In our 30 Reasons series, we come to reason #28 in the form of a full season of Tommy Pham
Heading into the 2016 season, barring injuries, the Cardinals appear set with their outfield. Matt Holliday will play left field, Randal Grichuk will play center field and Stephen Piscotty will play right field, leaving 28-year old Tommy Pham as the odd man out and the fourth outfielder for the team. However, Pham isn’t your average player coming off the bench. In a long 162 game season, he could have a big impact in a lot of games for the Cardinals.
Tommy Pham has always been a highly rated prospect in the organization. He has shown that he can be an effective hitter at every level. In 2014, he hit .301 with 12 homeruns at the AAA level. In 2015, he showed even greater success at the AAA level and hit .327 before getting called up to the Cardinals.
On an injury-plagued team last year, Pham made big contributions that ultimately helped the Cardinals get to the 100 win plateau. He batted .268 with 5 homeruns. However, what should excite the fans the most is the fact that Pham hit .333 in September. These numbers are great for a rookie who was, for the first time, playing for a contending team during the playoff push. If he can keep up with the clutch hitting he showed last September, we should be very excited with Pham coming in off the bench, especially in pinch-hitting scenarios. Let’s just hope these numbers are not Bo Hartian.
If there is one question about Pham, it is about his durability. In 2010, he broke his wrist. Between 2012 and 2013, he tore his labrum in both shoulders. Yeah, he’s been injured. A lot. However, just as much could be said about his resiliency in continue to pursue his team and to continue his success even after being hurt so much. This type of mental toughness will be critical for a player coming off the bench, where his playing time will be completely dependent on productivity as a hitter.
— Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer) March 4, 2016
The way Mike Matheny uses Pham in 2016 will remind us all a lot of how Jon Jay was used by the Cardinals a couple years ago. Jay served as the fourth outfielder, sitting behind highly rated prospects like Colby Rasmus. However, coming off the bench, Jay ended up having much more productive seasons, in terms of WAR, than some of the every day outfielders on the team. If Pham could be a similar type of player, he will give the team a lot of depth and options.
Here’s the reality: Pham will have to make the most out of his opportunities. He is a 28-year old and has yet to have a full season at the MLB level. Time is ticking. However, he has the skills and the abilities to break out. Barring injuries or major slumps from Holiday, Piscotty, and Grichuk, Pham will have the ability to dictate how much playing time he gets by his performance.
If he ends up having the the season that we, as Cards fans, have been dreaming off since we drafted him in the 2006, this team will be good and there will be no questions about our lineup’s ability to hit. Realistically, for Pham to have a “good” season, he will need to have a batting average around .300 and be a homerun threat. More importantly, he will need to have a couple games this season where he has a signature moment or a highlight reel play that helps the team win. But, there’s no reason why he can’t do that. Look out for Pham.