While running out a grounder over the weekend, Brandon Moss came up a bit gingerly crossing the bag. The incident did not look too bad at the time, but apparently it was worse than initially thought. Moss is heading to the 15 day disabled list due to an ankle injury. Randal Grichuk, sent down to work on his approach in the minors, will return to the Cardinals.
Brandon Moss has been the best hitter on the Cardinals not named Matt Carpenter all season long. Despite not having enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, Moss leads the Cardinals with 17 homers. His line of .251/.340/.562 earned him a wRC+ of 137, second on the team to Carpenter for hitters with at least 200 plate appearances. Moss had been hitting so well that Mike Matheny had been playing him everyday either at first base or in the outfield, against both left-handers and right-handers.
The injury is certainly a blow for the Cardinals offense, although with the upcoming All-Star Break, hopefully the move is more precautionary than necessary. With the All-Star Break, Moss could conceivably miss just 10 games. While Moss going down is unfortunate, it will give the Cardinals another chance to see if Randal Grichuk has figured anything out in the minors.
Grichuk was handed the starting center fielder position out of the gate this season and many pundits had him tabbed as a breakout player after a good showing in 2015 that saw him hit 17 homers and a wRC+ of 137 (oddly Moss’ numbers right now—see above).
The criticisms of Grichuk last season included a low walk rate coupled with a high strikeout rate, and Grichuk improved those numbers this season, up to 8% walk rate and down to a 24% strikeout rate. Unfortunately, Grichuk’s power seemed to dissipate as well with his ISO losing 100 points down to .186 (which isn’t actually terrible). But with power as his calling card and a .238 BABIP, Grichuk’s wRC+ was a poor 78 and he was sent down to the minors a few weeks ago.
In Memphis, Grichuk got just 50 plate appearances, but he did hit five homers, albeit with just one walk. Presumably, Grichuk will see time in center field on his return to St. Louis, but how the rest of the lineup will play is not quite as clear.
Against left-handed pitchers, Jedd Gyorko had been seeing time at first base with Carpenter at second base. Kolten Wong had been seeing time in the outfield, mainly against righties. Mike Matheny could use Moss’ injury to restore Wong to second base and let Carpenter play first base when Matt Adams is not in the lineup. Matt Holliday could move back to first base against lefties and allow both Grichuk and Pham to play the outfield like the team did Opening Day.
The Cardinals still have a lot of depth despite the loss of Moss and calling up a talented player like Grichuk is evidence of that. Players are still going to have trouble finding their name in the lineup regularly if they don’t hit, as is the method Mike Matheny uses to dole out starts to non-established players. Wong would appear particularly vulnerable. The loss of Moss is not a welcome one, but it does provide Grichuk with an opportunity to regain his footing at the big league level.