TCN 2015 Cards Prospect #4: Randal Grichuk

Given a chance to take the right field job, the 23-year-old showed he needs more development time.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: Lamar Consolidated High School, Rosenberg, Texas

2014 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Drafted Round
10 OF 08,13,91 6-1 195 R R 2009 1(LAA)

Selected 2014 stats

Mem 0.259 0.289 436 73 113 23 25 71 28 108 8 0.345 0.311 0.493 0.805
StL 0.245 0.316 110 11 27 6 3 8 5 31 0 0.299 0.278 0.400 0.678

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (3): Randal Grichuk garnered the #3 spot during our community vote. Cardinalnationhouston believes Grichuk to have good defense, power, a strong throwing arm, and base-running ability. Grichuk was heavily favored over Stephen Piscotty due to an assortment of these views.

Scadder21 said that he believes Grichuk is going to be a good overall player if he can even make average contact. TSimmons thinks that Grichuk could be successful in the majors starting right now, at least versus left-handed pitching. Bccran said that after three serious injuries that impeded his development early on, Grichuk is just now starting to display his full potential. CardsInChitown brought up another key point when comparing the top two outfielders in that Grichuk is almost a year younger than Piscotty. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore: Looking back at the trade that brought Grichuk to the Cardinals from the Halos last off-season, the “throw-in” in the trade could contribute more to the Cardinals in the end than Peter Bourjos ever does. However, it is still too early to say, especially now that Bourjos should be fully healthy to show what he can do after an ailing hip slowed him in 2014.

Grichuk has always been known as the high schooler taken one pick before Mike Trout by the Angels who hasn’t quite blossomed into the type of player his draft selection suggests. Then again, it is still early as Grichuk does not turn 25 until this coming August.

In 2014, Grichuk split time between Memphis and St. Louis in several stints. The outfielder had no problem hitting for power at either level but he did struggle to adjust to big-league pitching. That is typical for most players trying to acclimate to the big-leagues. He slugged 25 home runs with 71 RBI and a .259 batting average but he also fanned 108 times in 108 games for Memphis. With St. Louis, he hit .245 with three home runs and eight RBI in 47 games, and added two more homers in nine post-season games.

The book was out on Grichuk early on as MLB pitchers attacked his weakness to recognize and stay back on breaking pitches and off-speed pitches. He will swing early and often, and frequently chases the secondary stuff out the strike zone, which is his Achilles heel.

However, when he remains patient and can get in a good fastball count, he can hit a plus heater as far as anyone and used the whole field at that. Adjusting to big-league breaking and off-speed stuff will be his biggest hurdle and if he is unable to do that consistently, then expect a lot of uncomfortable swings and a pile of strikeouts.

Grichuk is a quality athlete, a player who plays with a reckless abandon. The Cardinals had him patrolling center field a lot in 2014, at times even on the big stage. However, though he does not profile best at that position, he should be able to handle it because of his guts to come in on shallow bloops. Plus, his arm is more than enough to help him prevent runners from taking the extra base. That is why he can play the corner outfield spots substantially better than center.

2015 will be interesting for Grichuk in many ways, as the Cardinals could let him play every day at Memphis to continue to get more defensive reps and better his pitch recognition skills. The only thing is, there is not much left for him to prove at Memphis. Still, he could be forced to go back there because of increasing outfield competition including battling for a spot against Tommy Pham. Having said that, Grichuk will contribute for the Cardinals in some way in 2015.

Brian Walton (5): The community and I disagree here. They see Stephen Piscotty - who is but seven months older, by the way - as a lesser prospect than Grichuk.

I do see Grichuk as having been more accomplished as a Triple-A slugger this past season, but this is not the 2014 Player of the Year competition. At Memphis, Grichuk out-homered and out-slugged Piscotty, but despite his considerable speed, stole fewer bases, as well as walked less and struck out more often than Piscotty.

Grichuk led the entire Cardinals system in home runs with 25, was tied for second in RBI behind teammate Xavier Scruggs with 71 and was fifth in the organization in slugging. In reality, he was a Jeckyl and Hyde player, phenomenal against left-handed pitching, with a 1.100 OPS, but mediocre against right-handers at just .689. That overall success may have initially made Grichuk a bit slow to accept adjustments suggested by coaches that caught up with him later, including sitting back too far on his hip and the placement of his hands.

As good as Grichuk was in Triple-A, we saw on baseball’s biggest stage in the post-season that he is not ready. He looked shaky at times on defense and was brutal at the plate, with a slash line of .174/.191/.343/.537. That included a strikeout rate of over 37 percent to go with a walk rate of under three percent. In all fairness to Grichuk, he was simply over-exposed by his liberal use by the Cardinals in the playoffs.

I am not down on Grichuk, as evidenced by my number five ranking. It is just that I fear that his fundamental problems could be more difficult to correct going forward than are the items on Piscotty’s to-do list.

In the last three seasons as he moved up the ladder, Grichuk’s strikeout rate has been trending hard in the wrong direction:

2012: 17.1 percent
2013: 18.4 percent
2014 (Memphis): 24.8 percent
2014 (St. Louis): 30.3 percent

It seems pretty clear to me that if the Cardinals think Grichuk can become a productive Major Leaguer and be more than a lefty-masher, he would benefit most with more time to work on his game at Triple-A. The best move long-term might be for Tommy Pham, older and a lesser prospect but still a good player, to be the fifth outfielder in St. Louis to open the season. That would give Grichuk more development time at Memphis and hopefully he would return as a better-rounded player.

Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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