I am reminded of a Tony La Russa interview in April 2011 when he asked reporters, “are you telling me Yadier is not going to get a big hit” ? Yes, that was also the first week of the season and it was a fair question. We also know how that story ended, with the Cardinals celebrating their 11th World Championship.
But if Mike Matheny were to ask that question in a post-game press conference today, the responses might be something like “yeah, Mike, that is exactly what we are saying.” So what are a manager and general manager to do ?
The first thing is to admit that while this is the first week of the season, it sure looks a lot like long stretches of last season and most of the spring. To be honest, the best parts of spring training were when kids like Charlie Tilson were on base, running and helping manufacture runs. None of that seems to be happening now that the games count.
It is early, but not too early to make a couple of changes. Let’s take a look at a few.
Mark Reynolds Stays on the Bench
We can argue endlessly about whether or not Mark Reynolds should have been signed this winter, but the fact is that he was and it is too early to give up on that decision. At the same time, a long look at his numbers when playing regularly last season in Milwaukee (.196 / .287 / .394 in 433 plate appearances, 22 HR, 45 RBIs and 122 Ks) should convince you that he is not a realistic platoon partner for the struggling Matt Adams. While this will probably end in the same way as the Ty Wigginton experiment, he has to be given a fair opportunity to produce.
ed note: Mark Reynolds is 2-3 in the current game and has just driven in his first run of the season. Xavier Scruggs has driven in 9.
Call up Xavier Scruggs
As the Cardinals start play on April 16 (game number 8), Xavier Scruggs has the same number of home runs (4) as the Cardinals do as a team. Some will be quick to point out that Scruggs is doing that in the homer friendly Pacific Coast League and completely miss that he has done that in 24 plate appearances where the Cardinals as a team have 275 (and add another dozen or so as the game is now in the sixth inning and no big flies have been seen yet).
In his minor league career, Scruggs has the typical power hitter splits, tearing up left handers and struggling against righties. That would make him the ideal platoon partner for Matt Adams, keeping a power bat on the bench regardless of who is getting the start.
Who would be optioned to Memphis to make room for Scruggs ? Easy.
Option Randal Grichuk
Oh, you can’t send Randal Grichuk to the minors ?
Why not ?
In this case, we do have some good comparison data between Grichuk and Scruggs and the results may surprise you.
Randal Grichuk .259 / .311 / .493 (.805 OPS), 25 HR, 71 RBIs, 108Ks in 472 plate appearances.
Xavier Scruggs .286 / .370 / .494 (.864 OPS), 21 HR, 87 RBIs, 114 Ks in 538 plate appearances
Scruggs out hit, out slugged, drove in more runs – basically outproduced Randal Grichuk last year. This is on the same team, in the same ballparks and against the same pitching. Most of the season, Grichuk hit second, Scruggs cleanup or fifth. Grichuk did hit more home runs, but that’s it. Scruggs is also 28, Grichuk is 23, so which of the two can benefit more from consistent playing time in the minors ?
Mike Schildt should play Grichuk every day in center field, giving him some much needed experience at the position. If the Cardinals do sign Jason Heyward to a long contract extension, Grichuk will have to take center field away from Jon Jay or wait for Matt Holliday to retire. Seeing him play for a summer in Memphis would go a long way in figuring out where his future lies, not to mention a ton of at-bats to improve his pitch recognition against right handers.
Swapping Grichuk for Scruggs is about a break even in the offensive production, based on last year in the PCL. It doesn’t really leave the outfield short as Peter Bourjos is still available as is Pete Kozma. It leaves the bench largely unchanged, but gives Mike Matheny a more balanced lineup against left handed pitching.
If I was the general manager, Xavier Scruggs would already be heading north on I-55. What would you do, if anything, to get the Cardinals offense going ? Let me know in the comments. As always, thanks for reading.