While highly touted outfield prospect Oscar Taveras continues to struggle with a lingering ankle recovery, the St. Louis Cardinals‘ rising star Stephen Piscotty is turning heads and making firm headway towards the Gateway City. What makes Piscotty so intriguing is how polarizing a pick he was when he was selected out of Stanford in 2012.
Originally drafted as a third baseman, he was not heralded for his power. He has often been accused of being weaker than he looks, yet most scouts will tell you you can’t teach an instinct for contact. Of all the things a prospect can tweak, the innate ability to make solid contact repeatedly is the hardest to master, and on this count Piscotty has the tools of some of the great stars in baseball. Only 23, there is no rush, and most expect he will not be contributing at the major league level anytime soon because of the stocked outfield cupboard the Cardinals boast.
But in life, sometimes the conventional wisdom can be wrong. Piscotty has a voracious work ethic and a drive to succeed that, like bat speed, can’t be taught. He is already exceeding power expectations and is successfully transitioning to right field, providing superb defense and versatility at each stop of the minor league level. What has surprised observers the most is the increase in power he has displayed. Posting an OPS of .819 in combined stops at Single-A Palm Beach and AA Springfield, Piscotty continues to adjust and thrive against professional pitching.
Possessing plus arm strength, his ability to play third or right makes him most valuable as he projects as an above average defender at either position. His power development and plate approach compares favorably to another Cardinal standout, Matt Holliday.
But what should really have Redbird fans drooling is that the most accurate comparison may prove to be third baseman Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays. Like Piscotty, Longoria steadily developed consistent power throughout his development and is now one of the most dependable offensive forces in the American League.
The bottom line on Piscotty is this: As good and as deep as the Cardinals are, the team does not have a penchant for staying healthy. And no matter how touted Taveras is, the organization values continuity and consistency above all else. Look for Piscotty to bash his way into St. Louis by mid-season and become a permanent fixture on the hallowed grounds of Baseball Heaven, Busch Stadium.