In the 2014 season of multiple offensive disappointments for the St. Louis Cardinals, none was bigger – or a bigger surprise – than right field.
Last off-season, veteran Carlos Beltran – productive, but aging and oft-injured – was allowed to seek a big free agent payday from the Yankees. That opened up the position for slugger Allen Craig. A side benefit was to give promising first baseman Matt Adams starter at-bats.
Along the way, what looked to be a promising advantage all went wrong.
Amid a high level of expectations, rookie Oscar Taveras was given a short leash before being returned to Triple-A and later tried again, totaling 58 uneven starts at the position.
The club eventually came back around to an earlier-tested rookie in Randal Grichuk. He had manned right field for just 16 regular-season starts before taking over during the playoffs. There on the big stage, the overmatched 22-year-old struck out at a 37 percent rate and batted .171.
The cumulative regular-season results from the position were so bad that the .609 OPS from the right fielders was the lowest among the eight positions on the Cardinals team, excluding pitchers. The right fielders tied for worst on-base percentage at just .283.
To top it off, a position that is expected to deliver power had the worst slugging percentage on the team at a paltry .326. The total right field run output consisted of 59 RBI and nine home runs.
The year before was like daylight compared to the 2014 darkness. 2013 right fielders combined for a team-best 28 homers and plated 107. Their batting line was a robust .304/.348/.500/.848.
With only Jay, who has earned the regular job in center, and unseasoned Grichuk slated to return from among the five primary 2014 performers in right, the Cardinals took very decisive action this off-season.
Much more about that is coming in a future story, but suffice it to say the Cardinals do not want to experience another year from right field in 2015 like they suffered through in 2014.
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