Tommy Pham is an enigma. He's a toolshed of an outfielder. He can play center, he can steal bases and he can hit for occasional power. But, he can't stay healthy and he hasn't yet put all of his tools together into true production and has shown only flashes of what he is capable of. This year might just be that year where Pham combines his tools and can stay healthy for a full season.
Tommy Pham is already 25, but he has been in the Cardinals system for what seems like an eternity since the Cardinals drafted him out of high school as a shortstop/pitcher in the 16th round all the way back in 2006. If anything, that is a testament to Pham's determination and his talent as plenty of players the Cardinals drafted in 2006 have washed out already. To put how long ago this draft was in perspective, the best Cardinals draftees from that draft are Chris Perez, Jon Jay, Allen Craig and Luke Gregerson.
Pham did not really jump onto the map until 2010, when he was promoted midseason to Springfield as a 22 year old and he OPS'ed .966 in 38 games. Here is azruavatar's observations on Pham from 2010. He returned to centerfield in Springfield the next year but his season was cut short in June after 40 games with a hand injury suffered while taking a swing. He was playing reasonably well with an .895 OPS and a solid 10.9% walk rate. He was even rated the Cardinals 20th best prospect by John Sickels at Minor League Ball before the 2012 season.
20) Tommy Pham, OF, Grade C+ : Has always had the tools and was putting them together in Double-A before stopped by injury. Career .314/.398/.527 hitter in 264 Double-A at-bats.
Pham's 2012 started back in Springfield again, and he was playing although fighting through a shoulder injury that was bothering him in Spring Training. He lasted only 12 games in 2012 after re-injuring his shoulder diving back to first base on a pick off. His numbers seem to indicate that he was attempting to play through the injury with no stolen base attempts and a huge K rate of 44% and a .515 OPS.
At this point in the story, Pham's story looks like so many others: a potentially successful baseball career that is derailed by injury. Pham was exposed to the Rule 5 draft this offseason and went unclaimed, most likely due to his injury problems. But, the Cardinals were happy to hold on to Pham and he returned to Springfield again in 2013 and is by all accounts healthy and proving his ability. In the first 12 games (which is the same number of games in played in his injury plagued 2012) he is OPS'ing 1.102 with a scalding 20.6% of balls in play hit for line drives. His balls in play are generating some luck within his numbers, but he's helping himself with a lot of line drives and his speed is helping his numbers with 5 triples.
The Cardinals would be lying if they knew what to expect from Pham in the future, but so far he's showing that he should be put back on the map. He's blocked in front of him by Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson, but with his tools, he could prove to be better than both in the long term.