MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Bauman: Cards have the right guy in OF in Piscotty

Bauman: Cards have the right guy in OF in Piscotty

MILWAUKEE -- No disrespect intended, but Jason who?

Cardinals fans, accustomed to winning, have more reasons than usual for misgivings this season. But none of them should have anything to with right field.

Take a glance at these slash lines for two players through games of Tuesday night:

Stephen Piscotty: .323/.400/.497.

Jason Heyward: .220/.318/.286.

Here are the basic contentions: Heyward will improve those numbers. He may be pressing now, trying to justify the magnificent $184-million, eight-year free-agent deal he received from the Chicago Cubs. Over time, his talent level will take over and he will be back to something resembling his career norms.

On the other hand, Piscotty may be every bit as good as his current numbers show. All the available evidence indicates that, in his first full season in the Majors, he is the real deal. He is simply building on last season's performance when, over 63 games for the Cards, he went .305/.359/.494.

Cardinals fans were crestfallen when Heyward spurned their team to sign with the Cubs. Heyward seemed like a "Cardinal Way" kind of guy during his single season in St. Louis. Heyward added to the emotional burden of Cardinals fans by opining upon his arrival in Chicago that he had chosen the Cubs over the Redbirds because the Cubs had a brighter long-term future.

This was the kind of thing most Cardinals fans had never heard during their lifetimes. Not surprisingly, they were shocked and dismayed.

But now? Nobody can make lasting personnel judgments based on two months of play, but at this moment, the Cardinals are better off in right field than the Cubs are.

No, Piscotty is not the elite, Gold Glove defender that Heyward is. But he is a very capable outfielder.

"He's a much better defender than what people give him credit for," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Good jump, good arm, accurate arm, quick release, covers ground. I think he's a plus defender.

"He runs well. Would I say he runs like (center fielder) Randal Grichuk? I'd say no. But he can make up for it with jumps. Right field is a good spot for him right now. "

Piscotty is just 25, but even in his first half-season in the Majors he impressed the Cardinals with his level of maturity, both on and off the field.

"The way I explain it is, you walk out of Stanford (University) with an engineering degree you have the basic intellect," Matheny said. "But he's been able to translate that into baseball I.Q. It's just his ability to see the game, to be a good self-evaluator of where he is and also what he's doing well and not doing well. And also to try and pick apart what the opponent might do.

"He's a little bit ahead of the game, way ahead of the learning curve for a young player, to be able to see those things and then try and make the adjustments, be ready for them when they get there."

Piscotty missed the opener of the three-game series against the Brewers with what the Cardinals described as food poisoning. The culprit was tentatively identified as a bad burrito. But Piscotty came back Tuesday night with an RBI single and two walks in what turned into a 10-3 St. Louis victory. So he is also resilient.

As May ends, the Cubs have baseball's best record. The Cardinals, who had baseball's best record over the last three seasons, are in an uncharacteristic position, which is third place.

But one of the certainties with this club this year has been the play of Stephen Piscotty. No matter what Jason Heyward does from this moment forward, the Cardinals have an answer for the present and the future in right field.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.