The Memphis Redbirds entered the 2014 season with an air of excitement around the team’s top prospect outfield trio of Oscar Taveras, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, but when it came time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Year for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate, the decision was narrowed down to a first baseman and an outfielder outside of that group of three.
Veteran outfielder Tommy Pham finished the season as the Redbirds’ most consistent hitter, logging a batting average of .324 and an OPS of .886 — both numbers team-highs. But despite the consistency at the plate, the hits did not frequently materialize into scoring opportunities. In 104 games played for Memphis, Pham hit only 16 doubles, 10 home runs, scored 63 and had just 44 RBI.
Early on in the season, Pham saw few at bats due to the heavy competition in the Memphis outfield and a rough start at the plate. The right-handed hitter got things going in May with 19 hits in 48 plate appearances for a batting average of .396, and thereafter began to see his playing time increase.
While his production never again reached such astronomical levels, Pham did not have a significant drop-off in productivity with the increased workload. The 26-year-old hit .343 in June and .380 in July. In August, he saw more at bats than in any other month, and still managed a .308 average in his 120 appearances at the plate.
Our other Player of the Year finalist, first baseman Xavier Scruggs, was not quite as hot from the plate as Pham throughout the year, but was significantly more impactful in run production.
Scruggs drove in 87 runs on the season — nearly double Pham’s total — and also smashed 21 home runs and 29 doubles. The first baseman’s batting average clocked in at a lower .286, but his OPS of .864 shows that on a per at-bat level, Scruggs was nearly as effective as his outfield counterpart. That in combination with the dramatic difference in RBI gave the right-handed infielder a legitimate case for the award.
Throughout the season, Scruggs continued to improve from month-to-month. He had a forgettable April to the tune of a .207 batting average and nine RBI, but turned around to recover nicely with .278 average in May. He continued his solid play in June and July with averages of .282 and .283, respectively.
Scruggs then went on a tear in August, exploding for eight home runs, 28 RBI and a .345 batting average to close the season strongly and help push the Redbirds into the playoffs. He was the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week for the period ending August 17 and the system-wide Player of the Month as named by both the Cardinals organization and TCN.
It was a difficult decision, with both players deserving of the honor, but in the end, Scruggs’ Cardinals system-leading 87 RBI was the difference that put him over the top.
Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation’s 2014 Memphis Redbirds Player of the Year, Xavier Scruggs.
Link to master article with all 2014 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. That will include our selections as the system-wide Pitchers and Players of the Year.
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