Sometimes a player comes up through the farm system that is polarizing to the nth degree. For the St. Louis Cardinals, OF Randal Grichuk appears to be one of those players. It seems as if Grichuk has a fair amount of both fans and detractors and is becoming the kind of player who is hotly debated. Grichuk is known for being a free swinger, so it is surprising the club brought him up as quickly as they did.
When he was being scouted for the 2009 draft, the book on Grichuk was he had light tower power but too many moving parts to his swing to be consistent. Evaluating his swing frame by frame I find a lithe athlete with a powerful stroke and moderate hand-shoulder separation. This creates the double-edged sword of a long but extremely powerful load. The player he most reminds me of is Milwaukee Brewers star OF Ryan Braun, himself a polarizing figure but for different reasons.
Grichuk, 22, from Rosenberg, Tex. is a hard worker but not a great contact man. He will swing a lot and miss a lot, and this will frustrate fans. As he gets older and masters his swing angle, it is possible the sheer force of his talent will alleviate some of these concerns. However the development of plate discipline takes time, and in some cases it never comes. Will it come for Grichuk? Were he in any other organization I would have my doubts, but the Cardinals teach selectiveness at the plate so I do believe it will.
What is Grichuk’s floor? Well, he simply has too much talent to be anything less than a fourth outfielder in the bigs. It is possible his hitting profile will be similar to a Jeff Baker, a capable and powerful pinch hitter useful to many benches throughout his career. But his ceiling, as discussed earlier, is up there with the likes of Braun, a true .300, 40 HR, 120 RBI, .900 OPS guy, who while likely never being an on base king but will still rack up plenty of WAR in his career. He has a good arm, plus power and excellent base-running skills to go along with his willingness to learn.
While some peg him as a good player on a bad team, the Cardinals are known for getting the best out of their corner OF prospects through effective coaching and player development. I say Grichuk lands closer to his ceiling than the floor, and if he does, it is entirely possible the Cardinal outfield of the future will have three All-Stars — Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Oscar Taveras — in the same All-Star game. Bet on the NL in that one.