Safe and Sound
Dexter Fowler, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty
Dexter Fowler was the Cardinals’ most notable offseason acquisition and one of the most notable Cardinals free agent signings in recent memory. He’ll take over the starting role in center field, and the Cardinals will hope that his career-high .393 OBP and vastly improved rating in the defensive metrics were not a one-year mirage. Fowler will soon be 31 years old, has historically been a below-average defensive center fielder, and has a career OPS+ of 107 (just slightly above average), but if the Cardinals can get the same type of performance from Fowler that he delivered as his Cubs won the World Series in 2016, then the $82.5 million they spent on him this offseason will be more than worth it.
With Fowler’s arrival, Randal Grichuk will shift over to left field, and if he repeats the performance that he’s delivered over the past two seasons, he’ll be a major upgrade there. Grichuk, who has plenty of range in the outfield and is generally solid other than the occasional mental gaffe, is expected to provide much more value as a defender than guys like Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss ever did. In addition, he’s at least as skilled–if not even more talented–as a slugger than either of those players. Despite a rough start at the plate last year, Grichuk managed to hit 24 homers in 446 at-bats, and he posted a solid .769 OPS. While he could certainly stand to strike out less and walk more, Grichuk arguably has more potential than any other hitter on the Cardinals’ roster.
While he’s just 26 years old, Stephen Piscotty has already earned a reputation as the Cardinals’ sturdiest two-way player, and he’ll be a fixture in right field once again this season. Piscotty went through a cold spell in June and then seemed to tire out a bit over the past two months of the season, but he still managed to post a very impressive .273/.343/.457 slash line with 22 homers in his first full major-league season. Now that he’s had the experience of playing through a full big-league campaign, it’s highly possible that Piscotty will be even more consistent in 2017.