Stephen Piscotty just completed his second Opening Day start in right field for the St. Louis Cardinals. Last year was his first full season in the majors, and yet in only 910 plate appearances he’s built up quite the resume. Only two players with fewer than one thousand plate appearances signed a multi-year extension for a higher dollar amount: Ryan Braun and (current Cardinal) Jedd Gyorko.
Piscotty on #STLCards: "I'm surrounded by winners, competitors & outright studs."— Cardinals Magazine (@CardsMagazine) April 3, 2017
The St. Louis Cardinals have locked down the right fielder over six years for a total $33.5 million, with a club option for $15 million in 2023. Those cover his remaining five years of pre-arbitration and arbitration and his first year of free agency, as well as his second if St. Louis exercises the option. This is the Cardinals’ modus operandi; they do not like letting the players they drafted go into free agency. They’ve done this with Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, and literally the day prior to inking this deal, Yadier Molina. Piscotty gets his money now, instead of having to play on league-minimum salaries for two more years, and the Cardinals get some nice value if he stays healthy and effective.
The Rookie Campaign
In 2015, Stephen Piscotty was the franchise’s Minor League Player of the Year, but that was hardly the highlight. After being called up to the big leagues in late July, he made his presence known. He slashed .305/.359/.494 while hitting seven homers and bringing in 39 runs.
Then came the postseason.
The Cubs ousted the Cardinals in four games of the 2015 NLDS, but Piscotty got his first taste of the postseason and made an impression. He hit .375 and slugged 1.000 with three homers and six RBIs. There were flashes of brilliance in those couple months, and certainly in October, that the Cardinals hope will resurface.
Driving in Runs
Here is where we run into the danger of small sample sizes, but his stats are really promising with runners in scoring position. They’re just on the right side of unsustainable.
|Year||PAs w/ RISP||AVG w/ RISP|
His rookie campaign was stellar when it came to runners in scoring position. The average fell a little closer to the stratosphere last season, which was bolstered by a .315 BABIP, so we certainly need to be cautious when drawing conclusions. It is a small sample size, but from what the Cardinals have seen of Piscotty in the big leagues, he’s the guy they want at the plate with runners on.
He led the Cardinals in RBIs last season with 85. Additionally, he led the Cardinals outfield in wRC+ and was 3rd on the team in wRC+ at 115. He was pretty successful at generating runs during his first full season.
The Cardinals have a lot of logjams in the majors, and even more depth at most positions in the minors.
Next year, they will see the appearance of a promising pitcher in Alex Reyes, and they’ve inked their future ace, Carlos Martinez, through the 2021 season. Second baseman Kolten Wong is signed through 2020, Aledmys Diaz is under team control until 2022, while Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko’s contracts keep them in St. Louis through 2019. That alone is an entire infield signed for the next three seasons.
They just signed Yadier Molina through 2020 and have one of the best catching prospects in baseball, Carson Kelly, currently under his tutelage.
The outfield is where the Cardinals struggle to find significant depth. Outside of Magneuris Sierra and Harrison Bader, there isn’t much down on the farm. There is a rotating cast of 26th men clawing their way back up from triple-A Memphis. Randal Grichuk, the current left fielder, will be a free agent in 2020, making Dexter Fowler the only outfield piece guaranteed to be in St. Louis. To mitigate that bump in the road and lock down a right fielder, they signed Piscotty through (potentially) 2023. With this extension, the Cardinals have stability across the diamond for the foreseeable future.
The Narrative/The Future
Piscotty isn’t that well-known outside of the NL Central, but that doesn’t stop him from being subtly effective. MLB Network selected him as the #10 right fielder in baseball.
Piscotty's first full season was quietly a a success, as he contributed above-average hitting (.273/.343/.457, 115 wRC+, 22 homers) with solid defense that included working to improve the strength of his throwing arm. It's easy to see him putting up that same kind of solid line for the next five to seven years, isn't it?
The Cardinals’ GM, John Mozeliak, made it clear that the organization sees Piscotty as a part of their core now and in years to come.
For real, though, Stephen Piscotty should play baseball covered in bubble wrap. (He’s fine now, so you can feel okay about chuckling at his misfortune.)
I don't think it's possible to have it any worse than this ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/ktiuKcdAOh— Baseball King™ (@BasebaIlKing) April 5, 2017
The Cardinals are positioning Piscotty to be a club leader. Mozeliak said, “We believe he will continue to make an impact not only with his glove, but also his bat in the future.” They talk him up as a player, then wax poetic about him as a person and what he brings to the clubhouse. “As a teammate, he has an amazing work ethic and leadership. We envision this to have a positive impact on many players to come.” The Cardinals are looking to transition seamlessly from one generation of leadership to another. If Piscotty continues to quietly maintain his spot as one of the most effective right fielders, this 6-year extension will look great for St. Louis.
Me too, Stephen. Me too.
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Audrey Stark is a Contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow her on Twitter @highstarksunday.