With Matt Holliday unavailable for the foreseeable future as he recovers from a grade two quad strain, it is time for the St. Louis Cardinals to call up 27-year-old outfielder Tommy Pham from the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. Despite having the best record in baseball (39-21), the team still has its deficiencies, and this was the case even when Holliday was healthy and in the lineup. The most noticeable deficiency can be found in the outfield.
With Holliday on the disabled list, the team is currently carrying four outfielders: Peter Bourjos, Randal Grichuk, Jason Heyward, and Jon Jay. Realistically, there are zero issues with this group's defense as all four are capable of playing center field (and are subsequently really good at corner spots as well), but the offense has been in the bottom tier of the league. Including Holliday's 134, they have combined for a 100 wRC+ up to this point, 19th in baseball. Breaking it down individually:
To be blunt, there is nothing sparkling about the hitting statistics included in this table. Compared to the current Cardinals' infield, the outfield's offense has been incredibly underwhelming thus far. That being said, it is reasonable to believe that the group, as a whole, will improve at the plate as the season progresses, especially Heyward and Jay (if his wrist is healthy, that is). Even with improvement, though, not often does a team carry only four outfielders on the active roster. With Pham seemingly healthy and already on the 40-man, he seems like the perfect candidate to fill in as the fifth outfielder during Holliday's absence.
Of course, with any promotion, there must be a corresponding roster move. Fortunately for Pham, such a move exists. Since being brought up on May 27th (in response to Matt Adams' season-ending quad injury), Ed Easley has been given a grand total of three plate appearances, along with four innings in the field. While I believe Easley's bat is much more of a threat off the bench than both Pete Kozma's and Tony Cruz's, it is clear that manager Mike Matheny does not share this opinion. For perspective, 13 games have been played with Easley on the roster, meaning he has received one plate appearance every four or so games. That does not seem like a wise way to use a roster spot, even if he is being saved for emergency catcher situations.
At this point, many are probably thinking the same thing: Pham, who had been out since injuring his quad in spring training, is only three games into his 2015 season. Give him time to get his timing back before making the drastic move of promoting him to the big leagues. This is a reasonable thought process. Yet, with the Cardinals off until tomorrow night against the Royals, Pham can conveniently get one more game's worth of at bats tonight against the Round Rock Express before making the trip to St. Louis. One of the main reasons I am squarely on the "Tommy Pham-to-St. Louis" train is because of his injury history. Cynical or not, I consider Pham's situation to be very similar to Jaime Garcia's. It has gotten to the point with Pham where, if he is going to get injured again, it might as well occur at the big-league level.
Will Pham come up, produce immediately, and ultimately compete for one of the starting spots in left, center, or right? No, almost certainly not, but given that the 25th man is currently being used once every four games, a roster move seems like a prudent decision. In terms of role, it will be a very fluid situation for Pham. If a particularly tough lefty is on the mound, Matheny could deploy an all-right-handed outfield in Pham, Bourjos, and Grichuk (not saying I agree with this, just that it would be an option). Heck, even if Pham's MLB role is reserved to pinch running late in games, it will be more valuable to the club than playing with essentially 24 men. Of note, two days ago, Pham was successful in his only stolen base attempt, which I take as a good sign regarding the health of his leg.
Call up Tommy Pham.
Other reads: Eric's Future Redbirds Prospect Profile on Pham