The St. Louis Cardinals made a move today to send their top second base prospect, Kolten Wong (along with outfielder Shane Robinson), back to Triple-A Memphis, giving two young players their first opportunities to play in the big leagues. Steve Engbloom, our colleague at Call to the Pen, posted an article this morning that focused on things from the major league side of the equation but here’s some more info about Greg Garcia and Randal Grichuk, the minor league guys moving up.
Infielder Greg Garcia, 24, is a left-handed hitter who has really exploded with some power in the early going of 2014. Garcia leads the Memphis Redbirds with five home runs in just 99 plate appearances which is far above the pace that he’s had for any other previous minor league season, the best of which was his 10-home run season for Double-A Springfield in 2012.
Garcia has always put up excellent walk numbers throughout his minor league career and limits strikeouts well: this season, he has his lowest walk rate since his time in Rookie ball with 8.1% while his strikeout rate is the highest it’s ever been at 22.2%. Garcia is seen as an average defender and fourstick at Viva el Birdos says that he’s able to get the job done “in a David Eckstein-ish way” on defense. His arm is below average and fourstick believes that second base is the best position for him despite solid results in defensive metrics at shortstop throughout the minor leagues. Additionally, he has had some good stolen base numbers in a couple of seasons (although his 1/4 success rate this season is pretty bad).
Without having seen Garcia myself, I have to wonder if he’s selling out some contact for more home runs this season. His batting average is slightly down from where it has been previously but his power numbers and strikeout rate are up significantly. Whether this approach carries over to the big leagues is going to be interesting to watch for.
Outfielder Randal Grichuk was acquired by the Cardinals this past November along with Peter Bourjos in a deal that sent David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Los Angeles Angels. Grichuk, 22, was off to a very good start in his first Triple-A season, hitting .310/.351/.529 with three home runs in 94 plate appearances.
Unlike Garcia, Grichuk was making his way onto top prospect lists, and was ranked the 7th best prospect in the Cardinals’ system by consensus at Beyond the Box Score. Grichuk is a versatile, power-hitting outfielder with a decent arm and only average (to below average) speed. He’s already showing pop in Triple-A with eight doubles and a triple to go along with his three home runs and has a very good ISO of .218 (which, incidentally, is exactly the same as his ISO last year for the Angels’ Double-A club). His walk rate is on the low side but his strikeout rate since 2012 has been under 20% (sitting at 18.1% this season).
His versatility will allow him to play any of the three outfield positions and, if his bat transitions well to the majors, he should be able to hit enough in either corner.