Posts Tagged ‘Randal Grichuk’

With a new Major League Baseball season upon us, hopes spring eternal for many teams across the league. Likewise, there are players in each MLB camp who have those same aspirations for their individual seasons, many of which are looking to make a name for themselves in a new fashion.

A year ago D.J. LeMahieu and Daniel Murphy made significant rises in their game to battle for the National League batting title. Likewise, Aaron Sanchez and Kyle Hendricks exploded on the scene to play major roles in their clubs reaching the postseason on the mound. Who stands to be this season’s biggest breakout talents?

Let’s have a look at seven candidates who could be on the brink of stardom in the new baseball year.

Alex Bregman, Astros

After roaring through four levels of the minors in under a year, the team did everything they possible could to get Bregman into their lineup late last season, trying the 22-year-old at shortstop, left field, second and third base. He responded with eight home runs, 34 RBI and a .791 OPS over 49 games, proving his place as a major portion of the Astros immediate push for AL West supremacy.

After helping Team USA to a World Baseball Classic, he’ll settle in on the hot corner this year and for the foreseeable future, joining Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve in baseball’s best young infield.

Kevin Gausman, Orioles

Long heralded as the O’s ace of the future, Gausman finally showed the type of talent and consistency that made those predictions so prevalent over the past few years. After the All-Star break last season, he won eight of 15 starts, along with a 3.10 ERA.

He’ll get the .ball on Opening Day this season, as Baltimore will hang much of their hopes for a return to the postseason on his shoulders.

Randal Grichuk, Cardinals

The streaky St. Louis slugger showed both his best and his worst last season. After early season struggles saw him be demoted to Triple A Memphis and his place in the Cardinal future in doubt, Grichuk made the most of his second chance. Over the final two months, he connected for 12 home runs and a .909 OPS. In the new year, he’ll be looked to potentially hit cleanup for a Cardinals club looking to put a similarly inconsistent 2016 behind them.

Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks

A crafty left-hander who can also channel some overwhelming stuff from his arsenal as well, Ray posted four games of double-digit strikeouts a year ago and finished in fourth in the NL in K’s with 218. The only thing standing between Ray and potentially rapid rise up the ranks of pitchers in the game is honing his control and a bit more luck with balls in play (he allowed a .355 BIP average). But the talent is clear.

Gary Sanchez, Yankees

The biggest breakout star of the late part of 2017, Sanchez nearly won the American League Rookie of the Year award in just two months. After hitting 20 home runs in his first 51 big league games, Sanchez is expected to carry the weight of a Yankees team that showed some significant potential late in the year. While continuing to produce at the rate he did last year is impossible, he should still begin a run as an All-Star mainstay this summer.

Trevor Story, Rockies

Story set a handful of rookie home run records last season, and kept the level of production carrying through the rest of the year. A torn UCL in his hand unfortunately ended his season short of setting even more high marks and challenging for NL Rookie of the Year honors. However, there should be every expectation that he picks up where he left off at last year — a beeline towards 30 homers, and beyond.

Dansby Swanson, Braves

There is superstar potential in Swanson, the top pick in the 2015 Amateur Draft. He will take over everyday the everyday shortstop role in Atlanta this year, with the type of expectations of being an immediate franchise cornerstone at the position like no other player has carried since Derek Jeter. The Braves are turning the page to a new era in franchise history; new ballpark, renewed manager and a young leader at the Keystone, set to carry the expectations into reality.

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David_Freese

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels pulled off one of the more intriguing deals of the offseason on Friday afternoon, with the Cardinals sending third baseman David Freese and pitchers Fernando Salas to LA in return for outfielders Peter Bourjos and minor league outfielder Randal Grichuk. For both teams, the deal represented a pursuit to fill in positions in need of upgrade, yet both solutions come at the hope of an upside swing of two different varieties.

On the Angels End: Anaheim has long been in need of a steady answer at third base, as they have been chasing a solution at the position since Chone Figgins departed a few years back. Alberto Callaspo had manned the role over the past few seasons, but he was more of an over-extended utility man than anything else. In Freese, they make a move for a player who carries a career .286 average and never has a season with an on-base percentage south of .340, and is just a year removed from a .293/.372/.467 2012 split, all numbers that surpassed Callaspo’s best campaign substantially.

However, Freese comes with some risk, as he’s never completed a season without at least one disabled list stint. Also, he showed major regression in 2013, as he steadily struggled with the strike zone, in addition to limited range in the field. He is an absolute upgrade from a situation that was looking to be filled by Andrew Romine or Chris Nelson as of yesterday, and saw little to no full-time solutions on the free agent market. Freese is an immediate plug and play upgrade, whom can take some time at designated hitter.

Salas has a diverse history in the bullpen, manning nearly every role in the Cardinal bullpen over the past four years, but is likely to have to compete for a role in the LA pen in the spring.

On the Cardinals End: It is a deal that represented an opportunity to get a piece that was not an absolute necessity, but too good to pass on in Bourjos. A 27-year-old, low cost outfielder that covers as much ground as any player in baseball in the outfield, he is an absolute upgrade in the Cardinal outfield that has suffered from limited range for the majority of the past two years. Bourjos also presents a speed element that has been non-existent in the station-to-station Cardinal lineup for some time as well.

As well, the team the team acquired one of the Angels’ top prospects (in an organization devoid of much talent beneath the Majors) in Grichuk. He is projected to be a strong candidate for development and should remain in the Top 10 prospects within the substantially deeper Cardinal system.

The move creates even further financial freedom for the Cardinals, as Freese was due for a raise in the neighborhood of $4.4 million for his second time through arbitration this winter. Salas was a candidate to be non-tendered this offseason by St. Louis, so including him in the deal was likely a throw in. The Cardinals get a crucial extra year of club control in Bourjos, who is not scheduled to hit free agency until after the 2016 season and makes just over $1 million currently.

Bourjos creates a multitude of options in how the Cardinals will handle their 2013 roster.

Bourjos creates a multitude of options in how the Cardinals will handle their 2013 roster, as he has played every outfield position, and enables Jon Jay and Oscar Taveras more flexibility.

The Dominos: The aftermath of the deal is in an instant fill in for the Angels, but also the loss of a player that projected to be their top offseason trade chip in Bourjos. While Freese fills a need, the Angels greatest problem is their lack of starting pitching depth. No player on their team created more interest than the young, cost-controlled Bourjos, and by not getting a starting pitcher in return for him, they likely will be forced to spend (over overspend) even more in the free agent market to remedy this issue.

The theme of the trade continues to revolve around starting pitching for the Cardinals as well, who manage to avoid having to include anyone from their stockpile of quality starting pitching within the deal. That likely would have been a non-starter within the deal, unless shortstop Erick Aybar was included as well, which was discussed but could not be settled upon.

Also of importance for the Cardinals, is the trade cleared up the pending infield time jam between Freese, Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong. Carpenter can now return to third base, while Wong can inherit the second base job freely.

The Winner:  It was a swap of expendable players for both sides, and ones with similarly questionable health histories as well as potential to have much greater seasons than they are coming off. But in the end the Cardinals win out as much for getting the plus tooled Bourjos as the Angels lose in trading him for a return less than he could have netted.

For more on the Cardinals evolving offseason in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more Cardinal coverage, head to I70 Baseball and The Sports Fan Journal for the game, the culture and the events.