2017 has not been a kind year to St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Stephen Piscotty. His performance has struggled across the board to go along with multiple injuries. The Cardinals right fielders have collectively been subpar and Piscotty has been perhaps the biggest part of that. Their 96 wRC+ for the year is good for just 21st in baseball.
On Monday August, 7th things got even worse for Piscotty as he became the Cardinals third opening day regular to be optioned to the minor leagues this season. This comes just over 4 months after he signed a 6 year, $33.5 million extension.
Multiple factors led to the demotion.
There was a clear need for a roster spot on the team because Dexter Fowler was ready to come off of the disabled list. Tommy Pham has easily emerged as a must-start player. He has been the one consistent force that this team has had offensively and he clearly isn’t going anywhere.
If you were just looking at names, you would probably think that Jose Martinez would be the one to be sent down. Martinez however, has been crushing the ball as of late. Since June 1st he is slashing .292/.375/.563 with a 139 wRC+. That is clearly a bat that this team can use and should be in the lineup as much as possible until he cools down.
This left the decision down to Piscotty or Randal Grichuk. While Grichuk has been struggling a bit recently he is still hitting .276/.311/.552 with a 121 wRC+ since his most recent call-up on July 21st. Considering how lost Piscotty has looked at the plate, this made him the most obvious candidate to be sent down.
Piscotty’s swing is not improving.
About a month ago I dug into why Piscotty’s power had disappeared. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had much of a chance to fix his issues since then. After just one game since I had written my article he hit the DL with a right groin strain. The injury resulted in him missing 16 games and he was re-activated on August 1st.
It’s a small sample size, but his overall numbers since my article on him are not pretty. He’s gotten 26 plate appearances with zero home runs and just one double. He is slashing .125/.192/.167 with a -4 wRC+. At the time of my last article on Stephen his average exit velocity was 85.3 MPH, which was already down from his 2016 average of 88.2 MPH. His average exit velocity since then is down even further to just 83.7 MPH.
Yes, this is probably too small of a sample size to draw any real conclusions from. But it does show that he has given no reason to believe that he’s made any progress with his swing.
Personal issues may be taking a toll.
I typically like to stick strictly to the baseball side of things with all of my posts and I’ll never pretend to know what exactly is going on with any player’s personal life. However, I think it would be asinine not to acknowledge the potential impact that Piscotty’s personal life is having on him right now.
Back in May, he left the team for four days. It was later revealed that he had gone to his home in California because his mother had been diagnosed with ALS. It is a horrible neurodegenerative disease that, from what I understand, typically gives the person 2-5 years to live on average. I’m sure some of you can relate to what Stephen is going through. But even for those of us that can’t, I think we can all understand the severity of the situation, and how rough it must be for the entire Piscotty family.
Now I don’t know how much this situation is affecting his game. But I do know that Stephen Piscotty has been nothing short of admirable as a St. Louis Cardinal. He’s a smart guy that seems to have a great understanding of his swing. I have faith in him figuring this out and getting back to being the baseball player that we all know he can be. And when he does, I hope he gets as big of a standing ovation as Busch Stadium has seen. What he’s going through cannot be overstated, and he deserves all of the love that Cardinal nation can give. Let’s show it to him.
Thank you for reading.