When you think of iconic Cardinal franchise players, legends like Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Stan (El Hombre) Musial, and even Yadier Molina come to mind.
These are players that spent a majority of their career making a tremendous ever-lasting impact for a singular team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Some, or most of these players, can be considered household names for even casual observers of the sport due to their ability to make the game look easy.
Legends like these always seem to find a way of coming up in our discussions of present ballplayers, and in effect become “templates” for the type of athletes and people the team recruits to continue the Cardinals tradition of success and sportsmanship. One thing I always find myself wondering is, who’s the next Cardinals legend? Who’s the next player that will step into the forefront of the St. Louis Cardinals brand?
Obviously this is a tough question and there is probably a plethora of educated guesses on it, but in my opinion the next Cardinals legend is Stephen Piscotty. On top of being a perfect embodiment of the “Cardinal Way”, Piscotty is already a phenomenal player with tons of extra upside both in the field and at the plate.
Sure, other Cardinals youngsters like Randal Grichuk, Carlos Martinez, and Kolten Wong, have tons of potential as well and will undoubtedly be key players for the Cardinals moving forward, but Piscotty already has down some of the most valuable and desired skills (we will look specifically at the plate), and is equipped to be a consistent performer in the future. If you’re not on the same page as me, let me attempt to show you more specifically where this idea is coming from.
It is obvious that Piscotty contributed a much-needed bat for the Cardinal’s struggling offense last season, by batting .305, OPS of .853, and 39 RBIs in 233 at-bats, and so far this season Piscotty has shown that his production last season was no fluke. In my opinion, it’s no one particular thing that makes Piscotty special, but instead that his offense is so well rounded.
He’s equipped with above average plate discipline; hard hit ball percentage, line-drive percentage, ability to use all fields, etc. History seems to favor the consistent performers, not the players who were good over short spans of time. Piscotty over his first 306 at bats has posted a hard hit ball percentage of 38.5% and a wRC+ of 128. His ability to work the count can be seen by his low Zone% (Percentage of pitches seen inside the strike zone) of 46.7%; meaning he works counts into his favor on a more consistent basis. Compared to studs, such as Mike Trout (hard hit ball %: 36.7%, wRC+: 167, Zone%: 45.2%), Piscotty holds pretty similar sabermetrics in many essential areas.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) May 7, 2016
Another detail about Piscotty, which could translate to consistency in the future, is his intelligence. Piscotty, a bearer of an engineering degree from Stanford University, is undoubtedly an intelligent guy. Sure, it’s not fair to say that since Piscotty is academically smart he possesses phenomenal baseball knowledge and awareness, but Piscotty has received tons of praise for his mental approach to batting. Mike Matheny credits Piscotty as being a “good self-evaluator”, and praises him for “thinking ahead (in at-bats), and mak(ing) the physical adjustments (against certain pitchers).”
Aaron Boone, an ex-MLB infielder, acknowledged Piscotty’s approach in a podcast by saying, “His approach at the plate will prevent him from going through any sophomore issues,” and that, “there is a maturity to the way he hits.”
Just because Piscotty is credited with having an above average approach with a Stanford degree isn’t to say that he won’t go through slumps, however, it possibly means that Piscotty will find his way out of dry spells more quickly than the average player.
As I stated before:
History seems to favor the consistent performers,
and so far in the 2016 season Piscotty has shown no signs of a “sophomore slump”. If Piscotty continues to perform on the level he has through his first 401 plate appearances, he will no doubt develop into a fun player to watch, and grow into a highly regarded player all throughout the MLB. More importantly, he will turn into a Cardinals legend.
Photo captured by Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports