The Cardinals lost two outfielders to injury last night, and cannot afford to have them out for long.
During last night’s game versus the Milwaukee Brewers, both Stephen Piscotty and Dexter Fowler exited with injuries. As we await word on how long they will be out, the Cardinals will have to scramble to fill their spots. Outfield was already a thin spot for St. Louis before last night. They have some options now, but can’t really replace either player.
The Cardinals only had six outfielders on their 40-man roster (counting Jose Martinez). The two in the minors prior to last night were Tommy Pham and Magneuris Sierra. Pham was pulled from his Triple-A game last night and is likely on his way to the major league club.
Sierra is in Single-A and likely won’t reach the majors for another couple of years. Here are some options for the Cardinals in the outfield while their regulars heal, but realize that none of them are great ideas.
I just want to knock this one out of the way quickly. Pham was the obvious choice to join the big league club in the event of an injury. The Cardinals really did not have any other options. Pham is the only player with major league experience in the outfield, and the only one they are sure can at least play the position.
At the plate, Pham is doing well against AAA pitching, but that isn’t a surprise. The Cardinals would have been concerned if that was not the case.
Tommy Pham was just pulled from Triple-A Memphis game.
— Nate Latsch (@NateLatsch) May 5, 2017
The real problem here is that Pham is no stranger to injuries. He took nine years to reach the majors because he kept getting hurt. Last season, Pham got hurt after just one at-bat before missing over a month.
The Cardinals showed that playing with just four outfielders is dangerous because of injuries. They might have to keep doing that, now with an injury-prone player as one of them.
The Cardinals probably don’t want to do this, but calling up Bader might make the most sense. Bader struggled at Triple-A last year, but is getting on-base at a .365 clip there this season to go along with 4 homers. The offensive output in the majors wouldn’t be great (Steamer projects a sub-.300 OBP), but at least he can play the field.
The Cardinals don’t want to play Randal Grichuk in center field, but they need to play someone there. Perhaps Pham is the answer there, but Bader will likely be the most successful.
The scouting report on MLB.com suggests that Bader is slightly above average in the field. Given the other options, that makes Bader one of the best candidates to play for the Cardinals. I don’t think he will get the call, and that isn’t necessarily the wrong decision, but he is likely the best defensive option.
Wong is not an outfielder, but that didn’t stop Mike Matheny from experimenting with the idea last season. The experiment wasn’t a total disaster, but it didn’t work, either. In 106 outfield innings, Wong probably cost his team 1-2 runs.
His arm is a huge negative in center field or right field, but he has the speed to cover some ground. 106 innings is not a large enough sample size to know exactly how good (or bad) he is in the outfield, but if the Cardinals have to put an infielder in the outfield, they could do worse than Wong.
Diaz is not an outfielder, but that didn’t stop Mike Matheny from putting him there last night. I get the logic here. Diaz has been terrible at shortstop (much worse than last year), so he can’t hurt the team much more from the outfield.
I just do not know if it is really sound logic. The Red Sox thought the same thing with Hanley Ramirez before realizing how stupid that was. The Cardinals may not have such an example of their own, but I doubt that Diaz to the outfield is actually a solution to their problem.
— cardinalsgifs (@cardinalsgifs) April 6, 2017
Gyorko has played everywhere in the infield this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in left field if Piscotty and Fowler are out for an extended period of time.
Again, this isn’t a good strategy, but it’s probably better than putting Adams or Diaz out there. Gyorko does a better job of reading the ball off contact, so he might not kill the Cardinals in the outfield. Adams already has. Diaz probably will.
There is no good replacement
The offense will take a hit regardless of who replaces Piscotty and Fowler. If Pham and Bader are the replacements, then maybe the defense doesn’t get worse. If anybody else moves to the outfield, then I would expect a worse defense, too.
None of the options that I named allow a better hitter to get into the lineup. In fact, Pham is probably the best hitter of the players who will enter the lineup.
If an infielder plays the outfield, then either Greg Garcia or Matt Adams sees more at-bats. Perhaps Adams adds something against right-handed pitchers, but Garcia isn’t much with the bat.
Early reports are that Piscotty will not travel with the team to Atlanta, and Fowler may be headed for the DL. As of right now, we don’t know the answer to the most important question: how long will both be out?
The Cardinals looked like a mediocre team with both in there, and can not be better with both out. If it were just one player out, the Cardinals could manage by sticking Jose Martinez in the outfield and calling up Pham. With both players out, Matheny has to use Grichuk, Pham, and Martinez just about everyday.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry – USA TODAY Sports