For the majority of the early offseason, Cardinal fans were itching for Cardinals' general manager John Mozeliak to sign a solid center fielder. One pending physical and late-night flight to St. Louis later, the Cardinals acquired center fielder Dexter Fowler from the Chicago Cubs on December 9, 2016. After the Cardinals signed the contract with Fowler, the outfield was set for success.
The following is the projected starters for the outfield in 2017:
Left field: Randal Grichuk
He's quick, he's young, and he knows how to play the game. Offensively, he batted up a .240/.289/.480 (BA, OBP, SLG) slash line. He slugged up 24 home runs and batted in 68 runners. Grichuk knew how to swing a bat and there was no question about it.
His glove and the way he plays it is just as good of a story. In 2016, Grichuk started 119 games in the outfield. Mainly, he played center field (106 GS). He also played left field (3 GS) and right field (2 GS). Although, now that Fowler is taking over center field, it's time to shift Grichuk over to Matt Holliday's old spot in left field.
Grichuk flashes his glove well and he's not afraid to show it. Throughout his whole time in outfield in 2016, he ended up having a .996 fielding percentage with only one error. He played 994.1 innings - which shows that he is able to start and finish games.
As mentioned, Grichuk is young and he has a passion for the game. He will be a highly important and critical part of the Cardinals' lineup in 2017.
Center fielder: Dexter Fowler
This was undoubtedly the signing of the offseason for the Cardinals. The Cardinals needed a center fielder - and they needed one badly. So they finally pulled the trigger and gave an offer to Dexter Fowler.
Fowler played an appreciable season with the Cubs in 2016. He slugged up a .276/.393/.447 line with a .840 OPS. Fowler also has a bat that will be very useful - especially in the lead-off spot in the line up.
Fowler started 121 games in center field in 2016. He finished off the season with a .983 fielding percentage, four errors, and six assists on outs. Is Fowler what you would call a "major upgrade" to the Cardinals' outfield? Defensively, maybe not so much. Although, with a decent bat and a fairly average offense, he is better than what the Cardinals had - which was close to nothing. Fowler is going to help out the Cardinals a lot down the road.
By the looks of his social media posts, Fowler is already falling in love with St. Louis and its' fans. He seems to be very excited about playing in St. Louis and St. Louis is very excited to have him. He will be a great fit in Cardinal Nation. Not to mention, he looks pretty sharp in that Cardinal red.
Right field: Stephen Piscotty
Stephen Piscotty was easily one of my favorite players to watch in 2016. He reminds me of that box of chocolates that Forrest Gump told us about: You never know what you're going to get.
Just like Grichuk and Fowler, Piscotty had a great season in 2016. With his slash line at .273/.343/.457 and his OPS at 8.00, his bat has something to prove. His player value is also something worth taking a look at. His WAR is decently high at 2.9 and his Rbat at 16 runs. This is important when you're looking at a team who has just enough players to have a solid foundation. Any sports team in general needs those couple of players that will provide the club a good amount of success with their player values. This means the more player value a player has, the more they will contribute to provide for wins. With the competition that the Cardinals are going up against in the seasons to come, they need every win they can get.
Now let's take a look at Piscotty's defense. Piscotty started 145 games in the outfield and he completed 132 of those games. He is able to perform well and sustain stamina and stability throughout most games he starts. In the 150 games he played in the outfield, his fielding percentage is at .986. Out of 284 defensive chances, he putout 273 of them.
Piscotty should, and is capable, of having a solid season in 2017. With him only being 25 years old, he still has a lot of room to learn and grow.
At the end of the day, once you dissect the details of each starter, you begin to realize that the Cardinals' outfield is going to be plausible. The next question is this: Who backs them up when they need an off day or backup from an injury?
The first and main option: Not Kolten Wong.
Tommy Pham. The 28-year-old is projected to have a great season in 2017 (more like a pham-tastic season, am I right?). Talk about being excited to watch a player perform. Pham has always excited me because I knew what he was capable of doing.
In 2016 he slashed .226/.324/.440 and has a .764 OPS. He doesn't have flashy numbers - there's no question about it. Although, just like any other young player, there's still time to grow. I have a lot of optimism when it comes to Tommy Pham. If Cardinals' manager Mike Matheny gives Pham a good chunk of playing time in the big leagues, he could develop those skills that can help the Cardinals in a dramatic fashion.
Now, on to his defense.
Pham needs to be Matheny's go-to guy if he ever needs a solid backup. Pham is solid, flashy, and he is just flat out good in the outfield. In the 66 games that he played in the big leagues, he ended the season with a 1.000 fielding percentage and committed zero errors.
Tommy Pham is the comfort zone of backup players. A backup player is someone who is trustworthy, passionate, and flashy. A manager should never be biting his nails out of nervousness when he puts in his backup. Pham knows what he's doing.
What are your thoughts on the 2017 outfield? Tweet me your thoughts here on Twitter @Carly_Schaber.
As always, thank you for reading.