It is no surprise that General Manager John Mozeliak, new Director of Scouting Chris Correa, and the St. Louis Cardinals have been doing their "due diligence" on a possible right-handed-hitting platoon partner for Matt Adams (and/or a serviceable backup to Kolten Wong) while at the winter meetings in San Diego, California. However, in the meantime, it has been reported by the ever-reliable Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that the organization has also had internal discussions about Stephen Piscotty, drafted in the 2012 amateur draft as a "third baseman," getting some time at first base with the big league club:
In my opinion, Piscotty is the number two prospect in the entire organization (behind RHP Alex Reyes, who I am "giddy" about), so there is a lot to get excited about here. Statistically, he was an average hitter at Triple-A last season (wRC+ of 100), but with it being just his second full season as a professional, this is not all that surprising. His premium minor league contact rates (85.4% overall) provide backing to his status as the "best pure hitter" of the 2012 Cardinals draft class. Also, with a limited sample size available, there doesn't seem to be too much of a platoon split except for the fact that he has hit for more power against righties thus far:
Thus, any time one can talk about an organization's top prospect possibly being given the opportunity to make an impact at the big league level, one will rightfully get excited. However, it would be wise to temper one's enthusiasm a bit as all aspects of the possible move are covered. His bat, especially if he's able to add some over-the-fence power (as some scouts believe he will), will fit in just fine, but the fact that Piscotty has infield experience does not necessarily mean it will be a guarantee that he can become an adequate defensive first baseman at the MLB level.
As referenced in MLB.com's pre-draft scouting report, Piscotty was considered a "good defender at third, with an accurate arm, good hands, and decent range." As with many MLB.com scouting reports, though, this classification proved to be quite generous as Piscotty played only 36 games at the position after being drafted (in 2012 with Quad Cities). Footwork issues visibly present in the first 45 seconds of the video embedded below likely contributed to his immediate move to the outfield for the start of 2013.
Now, if no right-handed bench bat is added this offseason, the Cardinals will bank on Piscotty smoothing out any lingering footwork issues at the opposite corner of the infield, a position where footwork is of paramount importance. If the Piscotty experiment doesn't work out, the organization can give Xavier Scruggs a legitimate shot to impress because internally, there really aren't any other choices, since the next closest option is probably Jonathan Rodriguez, who still needs to prove his ability at the Triple-A level.
This idea panning out would clearly be the path of least resistance for the Cardinals in 2015. Signing Kyle Blanks, Corey Hart, Gaby Sanchez, or even Mark Reynolds for one season won't in any way cripple the DeWallet, but all four will cost considerably more than the league minimum that will belong to Piscotty if he makes the 25-man roster. However, such a role will also impact Piscotty's development as a hitter, especially against RHPs since Adams (at 1B) and Jason Heyward (in RF) will receive the bulk of the playing time in these games. Given Piscotty's average hitting numbers in Triple-A last season, it is my opinion that it is in his best developmental interest to get regular at bats early in the 2015 season (which, given the state of the MLB roster, will only come in Memphis).
Don't get me wrong, reports such as this one from Mr. Goold excite me. The possibility of adding a top prospect into the 25-man fold is the culmination of a long, hard process starting years before said player is even drafted. However, I'm not sure it's worth affecting the prospect's development in order to fill a part-time need. Now, if the Cardinals truly believe Piscotty has shown everything he needs to show (in terms of development) at Triple-A and they believe he will be fine defensively at first, I am all about giving him a shot, but honestly I am not so sure about that given his hitting numbers, especially post-All Star break last season, and the fact that he was moved off of third base so quickly after being drafted.