In only his second season at the MLB level, Stephen Piscotty has quickly distinguished himself as the Cardinals’ best all-around and most consistent hitter. The fact that Piscotty’s great season comes right after Jason Heyward‘s off-season departure makes it that much more important to the franchise.
Coming into this important 3-game set against the Cubs, there were supposed to be two main headlines: the Cardinals were supposed to try to stay within fighting distance of Chicago in the NL Central race (St. Louis is currently 7 games out of first place) and the city was supposed to welcome back its biggest villain Jason Heyward, once again.
Well, two games into this series, all the media attention has focused on Chicago as a team and little has been made about Heyward as an individual.
Cardinals fans can’t fault Heyward for taking more money and going to the Windy City after his contract expired last season. The Cubs offered $184 million and the Cardinals simply couldn’t match that offer while being financially responsible. However, what Cardinals fans, the team, and the organization can and should be mad about are the comments he made on his way out the door. Heyward didn’t simply leave in peace. He called the team’s aging core out and, in particular, he called out Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, and Adam Wainwright— the three faces of this franchise.
Well, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Through 37 games with his new team in Chicago, Heyward is batting .225 with one home run. Currently, he has just as many strikeouts as he does hits (32 a piece). Though these statistics aren’t reflective of Heyward as a player (lifetime .266 hitter with 3 Gold Gloves), it just shows that the Cardinals made the smart move in letting him walk this summer, rather than offering a lucrative deal that would set the organization back for years to come.
Piscotty, the Cardinals new every day right fielder, has done everything he can (and then some) to help fans forget about Heyward.
Stephen Piscotty leads all NL position players in WAR w/2.6; Clayton Kershaw leads pitchers pic.twitter.com/ltNJjoMZFA
— Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) May 23, 2016
Currently, Piscotty is batting .329 with five home runs. It’s not just the fact that he can hit for average; it’s the fact that Piscotty shows maturity at the plate with every single at bat that makes him an impressive player. Currently, his OBP is .402 and he has drawn 17 walks in 173 at-bats. Defensively, he has been sound, having made highlight reel diving catches all year with only one error. Piscotty also has a cannon for his right arm, recording two outfield assists already this year. Overall, he is currently top-10 in the entire league in WAR (2.4). Heyward is sitting at a WAR of 0.4.
The Cardinals took a huge risk with Piscotty this offseason. Heyward was a seasoned veteran who has played 872 MLB games. Before this season, Piscotty had only played 63. However, for now, it looks as if GM John Mozeliak made the right decision in investing in Piscotty.
Piscotty is young (25 years old). He’s cheap (still on his rookie contract). And, he has all the makings of a .300+ hitter: Piscotty has a great eye as shown with his high OBP, he can hit to all parts of the field, and he has the intelligence to be great as evident with his atmospheric and energy engineering degree from Stanford University.
The fact that we, as Cardinals fans, haven’t talked about Heyward much recently is because we don’t have to. We may have our next great Cardinal in the making.
Photo captured by Jeff Curry- USA Today Sports