Randal Grichuk & Mark Reynolds: Deep League Wire

Whatever it is they do in St. Louis, it works: The Cardinals are 33-18, the best record in the majors, and if the past decade is any gauge, we might as well go ahead and put them down for another postseason berth in 2015. With such success, let’s see if two little-owned position players on the team, both of whom have recently come into playing time, can provide help to deep-leaguers.

As usual, the players discussed in this space are better suited for mono leagues, and the ownership percentages are by way of CBS.

Randal Grichuk / OF / St. Louis Cardinals / 10%

At first glance, the Cardinals’ outfield would seem pretty set. Matt Holliday is the left fielder. Jason Heyward is the right fielder. And Jon Jay, a key part of the Cardinals’ recent run of postseason-qualifying glory, is entrenched in center. Problem is, he missed three weeks in May with a wrist injury, and his absence gave the rookie Grichuk a chance to get some starts in center. He took advantage of his opportunity, and now, even Jay’s return has been unable to completely halt Grichuk’s name from finding its way onto manager Mike Matheny’s lineup card — he had started five straight games before getting a day off Monday.

The pedigree for a successful major league career is certainly there. Grichuk, 23, was the 24th overall pick in the 2009 June amateur draft when he was plucked by the Angels, then came over to St. Louis in the David FreesePeter Bourjos deal. For a would-be power hitter, he’s not an especially imposing physical specimen — 6-foot-1, 195 pounds — but he’s left a trail of home runs in the minor leagues, smashing 65 of them over his past three minor league seasons.

He only has 182 plate appearances in the majors, but he’s already crushed five dingers and has a very impressive .270 ISO, and has so far shown a propensity to hit the ball in the air — just the kind of batted ball profile we want to see from a power hitter. His glove helps make his case for playing time, too; he snagged a minor league Gold Glove award two years ago and has flashed solid defensive metrics in his brief major league career across all three outfield positions.

There is, alas, some fine print. A lousy walk-to-strikeout ratio in the minors has carried over to the majors, thus keeping his on-base percentage at just .318. His healthy .286 average will tumble down once his batted ball luck regresses, and keep an eye on his splits, as the right-handed-hitting Grichuk, a southpaw masher down on the farm, was far more pedestrian against righties.

And, of course, playing time is a major problem so far as his fantasy value is concerned. Although Matheny is on record saying he wants to keep Grichuk in the lineup, the three aforementioned veterans aren’t going to sit on the bench to watch an untested rookie get his feet wet in the National League. But although Holliday is having yet another solid season, he is 35, and Jay’s DL stint was caused by the same wrist on which he had offseason surgery, so the possibility remains that it could be a lingering issue. For right now, Grichuk is an obvious platoon candidate (albeit on the lesser end of a potential arrangement), but would be a sneaky play in deep mixed leagues were he to find regular at-bats.

Mark Reynolds / 1B / St. Louis Cardinals / 8%

Matt Adams has a completely torn right quadricep, an injury that could sideline him for the rest of the season. And while one imagines the Cardinals are considering more stable alternatives to a man with a lifetime .230 average, the team is publicly committed to having Reynolds anchor first base, at least for the time being.

You all know Reynolds, so let’s keep this short: he kills you in average but helps with home runs. His fantasy value has tailed off from the days when he could deliver upwards of 30 bombs, but at age 31, he’s still useful, having appeared in at least 130 games over the past three seasons, averaging 22 long balls in each campaign. So far, he has just three homers, partly the result of a heavy ground ball rate, but he’s also been the victim of a low 10.7% HR/FB rate, which should see a bounce given a solid average batted ball distance of 287 feet.

With the Cardinals having lost one of their middle-of-the-order hitters, the team needs Reynolds to step up, unless or until a new first baseman is imported. He’s essentially a one-category pony, but one that can be counted on to deliver as advertised.

Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.

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7 years ago

Even if he gets more starts than the average bench player going forward, I still don’t see how Grichuk can get enough playing time to be useful in any league short of a major injury in the St. Louis outfield. If such an injury were to occur, it shouldn’t be too hard to pluck Grichuk from the waiver wire at that point.