Did the St. Louis Cardinals mishandle their young players?

A lot of St. Louis Cardinals fans were offended when the team’s former right fielder defected to the Chicago Cubs on the grounds that he believed the Wee Bears had a brighter future.

After all, Redbirds rooters said, the Cardinals had just as much young talent: Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, Kolten Wong …

But, while Chicago’s youth propelled it to a huge lead in the National League Central Division this year, everyone on the list of young St. Louis talent with the exception of Piscotty has suffered through what can only be described as a disappointing season.


I think one of the reasons is because the Cardinals stunted the development of every player on that list — with the glaring exception of Piscotty — because they didn’t give them enough time to develop in the minors before thrusting them into a demanding role at the major league level when they were too young and inexperienced.

Piscotty amassed 820 at-bats over two seasons at Class AAA Memphis before he was called up last season at the age of 24. He had 89 more in the highly-competitive and prospect-laden Arizona Fall League. Grichuk, only had 472 plate appearances in Class AAA through 2014 when he made his major league debut at 22.

Grichuk was needed because of a rash of injuries and the disappointment that followed the ill-fated promotion of Oscar Taveras (who only had 448 at-bats in Class AAA before he was called up to St. Louis — and then benched down the stretch.) While Piscotty spent the better part of two years being seasoned at Memphis, Grichuk only got about two-thirds of one season to get his feet beneath him.

Wong had only 463 Memphis at-bats before he was called up to The Show. Michael Wacha made 15 starts at the top level of the minors, about half a season worth of games. Rosenthal appeared in all of THREE GAMES in Class AAA.

An outlier of the St. Louis youth movement has been young pitcher Carlos Martinez, who had some initial growing pains before coming together last season. He appeared in only 13 games at Class AAA. But Martinez was developed the old-fashioned way: He worked out of the major league bullpen for a couple of years before earning a chance in the starting rotation.

Hopefully, these players aren’t done developing — they’re just doing it at the major league level. But there is a long list of major league prospects who were asked to do too much too soon and lost it between the ears.

It’s great that the Cardinals have done so well picking players in the draft that the critics rave about. But it doesn’t mean much if the potential doesn’t eventually turn into production at the major league level. The last few years the Cardinals have passed on the opportunity to sign veteran role players on the grounds that it would take playing time away from kids. But maybe it would have been better not to ask for so much so soon.

— Gashaus34




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