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How Stephen Piscotty's start to his career compares with his contemporaries

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Stephen Piscotty has quietly picked up right where he left off in 2015, and as a result his young career stacks up very well with some of baseball's best.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Hazelbaker and Aledmys Diaz were arguably the two biggest stories on the offensive side of the ball for the Cardinals in the early going. Hazelbaker, the feel-good story for anyone who dreamed of still breaking through to the show as they approached their 29th year on Earth, exploded out of the gate and hit .317/.357/.683 with a 168 wRC+ in 71 plate appearances in the month of April. Diaz, meanwhile, managed to one-up Hazelbaker in April, and nearly everyone else in baseball, with a video game line of .423/.453/.732 and a 216 WRC+ in 75 plate appearances. Since, Hazelbaker has faded (.200/.250/.400 with a 72 wRC+ in 32 plate appearances for the month of May) while Diaz continues to show impressive comfort at the plate for a guy who only saw just north of 50 plate appearances at Memphis before this year.

Through it all -€” and this is not likely a revelation to the type who reads VEB but possibly is to much of the baseball world at large -€” Stephen Piscotty is sneakily putting up very good numbers. Following last night's 2-0 win over the Rockies, in which Piscotty went 3 for 4, he is hitting .318/.378/.497 with a 138 wRC+ in 172 plate appearances. Piscotty has nearly replicated his numbers from 2015 and for his career is now hitting .310/.367/.495 with a 135 wRC+ and an fWAR of 2.3 in 428 career plate appearances. That's from a total of 102 games played - not a full season's worth or too large a sample but one that will allow me to segue to this next irrelevant paragraph.

President Franklin Roosevelt coined the term "first 100 days" in a radio address in 1933 and the sample has since been used as a way to judge a presidential administration in its infancy. It's ridiculous that pundits try to glean anything too important from such a small period of time when it represents about 1/29th of the time spent in office by a two-term president. But with that setup let's compare Piscotty to some of his contemporaries after their first 102 games (yeah, the timing didn't quite work out for the nice, clean 100) in MLB.

First, going back to 2006 (the last ten seasons) here are the ten players with the top seasons by fWAR:

  1. Mike Trout - 10.5 (2013)
  2. Mike Trout - 10.3 (2012)
  3. Alex Rodriguez - 9.6 (2007)
  4. Bryce Harper - 9.5 (2015)
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury - 9.4 (2011)
  6. Mike Trout 9.0 (2015)
  7. Josh Donaldson - 8.7 (2015)
  8. Albert Pujols - 8.7 (2008)
  9. Ben Zobrist - 8.6 (2009)
  10. Andrew McCutchen - 8.4 (2013)
  11. Albert Pujols - 8.4 (2009)
  12. Josh Hamilton - 8.4 (2010)
  13. David Wright - 8.4 (2010)

Here's how they compare with Piscotty after the first 102 games of their careers as sorted by wRC+:

Player

Year(s)

PA

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

1

Pujols

'01

426

9.6%

13.6%

.276

.317

.319

.393

.595

152

2

Trout

'11-‘12

417

7.9%

20.9%

.201

.354

.305

.362

.505

141

3

Piscotty

'15-‘16

428

7.7%

20.6%

.185

.373

.310

.367

.495

135

4

Hamilton

'11-‘12

392

9.4%

18.1%

.266

.304

.289

.362

.555

129

5

Wright

'04-‘05

415

8.2%

16.1%

.231

.294

.282

.347

.512

124

6

McCutchen

'09

466

10.1%

16.3%

.186

.322

.286

.358

.472

120

7

Ellsbury

'07-‘08

406

8.9%

12.6%

.131

.328

.301

.366

.432

109

8

Harper

'12

445

9.7%

20.9%

.167

.296

.250

.323

.417

101

9

Rodriguez

'94-‘96

367

4.9%

24.3%

.210

.335

.280

.313

.490

99

10

Donaldson

'10-‘13

382

5.2%

20.7%

.157

.271

.236

.285

.393

87

11

Zobrist

'06-‘08

368

4.9%

16.8%

.109

.229

.206

.247

.316

42

Not everyone is Albert Pujols. A lot of players, as evidenced by Zobrist and Donaldson, take a few years to hit their stride. So let's compare Piscotty's first 102 games to players whose careers got off to notably hot starts.

Here are the top ten seasons by fWAR for rookies going back to 2006:

  1. Mike Trout - 10.3 (2012)
  2. Kris Bryant - 6.5 (2015)
  3. Evan Longoria - 5.6 (2008)
  4. Jose Abreu - 5.3 (2014)
  5. Troy Tulowitzki - 5.2 (2007)
  6. Matt Duffy - 4.9 (2015)
  7. Jason Heyward - 4.7 (2010)
  8. Francisco Lindor - 4.6 (2015)
  9. Bryce Harper - 4.6 (2012)
  10. Hanley Ramirez - 4.4 (2006)

Again, here's how they compare with Piscotty after the first 102 games of their careers as sorted by wRC+:

Player

Year(s)

PA

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

1

Abreu

'14

440

7.0%

22.0%

.310

.326

.302

.361

.612

167

2

Trout

'11-‘12

417

7.9%

20.9%

.201

.354

.305

.362

.505

141

3

Piscotty

'15-‘16

428

7.7%

20.6%

.185

.373

.310

.367

.495

135

4

Longoria

'08

427

10.1%

23.2%

.259

.312

.275

.349

.535

131

5

Bryant

’15

441

13.6%

30.2%

.192

.345

.252

.363

.444

124

6

Lindor

’15-‘16

451

6.2%

16.0%

.164

.351

.313

.354

.478

128

7

Heyward

'10

439

13.7%

21.4%

.176

.308

.254

.367

.430

118

8

Duffy

’15

318

4.1%

19.5%

.149

.336

.285

.327

.434

116

9

Harper

'12

445

9.7%

20.9%

.167

.296

.250

.323

.417

101

10

Ramirez

'05-‘06

440

8.9%

19.5%

.154

.313

.261

.332

.415

96

11

Tulowitzki

’06-‘07

439

9.3%

21.0%

.121

.331

.269

.346

.390

82

Once again, Piscotty's numbers stack up very well.

This is meant to be nothing more than a fun exercise, and any inference that Piscotty will one day be wreaking havoc on the league like say Bryce Harper should not be implied. For one, Piscotty still maintains a very high batting average on balls in play, and FanGraphs will tell you that the best hitters in the league will stabilize around .350. Furthermore, every single player above save for Abreu (who defected from Cuba in 2013) was younger than Piscotty when they made their MLB debut and didn't have the arguable advantage of years of careful development in the minors.

Still, from my anecdotal eye, I'm not sure Piscotty has gotten the attention in baseball he deserves. That could be a product of a loaded rookie class in 2015 (as evidenced above) or because his 102 games of production have been stretched over the course of two seasons. But so far he's been a valuable contributor to the Cardinals since day one and hopefully his early stats offer a fair reflection of the many years to come.