Bold Prediction: Randal Grichuk Will Be an All-Star for the Cardinals in 2017

Spring Training has kicked into full gear and with it, hype has begun to swirl around players getting off to blazing starts. Most players around the league have played just enough to make a first impression in the dawn of the 2017 season and for the Cardinals faithful, few seemed to be as impactful as Randal Grichuk’s. After showing glimpses in each of the past two years, can Grichuk finally live up to his All-Star potential?

Grichuk’s major league career has been a rollercoaster ride thus far to say the least. After breaking out in 2015 with a very solid 137 wRC+ coupled with a 3.1 WAR in his age 23 season, Cardinals fans were left thinking this guy was the next superstar in St. Louis ready to carry the torch for the next generation of Cardinal greats. Coming into 2016, expectations were sky high for the young centerfielder as he possessed all the tools necessary for superstardom in St. Louis.

But with great expectations comes great pressure, and in 2016, Grichuk made bad on all the expectations and flopped. He struggled to the point of demotion in June and early August to figure things out and reset in Memphis. With a defense rating out as average in center field, the Cardinals had no advantage by keeping him on a roster loaded with serviceable depth. 

But just when Cardinals fans were ready to write him off, he came back in September and carried the high powered to the brink of a playoff berth. In the final month, Grichuk slashed .270/.308/.486 with a wRC+ of 110 looking more like his 2015 self and rekindling the faith of Cardinal nation.

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Now coming into 2017, the consensus projection for Grichuk amongst Cardinals fans has been cautiously optimistic. Grichuk has teased us of being a game changer in the outfield before, but nobody is quite ready to hop back on the bandwagon and strap in.

It’s understandable to proceed with caution, but Redbird fans have something to be excited for in left field come Opening Day. 2017 will finally be the year Grichuk puts the promise he’s teased us with on full display over the course of a full season.

One of the biggest knocks on Grichuk since he broke into the league is his ability, or lack thereof, of drawing a walk and getting on base. He walks very little and strikes out a lot which is now a trend for power hitters across Major League Baseball. Coming into 2016, Grichuk looked to change his approach and take that next step to become a great hitter rather than just a good power hitter.

In the first half with his new approach, Grichuk posted a modest BB% of 7.3% and a K% of 22.7% which proved to be solid improvements from the 5.4% and 30.4% he posted in 2015, respectively. With this new approach, however, the results simply were not there.

His offensive production crashed to the point of demotion by slashing .226/.287/.425. The club hoped a brief demotion would be enough to help him get it going and even build some confidence in time to help the club down the homestretch.

Boy did he figure it out fast. After roaring back to carry the club to September, it appears there are only two major offensive statistics that declined: BB% and K%. Both numbers fell back even lower than the 2015 showing with 4.3% and 34.2% respectively.

By reverting back to his old approach of “grip it and rip it”, Grichuk has done what many predicted he would do all season: carry the offense. Even with the two demotions, he still managed to pummel 24 home runs showing that his power is still there regardless of a slump.

If you couple that with his impressive early spring performance (3-9, 1 HR, 4 RBI) and the defensive number spike typically seen when an average centerfielder shifts to a corner (ex. Adam Eaton, -14 DRS to +20), then you have an All-Star level player.

With a consistent Grichuk matched up with Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty, the Cardinals may have the most dynamic outfield St. Louis has seen since the trio of Pujols, Edmonds, and J.D. Drew in the early 2000’s. So hold off on the skepticism Cardinals fans, the kid’s going to give you a lot to cheer about in the upcoming year.

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*All Stats courtesy of Fangraphs

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports