The winds of change are blowing in St. Louis. How the St. Louis Cardinals choose to handle their glut of young outfield talent could determine the future of the franchise.
Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty signed long-term deals. Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham are competing for the third outfield spot at the major league level. Jose Martinez is in the mix for the 4th OF spot. Magneuris Sierra has made a strong showing in brief 2017 major league stints. Harrison Bader has raked in AAA. Now, O’Neill is in the mix.
O’Neil slides in as the St. Louis Cardinals’ number four ranked prospect, per MLB.com’s Prospect Watch. That makes him the Cardinals’ top ranked OF prospect, with Bader at seven and Sierra at nine. It gives the Cardinals eight OFs who are either major league ready or pretty close to it.
It seems likely the St. Louis Cardinals will look to flip outfield talent to address other organizational needs. Which outfielders the club chooses to build around should reveal much about the direction the front office intends to take this team for the rest of 2017 and beyond.
I don’t think Fowler or Piscotty are going anywhere because of their contracts and recent performance. I see Jose Martinez as a bench player. I’m going to focus on Grichuk, Pham, Bader, Sierra and O’Neil.
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Pham and Sierra are spark plug type players. They are speedy runners. They get on base. Pham has some power. Sierra has been more of a Punch and Judy type.
Grichuk and O’Neill have both had issues with striking out, with O’Neill striking out about once every 3.6 PA and Grichuk striking out once every 3.25 PA.
The St. Louis Cardinals could signal an attempt to take a more balanced approach to roster construction by going with Bader and/or Pham. Both players have shown potential to hit for both power and average.
Neither is likely to hit forty or fifty dingers, but there’s potential to be aconsistent .280 hitter with 20-30 homers. Honestly, another version of what we hoped Piscotty was going to be in 2017.
The St. Louis Cardinals could go for a Whitey Ball era approach and invest in the speedy Sierra. If he can learn how to swipe bags, he could be a powerful weapon at the top of a lineup. Pair him up with some other speedy players like Pham, Grichuk, Fowler, and/or Wong, the Cardinals could potentially go from a plodding station to station team to a team that can create havoc on the basepaths.
The Cardinals could choose to go back to the power-hitting model that got them within a game of a playoff berth in 2016 by focusing on all-or-nothing hitters like Grichuk and O’Neil.
Finally, the St. Louis Cardinals could take a less risk averse approach and trade their surplus of OF prospects for a proven major league talent, such as perhaps Giancarlo Stanton. Will the Marlins be willing to eat some of that huge contract in order to get a better prospect haul?
Here is what I would do:
I’d attempt to trade Tommy Pham while his value is likely as high as it will be. I love the guy. He has had a great 2017. However, at 29-years-old, I don’t really see him as the kind of player you build around.
I’d also trade Matt Carpenter for the reasons I outlined earlier this week. Carpenter has been an elite hitter in his career, and I think he will be again. That’s what gives him value. I just don’t think he’s the right fit for the St. Louis Cardinals right now.
With Carpenter gone, I’d move Stephen Piscotty to first base and hope he returns to the hitter we all hoped he was going to be in 2017. This opens up two slots in the outfield. I’d fill one slot with Sierra and the other with a proven middle of the order bat.
I’d keep one of the other OF options as the 4th OF and insurance in case Sierra regresses. If they can’t get a good return for Pham, he would be my first choice, because he has already proven himself at the major league level.
I’d use the OF surplus, plus pending free agents Lance Lynn and Seung-Hwan Oh, Carpenter, maybe Jedd Gyorko and/or Paul DeJong plus one or two of our pitching prospects to get that proven OF bat. I’d also like one, maybe two upgrades on the IF, and some bullpen arms.
The end goal would be to assemble a fundamentally sound team with a balanced attack that includes speed, power and the ability to drive in runs.
The St. Louis Cardinals already have starting pitching to build around. They need to shore up the other areas of their game before they end up wasting it.