The St. Louis Cardinals as an organization, as well as their fans, have an overwhelmingly impressive penchant for claiming that they’re disrespected in some form or fashion. Is that the case in reality? Of course not. In regard to Randal Grichuk, however, we might have a case of some disrespect, at least to a certain extent.
Grichuk has logged some time at the big league level, including 47 games during the regular season in 2014, but he still qualified as a rookie heading into this 2015 campaign. He’s latched onto a spot in the outfield, thanks to a multitude of injuries, and hasn’t looked back.
On the season, Grichuk has gone for a slash line of .292/.341/.581/.922. He’s been a well above average hitter through his first 273 plate appearances, as indicated by his 152 wRC+. With 13 homers, 20 doubles, and seven triples, he’s gone for a terrific .289 ISO. His strikeout rate has eclipsed 30%, but that falls in line with many of the top rookies throughout the league.
Grichuk has made linedrive contact at a solid 19.2% of the time, with a hard hit ball percentage up over 37%. He hacks and misses at a lot of pitches, with a SwStr% of 15.5 for the year, and you’d like to see more contact (probably an understatement), given that he’s making contact at an overall rate of just 70% thus far, but when he’s making contact, he’s making things happen. His ability to hit the ball hard and maintain that solid LD% is helping him to maintain that absurdly high .386 BABIP.
Additionally, he’s been a very solid fielder for the Cards this season. He’s made 39 Out of Zone plays and has posted six Defensive Runs Saved in logging significant time at all three outfield spots. His overall UZR per 150 games is at 6.2, with defensive metrics pointing to right field as his only negative value in the field.
All of this culminates in a 3.0 WAR to this point, which has him third behind Major League rookies, trailing only Matt Duffy and Kris Bryant. Though logging time in about 20 less games than each of them, he trails Bryant by only one home run and sports a higher wRC+ and a higher wOBA than both of the league’s top rookies, according to WAR.
Now we don’t necessarily know how Matt Duffy projects long-term, but it’s probably easy to declare that Kris Bryant will be a better player over the course of their respective careers. Even so, Grichuk has managed to give each of them a run for their money, as well as eclipsing Joc Pederson, also a contender for the NL Rookie of the Year Award in WAR.
Of course, it’s important to note that he could be in line for a regression. Even in making hard contact as regularly as he is, a .386 BABIP is almost impossible to maintain. This is especially true when you consider the fact that he’s making contact at the ninth lowest rate among Major League rookies. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to be impressed with what he’s put up on the stat sheet thus far during the 2015 season.
Even with a lack of recognition, it’s impossible to argue the fact that Randal Grichuk has established himself as a premier rookie in this league. A regression is likely on its way at some point, given the outlandish BABIP and lack of regular contact, as well as that high strikeout rate, but to be right in the mix with the likes of Bryant, Duffy, and Pedersen in terms of WAR and beyond makes Grichuk one of the higher quality rookies of 2015, even with the lower recognition than many others throughout the league.
**Statistics via FanGraphs
Randy Holt is the managing editor for Statliners. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.