Late Sunday night, the Twitterverse was abuzz over friends of Memphis outfielder Randal Grichuk congratulating the 22-year-old. The news appeared to be his first-ever promotion to the major leagues. Grichuk himself acknowledged the good wishes from tweeting fans. The right-handed hitter is taking the St. Louis roster spot of Shane Robinson, optioned to Triple-A.
The St. Louis Cardinals' second move was an even bigger surprise. Rookie second baseman Kolten Wong was returned to Memphis in favor of middle infielder Greg Garcia, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The 24-year-old, Wong's one-time middle infield partner at the University of Hawaii, will also be making his major league debut.
Struggling with run-scoring in 2014 to date, the Cardinals dropped hitters batting .100 and .225, respectively. Reserve outfielder Robinson had just two singles in 20 at-bats this year after playing with St. Louis during the entire 2013 campaign. Wong, the reigning organizational minor league Player of the Year, is 16-for-71, including a single and a double with St. Louis this season.
At Memphis, Grichuk came into Sunday tied for fifth in the Pacific Coast League in doubles (eight), tied for 14th in total bases (45), tied for ninth in extra-base hits (12), and tied for 13th in runs scored (15). The Texan's line is .310/.351/.529/.880 over his first 21 games at the Triple-A level. Grichuk won a minor league Rawlings Gold Glove for his outfield play at Double-A last season.
Garcia is tied for the PCL lead with three triples, tied for seventh with five home runs, and tied for 11th in total bases (46). His line is .267/.357/.535/.892 in 94 plate appearances over 21 contests. Garcia currently has the longest consecutive road on-base streak in the PCL, reaching base in 35 straight games dating back to August 8th of last season though Sunday.
Both Grichuk and Garcia were already on the Cardinals' 40-man roster, which remains at 39 players currently. They are ranked 10th and 20th, respectively, on The Cardinal Nation's top 40 prospect list for 2014. Garcia will wear uniform nunber 12, while Grichuk has been assigned number 15.
While the departure of Robinson is hardly a surprise, the selection of Grichuk over higher-ranked prospects Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty to replace him has caused some head-scratching. One key reason appears to be Grichuk's ability to play in centerfield, where neither Jon Jay (.268 and so-so defense) nor Peter Bourjos (.163) have impressed. The other explanation may be Grichuk's power bat, an area in which the 2014 Cardinals have been lacking. Opportunity clearly exists if Grichuk is ready to step up. If so, his worst case could be the good side of a platoon with Jay.
The departure of Wong, a consensus top 100 prospect across MLB, is hoped to be a "take one step backward to move two forward" type of move. It also appears to open the every-day job at second to Mark Ellis. However, the veteran is batting a paltry .100 after opening the season on the disabled list due to a knee injury. The arrival of Garcia, who can play second, short or third, would seem to be a better defensive match for struggling Daniel Descalso, also batting just .100. Yet the veteran utility man remains with St. Louis as the rookie Wong is back in Triple-A to fix his swing.
To see the Cardinals' entire system by level and position, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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