This Cardinals lineup still has the potential for some power production, but what’s exciting is it should also be better suited for extra-base-hits and driving in runs in ways other than relying on the long ball all the time.