Monday, August 10, 2015

Randal Grichuk, Rookie of the Year?

There have been many hyped rookies come onto the scene in the National League this year. Kris Bryant made his debut with the Cubs after spending the first two weeks in the minor leagues. Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson found himself on the All Star team after a fast start. Mets fireballer Noah Syndergaard has made a name for himself after his May call up. Korean infielder Jung Ho Kang has played well at two different positions with the Pirates. Other notable rookies include Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, Giants third baseman Matt Duffy, the Diamondbacks Cuban defector Yasmani Tomas, Cubs second baseman Addison Russell, and Giants pitcher Chris Heston.

While all those players have made an impact with their teams, the Cardinals Randal Grichuk has put himself in Rookie of the Year contention with a strong second half. In 20 games since the All Star break, Grichuk has 7 home runs, 17 RBI's, and a 1.017 OPS. Since getting regular playing time after coming off a DL stint on May 16th, Grichuk has become a regular starter. First at left field filling in for Matt Holliday, then shifting to center field after Holliday came back (Fellow rookie Stephen Piscotty has filled in for Holliday since he re-injured his quad).

Grichuk has outproduced the Cardinals other center fielders this season. Jon Jay opened the season as the starter, but has had two DL stints because of a wrist injury. Peter Bourjos plays better defense, but hasn't hit. Grichuk has more hits than Jay and Bourjos combined, and much more power. Grichuk leads the team with 7 triples, is third with 14 homers, and tied for third with Kolten Wong with 20 doubles. He has accomplished this despite being 7th on the team with plate appearances.

It looks like Grichuk has found a permanent home in center field for the Cardinals, after playing the corner spots last year. He has a lightning quick bat, and one of the hardest swings in the majors. Grichuk has the type of power to be a 30 home run hitter in the major leagues. After all, Grichuk was drafted one spot ahead of Angels superstar Mike Trout. John Mozeliak's trade of David Freese and Fernando Salas for Grichuk and Bourjos is looking more and more like a steal everyday.

How does Grichuk compare to fellow NL rookies this year? He ranks fourth in batting average behind Duffy, Kang, and Tomas. He leads all rookies with a .574 slugging pct., which is almost 100 points higher than the next rookie. He is third in homers for rookies, and that's despite missing over a month. Here's how Grichuk compares to the rest of the ROY contenders.

Player                     AB   R    H   2B  3B  HR RBI SB  BA  OBP  SLG
R Grichuk, STL     269   41   77  20   7    14   43   4   .286  .332  .569
M Franco, PHI      292   42   80  21   1    12   47   1   .274  .336  .476
J Pederson, LA      369   53   82  18   1    21   43   3   .222  .354  .447
K Bryant, CHI       365   58   91  17   4    15   65  11  .249  .360  .441
M Duffy, SF          385   48  111  20  5     9    51   5   .307   .345  .476
Y Tomas, ARZ      314   32   93  17   2     6    39   5   .296   .329  .420
J Kang, PIT           300   42   88   17  4     9    39   5    .293  .368  .453

Pitcher                            Record  ERA WHIP   IP     SO
N Syndergaard, NYM      6-6      3.01   1.12   98.2   106
C Heston, SF                   11-6     3.48   1.20  134.2  102
A DeSclafani, CIN           7-7       3.75   1.36  132.0   98

Grichuk has entered the top tier of ROY candidates with his recent tear. He has outperformed hyped rookies like Bryant and Pederson, who both have slumped in the second half. Duffy and Kang have also been talked about as ROY candidates by the national writers. Syndergaard could also capture the award with a strong finish, similar to his teammate Jacob DeGrom last year. It's a strong field, but Grichuk is one of the better candidates. If Grichuk keeps up his hot second half, he could find himself with a Rookie of the Year trophy.

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