When Albert Pujols
officially turned down his one-year qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals and their multi-year contract proposals, it gave the club two compensatory picks in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
As many know, the club deployed the first selection, 19th overall, on 2013 post-season star Michael Wacha. The second pick, number 36 that year, was used on Stanford University third baseman Stephen Piscotty.
The combination of the Cardinals ducking a crushing decade-long, over-value contract for Pujols and the quick and considerable early return from Wacha is probably enough to claim victory. In that case, the future gains on the horizon from Piscotty could be considerable icing on a very formidable cake.
In a solid start in the Midwest League post-draft, the right-handed hitter batted .295 and logged a team-best 16-game hitting streak. He was shifted to the outfield coming into the season. Last summer, Piscotty began in Palm Beach, where he earned a Florida State League all-star berth, then moved to Double-A Springfield in late June. He batted .295 for a second consecutive year, with 15 home runs, 59 RBI and 11 steals to go with a .817 OPS across the two tops.
His season continued into the fall, as Piscotty was named to the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game and made the prospect showcase's All-Prospect Team. The 23-year-old ended his AFL stint on a 12-game hitting streak. He ranked fourth in the league with a .371 batting average in 23 games and was among the top eight in the AFL in runs (20), RBI (18), stolen bases (seven) and OPS (.936). That showing moved Piscotty onto several national top 100 prospect lists over the winter.
That success continued this spring in major league camp as Piscotty seized at-bats that might have gone to a healthy Oscar Taveras. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder delivered, showing a strong arm in right field, but was a bit erratic at times defensively, with four spring errors. At the plate, Piscotty finished his initial Grapefruit League campaign with a stellar .342/.426/.579 line in 38 at-bats over 22 games. Our fourth-ranked Cardinals prospect drove in eight runs and struck out just three times against six walks.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was suitably impressed, sharing his view with Kary Booher of the Springfield News-Leader as his club packed up to play Friday's exhibition game in Memphis.
"He's a guy that stood out," Matheny said. "He's very consistent. What I loved about today is that tough, tough pitches forced his hands inside just to fight it. He knew exactly what he needed to do, get the ball in the air and get that run in."
His time in Memphis in 2014 should be used to further polish his game and prepare for his major league debut, which seems inevitable. Still, as you will hear in the following exclusive interview, Piscotty remains on an even keel, continuing to work hard at his game.
Listen to Audio (4:36)
Other spring prospect interviews
1B Xavier Scruggs interview
IF Greg Garcia interview
OF Randal Grichuk interview
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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This spring, many "discovered" the 2012 first-rounder, but outfielder Stephen Piscotty continues steadily on his path toward the majors.