St. Louis Cardinals: Bader beats out Grichuk for fourth OF spot
By Larry Levin
My colleague Frank at Redbird Rants has penned a piece about why Randal Grichuk ought be the fourth outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018. Allow me to offer an alternate perspective, namely, that Harrison Bader ought occupy that spot in the coming season.
The St. Louis Cardinals have done a bit to eliminate the outfield glut in their system, having traded away both Stephen Piscotty and Magneuris Sierra in trades this offseason. The latter deal produced the All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who along with veteran Dexter Fowler and breakout Tommy Pham will surely comprise the starting outfield complement.
So then the question remains, who will fill the backup spots? Or should we say spot, singular? With Jose Martinez surely on the team absent being traded, the Redbirds have a player who can float between backup-first-baseman and corner outfielder (albeit not the finest of fielders).
So it is entirely possible that the team could find itself satisfied with four others besides the starters and Martinez, leaving a single slot for the remainder of the organization’s outfield talent.
So how does one choose, then? Obviously, if there’s a deal that includes either Randal Grichuk or Harrison Bader, the choice becomes easier.
At that point, the remaining guy only has to outperform the remaining crop of talented minor leaguers, and while they will indeed be considered at some point, I’m keeping this analysis focused on why Bader ought beat out Grich for the fourth spot.
This is not an easy call, not even close to an easy call. Each of the two has his own complement of skills and potentials that could assist the team in different ways.
Grichuk, at this point in his career, is- in my opinion- a fairly known commodity. For three of his four years with time in the bigs, he has proven a low on-base, high-power profile. He has good speed and he can fill all three outfield positions competently, even at an above-average level.
Bader showed a bit in his first appearance at the major-league level in 2017. And by a bit, I’m likely exaggerating. In 92 plate appearances, he had a dismal .283 OBP and a lackluster .376 SLG. But he did show a great deal of speed on the base paths which suggested promise for the future.
But what impresses me about Bader over Grich is not the former’s short stint with the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals, it is his very consistent ability to get on base. In 1,254 PAs, Bader has gotten on base at a .346 clip. And after the one time he was subpar on this front, in Memphis during the 2016 campaign, he got his 2017 AAA OBP up to .347.
Why is this important? Because the choice between Bader and Grichuk comes down to who you would prefer on your bench, someone who can be a regular on base, or someone who can supply a great deal of clout.
The answer really depends on the composition of your team more than anything else. And for the Cards, I would choose Bader and his getting-on skills versus Grichuk and his mashing ones.
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Why? Two reasons. First and foremost, the starting lineup is replete with guys who can mash. Five starters had over 20 dingers apiece, and eight players had more than 14 homers. Add Ozuna into that mix and you can count on another 25-35 home runs, fairly conservatively.
Martinez, who mashed 14 HRs in only 272 ABs, already occupies one of the bench spots, so he can be counted on for right handed pop, and with a far better OBP than Grichuk’s lowly .285. That figure is not an anomaly for Randal; only once in his four years has he exceeded it.
So what Bader brings is a complement to the long ball, and not even at the expense of power, as he slammed 20 homers in 431 Memphis at-bats contrasted with Grichuk’s 22 in St. Louis in 412. Is Grichuk likely to hit more homers than Bader? Without a doubt, but is the 60-point spread in on-base skills worth it? In my humble opinion, not so much.
I think Grichuk will find a home somewhere in the majors in 2018, as he is a valuable component of a club’s success, given his power, speed, and defense. But to have, say, two thirds of his power in Bader, with a vastly superior ability to start a rally or continue one, I have to go with Harrison as my choice between the two, for this particular team.
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So in other words, I wish that Grich gets traded, hopefully for a useful piece like Alex Colome. If not, in the meantime, we’ll watch these two young men duke it out for a spot on the Cards’ roster.