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Can Xavier Scruggs help power the Cardinals down the stretch?

As Joe alluded to a few days ago, Xavier Scruggs is literally crushing PCL pitching the last couple of months. Can he be any kind of spark for the Cardinal offense come September?

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this season I had this to say about Xavier Scruggs in his Other 15 profile:

There's one fact we know for certain heading into 2014: Xavier Scruggs can mash AA pitching. He's spent the better part of his minor league career in the Texas League where he's compiled an overall line of .242/.351/.470 in 1190 PA's, including 59 homers -- which is impressive, even when you consider his age relative to league.

Starting 1B for Memphis, possibly seeing time at 3B and LF if he's at all in consideration for a utility spot later in the year. Striking out a ton, walking more than most, and hitting the occasional big fly -- that's been his M.O. throughout the minors and I expect to see more of the same in 2014.

The really interesting aspect to Scruggs' season is how much he's reduced his strikeout rate this year compared to his career rate in the minors.  Coming into the season, the former Runnin' Rebel had struck out in just under 29% of his plate appearances overall, and just over 30% in over 1000 PA's in AA where he spent much of the last two seasons.

This year?  He's reduced that to just 22%, over a 10 point reduction from his breakout season a year ago in the Texas League.

In the month of August, Scruggs has absolutely owned the PCL, hitting .348/.422/.697 for the month to date in just over 100 PA's. That's a 1.119 OPS, a .349 ISO and a .474 wOBA. Not only that, but his strikeout rate over those 100 PA's is lower as well, down to just under 20% since the AAA All Star Break in mid-July.

That line is eerily similar to his overall line against left handed hitters on the season: .328/.387/.656, with a .328 ISO and a .450 wOBA, and that's the role that's most likely to help the Cardinals in the pennant race in September.

Currently, here are the right handed bench players for the Cardinals on any given night and their respective ISO's compared to Scruggs' projected MLB ISO (via Oliver) for the remainder of 2014:

Player ISO
Mark Ellis .036
Tony Cruz .043
Peter Bourjos .132
Xavier Scruggs


As you can see, Scruggs adds a significant amount of power to a Cardinal bench that's currently void of it. Tommy Pham might be able to add some too (projected MLB ISO = .137) but it's pretty clear the Cardinals have a need there and both Pham and Scruggs seem like the right guys to fill it, with Pham having somewhat of an inside track given his outfield utility on defense.

Scruggs, of course, hasn't played any position besides first base since he left college in Las Vegas and turned pro. although he did play a bit of third base and outfield in college. That's somewhat of an issue with Matt Adams holding down the first base bag in St. Louis and doing so in impressive fashion.  But while Big City has certainly "f***ed that shift" a lot this season, he's still less than effective against left handed pitching, hitting just .225/.245/.371 for a 68 wRC+ against lefties on the year.

That's where Scruggs can add some serious punch to the lineup: Against left handed starters and as a power bat against lefty relievers late in games. Given his ability to hit a fastball, setting him up against late inning relievers with gas sounds like a winning proposition as well.

How much is he likely to be worth in limited playing time?  Probably not much, certainly less than half a win per fWAR.  But if he can swing just a couple of games with a big hit off the bench or a big fly against a lefty starter, that might be enough in a close race.

Here's hoping Xavier Scruggs gets his shot. He's certainly earned it.