St. Louis Cardinals should keep hitting prospects in Memphis
The St. Louis Cardinals scored just one run Thursday in a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets that brought their four-game series total to six against a team that’s 3.73 earned-run average 11th in the National League.
Cardinals batters have combined to hit .243 through the first 23 games of the season, and although they still have managed to go 12-11, they sit at the bottom of the league in home runs with 12.
Otherwise, third baseman Matt Carpenter is the only regular start with an average above .244.
Time to demolish the lineup and start over, right?
The current Cardinals hitters are nearly a month into the season and have given their fans cheap fountain drinks by scoring six or more runs just six times, while the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds have four prospects who have gotten off to impressive starts.
First baseman Joey Butler entered play Thursday with a .426 batting average, three home runs and 11 runs batted in, while outfielders Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Oscar Taveras have hit a combined .330 with eight homers and 41 RBIs.
Surely one of those hitters could jump into the St. Louis lineup and add a spark to a team that has survived largely on its pitching, as it has also struggled defensively with 20 errors in its 23 games.
However, the Cardinals would be better off if they rode through the offensive drought and waited for hitters such as Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Johnny Peralta, who have lengthy track records of substantial offensive production, to climb out of their slumps rather than replace them with rookies.
Just because rookie pitchers helped drive the Cardinals to 97 regular-season wins and a trip to the 2013 World Series does not mean they should try the same thing on the offensive side in 2014.
The Cardinals called up all of the rookie pitchers last season primarily because of injuries. Starter Jaime Garcia got hurt in May, and fellow starter Jake Westbrook went down with an injury not long after. Even replacement starter John Gast suffered a season-ending injury after just three starts.
Perhaps new center fielder Peter Bourjos will be a bust. He has hit .174 with two RBIs and six runs scored through 46 at-bats in 16 games, while incumbent center fielder Jay has started to take back some of the playing time many had expected him to lose to Bourjos.
However, Taveras is the only Memphis outfielder of the three who could likely play center field on a consistent basis, and he is still less than one month removed from leg problems that limited his spring training activity after he missed much of the 2013 season with an ankle injury that required surgery.
Despite their current struggles, the Cardinals don’t have room for any of the hitting stars in Memphis. The middle infield could use a boost, but Jhonny Peralta signed a four-year contract of more than $50 million to play shortstop, and Pete Kozma is hitting .174 at Memphis.
They also signed Mark Ellis as insurance at second base to protect rookie Kolten Wong should he fail. Wong has a .239 batting average with no home runs and five RBIs, and Ellis is hitting .125 with two RBIs, but Memphis does not have another second baseman ready to go to the big leagues now that Wong has made the jump.
Instead, the Cardinals should simply take the boring, and perhaps more frustrating approach. They should wait for their traditionally good hitters to round into form for the summer and leave the prospects in Memphis where they can play every day and have a stronger affect on the team when they actually do get to St. Louis.