St. Louis Cardinals: What to expect from Tommy Pham in 2018

jgrose
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 12: Tommy Pham
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 12: Tommy Pham /
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Tommy Pham had a monster season in 2017, leading the team in most offensive and defensive categories. What can St. Louis Cardinals fans expect from him in 2018?

Tommy Pham was undoubtedly the St. Louis Cardinals‘ best player in 2017. He finished with 6.4 rWAR, tied for 10th in all of baseball. He finished ahead of players like Anthony Rizzo and Corey Seager in MVP voting. Simply put, he was great.

Offensively, he hit .306/.411/.520 for a .931 OPS. He hit 23 home runs and drove in 73 runs. He also added 25 steals on 32 attempts. Overall, he was good for 5.3 BsR (baserunning runs above average), 10th in baseball. This statistic takes into account all things baserunning – steals, taking extra bases, avoiding double-plays, etc.

He also had 11 defensive runs saved (DRS), good for 8th among all outfielders. In DRS, he actually finished ahead of recent Cardinal addition, Marcell Ozuna, who won a Gold Glove in left field last season.

So, Pham hit for a high average, got on base a ton (his .411 OBP was 5th in baseball), hit for power, ran the bases well above-average, and played great defense. What’s there not to like about his game? Last season, he was a true five-tool player.

In all honesty, this type of production came out of nowhere. Pham is a .258/.342/.417 career minor league hitter.

However, most St. Louis Cardinals fans know that Pham suffers from a degenerative eye disease, which you can read more about here. And, although the athleticism was always there, Pham could never put together consistent numbers – mainly because of his vision.

He has finally found the right contacts to wear. Seemingly, this new-found vision clarity led to his hugely successful 2017 season.

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So, what can Cardinals fans expect from Pham in 2018? First and foremost, it’s all but written in stone that he will be the team’s center fielder in 2018 and beyond. He will also hit in the middle of the order. I believe he will open the season as our number three hitter with Fowler hitting second. But, it wouldn’t surprise me to see those two flip flop. His ability to hit for average, hit for power, get on base, and run enables him to be a quality hitter anywhere in the lineup. We all know Matheny likes to use different lineups, so I can see Pham hitting anywhere from first to fifth throughout the year.

Baseball Reference projects Pham to hit .278 with 20 home runs and 60 RBI with a triple slash of .278/.373/.486. According to FanGraphs, Depth Charts projects a .267 average with 20 home runs and 71 RBI and 3.1 WAR. Steamer projections are almost the same.

He’s projected to go from approximately a 6.0 WAR player to a 3.0 WAR player. While some regression is expected, it’s hard for me to believe that he will regress that much. If he stays healthy, I feel like Pham can and should hit around .280-.290 with 20-30 home runs and 80-90 RBI with 25-30 steals.

Pham only played in 128 games last year and was worth 6.4 rWAR. If he can play in 145-155 games with what I think his numbers will be, he will be worth over 6.0 WAR again. I hope I’m right…

Next: Three targets needed to win the winter

On paper, the St. Louis Cardinals have an outstanding outfield. Let’s hope the excitement and potential match the actual output.

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