Randal Grichuk is making his way back to St. Louis Sunday, according to a report by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. After spending close to a month refining his game in the minors, Grichuk boasts a batting line flush with evidence of his power potential–.273/.324/.621. Grichuk has slugged six home runs in his last ten games with the Memphis Redbirds–that’s surely a talent the big-league Cardinals could use to their benefit.
Here’s the problem, though: Grichuk wasn’t sent to work with minor league hitting guru George Greer to learn how to mash. He already knew how to do that. Grichuk’s prescribed curriculum was a crash course in plate discipline. Pitch recognition and strike zone management have never been strong suits of Grichuk’s game, and the Cardinals–at least according to their public description of his goals for his latest trip to the minors–expected him to focus on that area.
Based on the numbers, it didn’t happen. While the robust slugging percentage is tantalizing, Grichuk’s K:BB ratio during his time between Palm Beach and Memphis was 20:4 in 63 at-bats. As far as plate discipline is concerned, nothing changed for the Stallion during his MiLB sabbatical.
So what the hell are the Cardinals supposed to do with Randal Grichuk, now? John Mozeliak indicated earlier this month that his time to “sink or swim” with St. Louis would be coming soon. In a season where the Cardinals have fallen vastly short of expectations, it’s only reasonable that the status of some of the primary culprits of underachievement would be placed under the microscope.
Grichuk has long been billed as a player with superstar potential, but because of his rocky tenure as a consistent contributor in St. Louis, it’s possible that the Cardinals could move on from him if the next few weeks don’t go well. In order to find out what Grichuk has (again) and make a final determination on his role with the organization going forward, he needs to be in the lineup on a regular basis.
With Tommy Pham, Jose Martinez, and Stephen Piscotty all pushing for playing time of late, this seems counterproductive on the surface. The move to insert Grichuk into the outfield daily could be facilitated, however, with one simple and sensible roster move: Dexter Fowler to the DL.
Fowler has been nagged by injury for much of his debut season in St. Louis. First came the shoulder ailment that kept him out of action for some games back in May. Fowler never hit the DL, but as appeared limited defensively ever since–at times noticeably jogging to balls in the gap instead of sprinting after them. In the past week, a quad issue has cropped up for Fowler, again slowing him down, but so far, not putting him on the shelf.
With the new 10-day DL, the Cardinals could afford to disable Fowler without worrying over repercussions of keeping him out longer than necessary. An opportunity to rest and heal up could do Fowler a world of good, so that the Cardinals can have him at full strength as they look to give the Brewers and Cubs a run for their money in a watered down NL Central.
It would also give the Cardinals to evaluate Randal Grichuk regularly prior to the trade deadline. If he performs, John Mozeliak could elect to keep him a part of the future core–or sell a volatile player at a time when he has value.
If Grichuk fails to gain traction in this next stint with St. Louis, it wouldn’t be far-fetched for it to be the last chance he gets.