While Marcell Ozuna, Tommy Pham, and Dexter Fowler settle in as the full-time St. Louis Cardinals outfielders, two former Redbirds are attempting to acclimate to their new homes: Randal Grichuk with the Toronto Blue Jays and Stephen Piscotty with the Oakland Athletics. Both were seen as expendable due to a variety of factors but both are now playing virtually every day for their new teams. I wanted to check-in and see how they were performing while the Cardinals outfield is still trying to find its stride.
Grichuk is playing every day in right field for the Blue Jays. They like his defense and his power potential which many fans in St. Louis can relate to. Grichuk has had a rough time early in the season but might be making minor adjustments to change things around. He’s played in 17 games and through 61 plate attempts has batted .094/.197/.245 with 5 runs and 5 RBI. He has also struck out 19 times for a 31.2% K rate while only walking 5 times (8.2%). While those rates are unlikely to change drastically, Grichuk has and will do better as the season goes on. Over his past 5 games, he has 2 walks compared to 6 strikeouts along with a long ball. Also, with the way Toronto is playing (12-5), they can afford to send him out there as an everyday player and count on that hot streak to come. They want him in the lineup for the threat of his power to break out at any moment rather than relying on consistent production. It will be interesting to see if their usage of him changes as the season progresses and potential playoff races become tighter.
Similarly to the St. Louis Cardinals right fielder, Dexter Fowler has also faced his fair share of challenges this season. Fowler is batting .190/.288/.317 and has recorded 11 runs and 6 RBI from the lead-off spot in 73 plate attempts across 16 games. He’s also struck out 16 times but has walked 8 times. Like Grichuk, Fowler may also be making minor adjustments at the plate that are paying off. Over the last five games, Fowler has slashed .278/.381/.444 and has picked up 6 runs, 5 hits, 6 strikeouts, and 3 walks. His performance at the plate is improving and the Cardinals offense is largely built around him getting on base.
Stephen Piscotty, like Grichuk and Fowler, started off slow but it seems like he has everything sorted out at the plate to put together a very strong season. In his first 13 games for Oakland, Piscotty was batting .234/.288/.255 and had only one extra-base hit in 52 plate appearances. He was also striking out almost once a game. However, over the last 5 games, Piscotty is slashing .450/.478/.800 with four doubles, one home run, and six RBI through 23 plate appearances. Oakland is hoping his success continues and that he can return to his 2016 self. Last year was a roller coaster emotionally and physically for Piscotty and he certainly can provide a ton of value for years to come. Oakland has a lot of young talent and Piscotty can serve as a dynamic and effective supplementary piece in their lineup and in the field.
Contrast Piscotty’s recent success to Ozuna who is trending in the opposite direction. Ozuna started the season off very well and hit .313/.313/.417 in his first 11 games and 48 plate appearances. But over his last 5 games and 25 PAs, Ozuna has batted .182/.240/.318. The plus side to Ozuna’s recent performance is his run production hasn’t disappeared (4 RBI in his last 4 games) and he finally earned his first walk of the year in his 15th game. Ozuna’s power is there and certainly going to impact a lot of games this year, but the “Big Bear” is still ironing out the wrinkles early in this 2018 campaign.
Now, don’t be mistaken. Both Ozuna and Fowler are upgrades over Piscotty and Grichuk and the Cardinals currently have an outfield that could be the best in all of baseball. Especially if you consider their depth of Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill. But with Fowler’s slow start and Ozuna’s recent struggles, I was curious how the former corner patrolmen of St. Louis were faring in their new environments. Grichuk looks like the Randal Grichuk that Cardinals fans knew and loved (or hated depending on your view of his performance) and Piscotty looks like he is capable of putting together another strong season similar to his 2016 one. In either case, the Cardinals aren’t missing a whole lot to this point in the season and all four players have potential to do great things and it will be fun to watch and monitor going forward.