The St. Louis Cardinals’ record currently stands at 15-14, far below what is expected of a team fresh off a 100-win 2015. Some of the blame can go to the sub-par pitching, especially that of Mike Leake and Adam Wainwright. Some blame can also go to slumping players in the lineup, from Matt Holliday to Matt Adams to Kolten Wong. The most notable hitter slumping, though, is outfielder Randal Grichuk.
Grichuk was expected to be a major force in the lineup this season, one year after slashing an impressive .276/.329/.548 and hitting 17 home runs in 103 games during his rookie year. Grichuk’s promising first campaign gave fans and management a vision of he and fellow rookie Stephen Piscotty (.305/.359/.494 in 2015) forming a dynamic duo in the heart of the lineup. That vision has not come to fruition, as Piscotty has held up his end (.301/.358/.496) while Grichuk has face-planted in the first month, slashing a miserable .182/.263/.375 and consequently getting benched in two of the last four games in order to try and clear his head. Manager Mike Matheny and Grichuk have both said that the 24-year-old is having trouble recognizing pitches, and yet his chances to see more pitches are shrinking. Instead of letting Grichuk languish on the bench, could the solution be to send him down to Triple-A Memphis?
A demotion obviously wouldn’t be the ideal situation and probably isn’t general manager John Mozeliak’s first choice, but it might be the only way to get Grichuk back to seeing the ball right and finding a groove. Grichuk’s putrid performance at the plate is only hurting the team at this point, and realistically the Cardinals wouldn’t be losing that much for however long Grichuk is demoted, as they have revelation Jeremy Hazelbaker to fill in as a starter and Tommy Pham almost ready to come off the disabled list as the fourth outfielder. Sending Grichuk to Memphis for a while would allow him to get regular at-bats and also allow him to find a groove against slightly lesser competition. The Memphis coaching staff would also be able to devote extra attention to him as opposed to the big-league staff who are also trying to get multiple other players hitting after slow starts.
Already seven games back of the Chicago Cubs, the Cardinals need Grichuk to find his swing sooner rather than later, not only because it would further boost the St. Louis offense, but also because we can’t expect Hazelbaker to keep performing like he has. When and if the latest rookie fizzles out, the Cardinals would really struggle to put together consistent offense and keep up with the rest of the division. Taking this scenario a step further, Grichuk’s return to form coupled with Hazelbaker continuing to produce at a high level would allow Matheny to move Piscotty or even Holliday to first base and add even more potential to the offense and make the lineup truly dangerous, maybe even enough so to make a run at the Cubs spot on top.