If your goal has been to stay healthy, playing for the St. Louis Cardinals has not helped your odds so far this season. When the day is done, Matt Holliday will probably become the eighth Cardinal player to hit the DL this season. Billy Beane once described baseball as a war of attrition. For the Cardinals, that has been accurate representation of their 2015 season.
Holliday left Monday night’s game after injuring himself chasing down a ball in the second inning against the Colorado Rockies. Initial reports were a quad injury, which is a punch in the gut for the team that just lost their first baseman for the season to a quad injury that required surgery. He will be further diagnosed today, but it will be difficult for the Cardinals to replace their team leader in OBP.
Immediately, if Holliday does require a trip to the disabled list, the Cardinals are expected to activate RHP Miguel Socolovich to take his place according to Derrick Goold.
But that’s just the first step.
If you want to look on the bright side, the injury to Holliday solves the playing time dilemma in the outfield by giving Randal Grichuk the opportunity play left field nearly everyday. The result will be one of the best defensive outfields in baseball as we return to the Jon Jay/Peter Bourjos time share in center field. The time is now for one of those two to step up. If Jay could hit like he has in the past and push his on base percentage up there, it would be a massive boost to this lineup right now.
For the Cardinals, there was really only one or two players that I felt the Cardinals couldn’t deal with losing. Unfortunately, Holliday was #1 on that list. The loss of Holliday is big. Really big. He is this team’s #3 hitter and is one of the best, most consistent hitters in baseball over the last several years. While they have plenty of pitching depth, there isn’t the same well regarded depth for position players and they certainly lack a player of Holliday’s caliber in the minors.
But there are still players who can be used to fill in the gaps behind. Mozeliak has specifically kept his depth over the last few years for situations like this.
There is Xavier Scruggs, the power hitting first baseman, who is in Memphis and already on the 40 man roster. He could play a Mark Reynolds type role off the bench for the Cardinals as he is hitting .230 with a .355 OBP and 8 home runs this season for Memphis. He got a brief look last season, but at 27 his clock is ticking.
Also on the 40 man roster, but further complicating the outfield situation, is Tommy Pham. Pham, coincidentally, just returned from his own quad injury that he sustained in spring training. He is also having a game this afternoon in Memphis as he went 2-for-5 with a walk, 3 runs scored, and 5 RBI in just his second game back in the lineup. He is also 27 with a ticking clock to make an impression on the organization.
There is also Stephen Piscotty, who is a top-100 prospect. Piscotty is probably the best positioned player to replace Holliday’s production as I feel they are similar types of players. Piscotty has hit .268 with 5 home runs since May 1st and has a slash line of .304/.364/.468 over his last 20 games. Piscotty would need a place on the 40 man roster, but if Holliday is out long term that won’t be difficult to find.
Just how exactly the Cardinals respond depends on how long Holliday will be out and the team should find that out today.
But I also feel that John Mozeliak will have to be looking at the current roster with a very critical eye over the next month as he decides what he wants to do at the trade deadline this year. We are almost to the point where I feel like this team is what it is and it won’t be worth the talent required to try to fill the holes on this team considering how many there are.
This is a team that is already missing it’s #1 starting pitcher, it’s eighth inning setup guy, it’s cleanup hitter, and now it’s #3 hitter. This team can’t take much more.