Some expected Randal Grichuk to be the every day left fielder and clean-up hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2017, but right now he is still far from it.
The St. Louis Cardinals optioned Randal Grichuk to single-A Palm Beach on Memorial Day in a move that activated Jose Martinez from the disabled list. Before the move, Grichuk delivered a .222/.276/.377 slash line, a notable setback from his career norms around .249/.298/.476.
Besides improving on these struggles, the larger intent with the assignment was to improve Grichuk’s pitch recognition and strike zone management. Grichuk spent around a week in Florida modifying his offensive presence before moving up to triple-A Memphis, an affiliate in which he has noticed mixed results with so far.
The 25-year-old outfielder came into Saturday riding an eight-game hitting streak and amassing a .292 batting average over his last nine games. He added a two-home run game on June 18, and collected a extra-inning, walk-off single in his first game with Memphis on June 9. Not to mention four of his past ten games have included multi-hit or multi-RBI efforts.
Grichuk’s offensive production itself has not left too many concerns, but the approach to his output still raises more concerns than hopes for a big league resurgence.
With twenty-one strikeouts in sixty-six minor league at-bats and just four walks, Grichuk is not putting the ball in play in nearly one-third of his plate appearances. He was hovering around the 30 percent threshold before his assignment, but the difference here is this exposure was primarily against major league ready pitching.
The lack of improvement in the strikeout department at least may stall the timetable for Grichuk’s return, partially because the St. Louis Cardinals offense has not found much fruition nearly halfway into the season.
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Collectively, St. Louis is in the bottom half of all teams with a .251 batting average (19th), 88 home runs (20th) and 297 RBIs (25th). One factor that has helped them from falling deep into the standings has been the ability to cut down on strikeouts with no players in the top-60 and a slight drop from the 8.14 strikeouts per game rate from 2016.
Grichuk’s situation also becomes tricky with Martinez and Tommy Pham both contributing more than expected, which already crowds an outfield with Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty making offensive improvements in recent road trips.
Outside of the organization’s potent outfield depth, other factors have not necessarily extended Grichuk’s case for a quick return.
He has yet to attempt a stolen base in his minor league stint, which is a bit concerning since he was only caught once on six attempts with St. Louis beforehand. His range factor stands at 2.00 as well, so there hasn’t been much difference with the putout and assist opportunities he had with the St. Louis Cardinals prior to assignment.
Piscotty holds a .250 batting average for the St. Louis Cardinals, yet he is setting a career mark in on base percentage with increased walks. How is that?
Unless an injury arises, it’s unclear when Girchuk’s next chance with the Cardinals or at the big league level may come. There may be some progress in Memphis, but it hasn’t been enough to convince St. Louis for another look yet.