Around the Horn: Holliday anchors the OF

Cardinals to also rely on Piscotty, Grichuk in everyday roles

Around the Horn: Holliday anchors the OF

ST. LOUIS -- This is the fourth installment in a six-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Cardinals' projected starters and backup options heading into Spring Training. After previously looking at the club's catching depth, corner infield and middle infield options, let's examine the outfield choices.

In taking his talents to Chicago, Jason Heyward presented the Cardinals with an opportunity to pivot in their outfield plans. But in resorting to Plan B, the Cardinals stayed within, preferring to let Randal Grichuk (center field) and Stephen Piscotty (right field) assume everyday roles alongside the team's venerable veteran, Matt Holliday.

Holliday, who turned 36 last month, made his Major League debut before Grichuk, 24, or Piscotty, 25, had even begun high school. He'll anchor left field for the Cardinals as he has since being traded to St. Louis in 2009, while Piscotty and Grichuk project to be in an Opening Day lineup for the first time in their respective careers.

"Yeah, it's great to know they have a lot of faith and trust in us," Piscotty said of the Cardinals' commitment to starting the pair of young outfielders. "I feel very confident. [Grichuk] feels confident. We're really excited for this season."

Statcast: Piscotty's great catch

A year ago, the Cardinals opened the regular season with a starting outfield of Holliday, Jon Jay and Heyward. Jay has since been dealt away, while Heyward chose to leave. Also departing this offseason was Peter Bourjos, now with the Phillies. The turnover leaves the Cardinals with upside, but also unknowns.

It's the gamble the Cardinals accepted when they passed on the rest of the free-agent outfield market, which included options like Justin Upton, Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes.

Grichuk's biggest hurdle may just be his health. He endured a back injury (twice), right elbow injury and sports hernia just in 2015 alone. The ailments limited him to 350 plate appearances, though he posted an impressive .877 OPS when playing. He'll get the first shot at starting in center, a position Grichuk appeared at 37 times last year.

"I'm going to go in there," he said, "and fight like it's not my job to lose, but like it's my job to win."

Statcast: Wong, Grichuk go deep

Piscotty will be in right field, where he's arguably best suited defensively. But the Cardinals remain especially giddy about his bat. Piscotty was arguably the team's best offensive performer over the final two months of the 2015 season and showcased more power after making changes to his swing.

Holliday enters the final guaranteed year of his current contract, but it's also a big one, as far as the Cards are concerned. With few outside upgrades made to the roster this winter, the club is banking on a return to form by Holliday, who hit just four home runs while being limited to 277 plate appearances last year. With the right quad injury healed, Holliday hopes to be a middle-of-the-order presence yet again.

"I think you're going to see a ridiculous year from Matt Holliday," manager Mike Matheny predicted.

Backing up those three will be Tommy Pham, who flourished down the stretch last September for the Cardinals. With a new pair of corrective lenses procured and changes to his swing made, Pham (if he can avoid injury) should be an asset as a fourth outfielder.

The other two outfielders on the club's 40-man roster -- Anthony Garcia and Charlie Tilson -- will provide added depth in Triple-A. The ability for Brandon Moss to slide into an outfield spot eliminates the need to carry a fifth true outfielder on the big league roster.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.