Digging into the new names on the St. Louis Cardinals' top minor league prospect list for 2014…
The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Player Profile
(including links to full 2013 and career stats)
School: Lamar Consolidated High School, Texas
Selected 2013 stats
Message board community (10): Randal Grichuk, the only player in the Peter Bourjos/David Freese deal who isn't an established big leaguer, was immediately voted by the Cardinal community into the top 10.
In the weaker Angels system, Grichuk was a top five prospect, known as the player drafted one spot ahead of Mike Trout in the 2009 draft. The Cardinals reportedly eyed Grichuk back on the 2009 draft day so there must have been familiarity during the negotiations between the two clubs when he was acquired.
Obviously, Grichuk hasn't developed in pro ball as quickly as Trout. But he missed significant portions of the 2010 and 2011 seasons due to injuries that include wrist, thumb, and knee problems that limited him to 64 and 53 games, respectively.
He stayed healthy in 2012 and hit .298/.335/.488 with 18 home runs and 30 doubles in the California League, also stealing 16 bases. Then Grichuk moved up to Double-A in the Texas League, hitting .256/.306/.474 with 22 home runs, 28 walks, 92 strikeouts in 500 at-bats, while playing superb defense for the Arkansas Travelers (Angels Double-A affiliate). He received a minor-league Rawlings Gold Glove Award for his play.
When drafted, he was a questionable defensive player with a shaky arm, but his glove has really improved since. Gruchuk is said to be a very good right fielder and has enough speed to play centerfield without embarrassing.
Though he is difficult to walk, Grichuk made tremendous strides in cutting down his strikeouts, which help keep him on the radar. He is a very aggressive hitter who has always been respected for his power. Primarily coming from the pull side, his swing is said to have length to it as he did not hit for a good average against Double-A pitching. Against more advanced pitching, the lack of patience caught up with him but he did knock 22 homers, a feat that will be tougher in Triple-A and the majors.
The Cardinals emphasize plate discipline and patience in their hitters. There is no reason to believe Grichuk cannot improve in those areas. He just needs to hit for enough average as his other tools profile in right field.
Grichuk should join a crowded Memphis outfield in 2014 and get plenty of time before he is ready to make his MLB debut, which could come in 2014 or 2015. - DTFLush234
Brian Walton (10): What more could I say about Grichuk's game than DT has already been said? Further, it took us 31 players in this countdown to finally be in agreement on a ranking, so there is nothing to disagree about there, either.
Well, I do have a couple of extra points to make. For space reasons, I do not include triples in the stats listed for every player above. Usually, it is just a few three-base hits at most. Not so in this case. Grichuk had eight last season, down from nine in 2012. That would have led the entire Cardinals system both years (tied with Kolten Wong in 2013). Grichuk's stolen base counts are more modest – 16 in 2012 and nine last summer.
A man who has seen Grichuk far more than any of us is Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto. "Randal has got skill," Dipoto told MLB.com after the trade was announced on November 22. "He's a talented young player. He's got tools. He's got power. He's a very good defensive player, and he can grow. There is still some growing he needs to do with his approach at the plate and his consistency in the box, but Randal has the upside to play at the Major League level."
The most obvious question is "where?" The outfield is crowded in St. Louis, but even more so at Triple-A Memphis, Grichuk's likely 2014 destination. I find it interesting that the Cardinals are rumored to be targeting Grichuk to play in centerfield for the Redbirds in 2014, his age 22 season.
Given his background, Grichuk the new Cardinal should be given every opportunity to succeed. Then again, his rope may not be unlimited.
At least seven others should come to spring training with a legitimate claim for outfield playing time with the Redbirds. Several, including Tommy Pham, Oscar Taveras and James Ramsey, have also played the centerfield position extensively. Even in the corners, Mike O'Neill, Joey Butler, Chris Swauger and Stephen Piscotty will be competing for precious at-bats. Taveras, O'Neill and Butler already hold 40-man roster spots for which the others are longing.
Grichuk's edge could be his power, an area in which he may hold an advantage over all of the above, except Taveras, perhaps. Too bad Grichuk is probably a year away. A right-handed hitting outfielder with pop would be a welcome addition coming off the bench in St. Louis in 2014.
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