2014 was supposed to be Stephen Piscotty’s coming out party for the St. Louis Cardinals. The 2012 supplemental first-rounder was coming off of a season in which he played at two different levels (A-Advanced and Double-A) as well in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. In 2013, Piscotty combined to hit 16 home runs over 135 games and finished the season with an impressive wRC+ of 158 in Arizona.
Instead, 2014 turned out to a bit of a letdown year for Piscotty as his numbers dropped in many categories. In the same number of games, his home runs dropped to just nine and his wRC+ was an average 100. Piscotty’s batting average and on base percentage set new professional lows. Cardinals fans were supposed to see the California native finally make the major league club at some point, but that did not happen as he was passed over in favor of fellow outfielders Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham.
Coming into 2015, Piscotty wanted to make only minor adjustments at the plate. About a month ago, he told TCN’s Brian Walton that he wanted to just “hit the ball harder,” and if you look deeply into the 24-year-old’s stats through his first 44 minor league games this season, you will notice that he is doing exactly that.
On May 27th, Piscotty launched his seventh home run of the season. He did not hit his seventh home run of 2014 until August 1st. His total of 13 doubles is good for a tie for seventh in the Pacific Coast League and puts him on a 162-game pace for 52. His .228 ISO (isolated power) is over 100 points higher than his 2014 total of .118.
It is fair to say that the outfielder is hitting the ball harder as he said he wants to do, but has he made changes to his batting stance? I will let you decide.
The first video is of Piscotty hitting a home run in May of 2014.
Notice that he barely lifts his front leg. He basically rotates it a little before his swing. The next video shows a little bit more movement with his leg. It may not seem like much (and it may not be), but it could be assisting in his increased power. Also notice that in 2015, it appears he is standing taller at the plate.
There has been some concern that Piscotty’s contact rates are lower and his strikeout numbers have increased. His K% went from 11% in 2014 to 17.9% this season. With that said, the right-handed hitter’s walk rate has improved from 7.7% in 2014 to 12.6% in 2015, which puts his BB/K at 0.71, nearly identical to 2014.
Piscotty’s batting average has dipped to .235 this season, down from .288 in 2014, which was his previous career low. A .252 BABIP (batting average of balls put in play) likely explains the low AVG and with his career BABIPs around .300, we can safely assume his .235 batting average will rise and probably settle in the .270/.280 range when the season is over.
In conclusion, Piscotty has made the necessary adjustments to be a major league-caliber outfielder this season. He is hitting the ball harder and has increased his overall worth as a hitter (100 wRC+ last year to 113 so far this year).
These next few months will go a long way in deciding Piscotty’s future with the St. Louis Cardinals. The team has an expiring contract in right field and one has to wonder if they would be fine with Piscotty taking over the reins in right if the organization and Jason Heyward cannot agree on a long term contract.
Piscotty is doing what he can this season to make that a tough decision for the Cardinals.
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John Nagel can be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow John on Twitter @CardinalsFarm.
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