Piscotty takes call for athleticism to heart

Piscotty takes call for athleticism to heart

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' desire to build a more athletic roster for 2017 took them toward Dexter Fowler and brought them back to Kolten Wong. But separate of those organizational decisions was the one made by Stephen Piscotty, who heard this appeal for increased athleticism as a personal one.

Piscotty, who projects to open next season as the Cardinals' cleanup hitter, took the lessons learned during his first full season in the Majors and tweaked his offseason training accordingly. He's been working out specifically with an eye on increasing his explosiveness and ensuring his body is conditioned to stay fresh throughout the length of the season.

"I kind of hit a lull in late August, early September," Piscotty said, reflecting on 2016. "I caught a second wind to finish out the year, but I was definitely feeling it a little bit. I didn't really know what to expect going in -- the intensity of the games, the adrenaline flowing for that long. I think that weighed on me for a little bit.

"The way I'm attacking it this offseason is to get in better shape. I've heard the call from the Cardinals that we want to get more athletic, and I'm going to try to do my part."

Piscotty is familiar with offseason overhauls. A few years ago, he undertook learning a new position (right field), and in 2014, Piscotty spent the winter redesigning his swing. This year, the focus had been on conditioning.

Though he led the Cardinals with 582 at-bats, 85 RBIs, 86 runs scored, 266 total bases and 10 game-winning RBIs, Piscotty slipped in his late-season production. After slashing .295/.350/.493 in the first half, Piscotty put up a slash line of .247/.310/.430 in the second half. His OPS dropped from .849 to .740.

He also fought fatigue in the field, noting that his "throwing didn't feel as crisp" late in the season. What he felt was affirmed by Statcast™ data, which did identify a slight decline in Piscotty's average arm velocity.

Stephen Piscotty's arm strength

"I just felt dull toward the end of the year," Piscotty said. "I knew that I was going to play another 162 [games] that I'm going to have to be at tip-top shape."

One factor in the early-onset fatigue, Piscotty surmises, was the amount of pregame work he did early in the season. Piscotty, much like teammate Matt Carpenter, has made an impression with how early he arrives at the ballpark and the volume of swings he gets in before game time.

That work, Piscotty said, will now be defined by quality, not quantity.

"I kind of blew out too soon," he acknowledged. "[Hitting coach John Mabry] and the other coaches were going to let me work because there were certain things I wanted to do, but I could sense that they wanted me to chill and take a step back, so to speak. I remember getting that vibe, so I'm going to consider that going forward."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.