The 2017 Cardinals outfield was, in a word, erratic. On second thought, perhaps that phrase, although true, is a little too positive. The most accurate description of the Cardinals’ 2017 outfield is probably the same description we could give the team: good at times, but overall disappointing. I don’t meant to imply there were no standouts, there always are. However, it is as fair to say that the Cardinals most outstanding player was an outfielder as it is to say that the Cardinals most disappointing player was an outfielder.
Nevertheless, here are the grades for the 2017 outfielder. No, Matt Adams was not included in this list. Although Jose Martinez nearly split his time between outfield and first base, he spent slightly more innings in the outfield and is therefore considered in this piece. The names are in alphabetical order and the grades follow. Please note: the grades reflect performance at the MLB level.
The 100th overall pick from the 2015 draft finally made his debut this year. After going 6 for his first 16, the rookie cooled of dramatically and never really got it going again outside of a five day stretch during which he hit all three of his MLB home runs. Although Bader was named prospect of the year just last week, he never saw consistent playing time in St. Louis—as he was and will continue to be just one of a plethora of talented outfielders in the organization. He ended the season with a .283 OBP and a strikeout rate of 26.1%. GRADE: C
Despite the general frustration directed toward Fowler (and the recent clubhouse commotion), the first year Cardinal had a very good year. He posted a wRC+ of 121 and a WAR of 2.7. While it would have behoved the team if he could have stayed healthy enough to play in more than 75% of the games, he contributed greatly to the limited success the Cardinals achieved. He was not as consistent of a player as he was with the Cubs a year ago, but he brought a strong presence to the top of the lineup, posting a .363 OBP and blasting 18 home runs. GRADE: A-
The pattern with Grichuk seems obvious at this point. When he is hot, he can carry a team. Otherwise, he is a bat in the middle of the lineup good for at least two strikeouts a game. He gave the Cardinals a much needed boost at the beginning of the season, but was demoted to single A at one point during the year. Eventually he would make his return, hit a couple home runs and then be demoted a few weeks later after a considerable slump. The answer to whether or not he can be a piece the Cardinals want to build around moving forward is assuredly a no at this point. Still, he was able to hit 22 home runs. GRADE: C
Jose Martinez would have been the greatest story of this year’s team if not for a man named Tommy Pham. But we must not skip over Martinez’s performance. In only 300 plate appearances (a full season is 600), he drove in 46 and scored 47 runs. His wRC+ of 135 is unbelievable and second on the team to only Pham, who was a legitimate top 10 player in the league this year, despite playing only 3⁄4 of a season. Back to Martinez, who was clearly a superb replacement for both Grichuk and Piscotty when they went down, and performed well enough to become an everyday player by season’s end. GRADE: A-
Much has been written about the success of this man in 2017. And what more can be said, really? He was two homers shy of joining the 25-25 club. He hit above .300, his on-base percentage was above .400, and he slugged above .500. In addition, he provided more value in fewer games than superstar Paul Goldschmidt. GRADE: A+
Piscotty is probably the largest disappointment in the 2017 Cardinals outfield. We must first note the incredible mental burden of Piscotty’s mother being diagnosed with ALS as an extremely significant factor in his season. At the very beginning of the 2017 season, the Cardinals signed Piscotty to a 6 year contract extension worth almost $35 million. He would go on to hit just .235 in just over 100 games with the big league club. Coming off tremendous 2015 and 2016 years, 2017 was certainly a step back for the 26 year old out of Stanford. GRADE: D
Sierra brought an energy to the MLB club that was not only exciting, but very much needed. Although he doesn't have the stats, or the longevity, to merit a high grade for this list—his wRC+ was just 86 and he was by definition no better than a replacement level player—his speed gave the team an immediate boost. GRADE: C+
If the Cardinals wanted to use this list to construct their outfield for next season, it would be Fowler in left, Pham in center, and Martinez in right. While this probably won’t happen, it should provide hope that the organization has outfielders who have proven themselves at the highest level. It should also, in theory, allow them to trade a few of the many prospects they have accumulated for an all-star type player.