Cardinals outfield: Matt Holliday, along with youth movement
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) In spite of all the offseason talk about an aging lineup in St. Louis, the Cardinals are actually undergoing a youth movement in the outfield.
''We had a bunch of guys that were older that had experienced time and now it's Holliday and the young bucks,'' center fielder Randal Grichuk said. ''At least we have a good one there to learn from.''
The good one is Matt Holliday, an All-Star left fielder in four of his six full seasons in St. Louis.
During his time with the Cardinals, he's been joined in the outfield by veterans Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig. Last season, Jason Heyward and Jon Jay patrolled the Busch Stadium grass with Holliday.
The NL Central champions traded Jay during the winter for utility infielder Jedd Gyorko. Heyward spurned the Cards in free agency to sign with division rival Chicago, citing the Cubs' youth and potential to be a World Series contender for years to come as a factor in the decision.
Heyward's decision created roster room for some of the Cardinals' talented young outfielders.
Grichuk, a former first-round draft choice by the Los Angeles Angels who came to St. Louis as a piece of the 2013 trade that sent David Freese west, is in line to become the starting center fielder.
Heyward's departure likely vaults Stephen Piscotty into the starting right field spot. Tommy Pham can play all three outfield positions and is expected to make the team out of spring training for the first time in his career.
Of the trio, only Grichuk, who hit 17 homers in 2015, has a full year of major league experience.
''You have guys who've never necessarily been front line players and there's obvious front line opportunities out there. That creates energy,'' manager Mike Matheny said.
It's an energy that Holliday embraces.
''I have no problem bringing energy no matter who's here, but it is fun having them around,'' the 12-year veteran said. ''They are good players, good guys, a lot of talent, a lot of upside. I'm excited about their prospects.''
The young outfielders appreciate Holliday's wisdom.
''You can go up to him and talk to him any time - and he's helpful,'' said Pham, who's hit .268 with five homers and 18 RBIs in 155 major league at-bats.
While Grichuk, Piscotty and Pham are relative newcomers to the major leagues, they are quite familiar with each other.
The trio played together for several seasons in the Cardinals' minor league system.
Piscotty visited Grichuk in Texas during the offseason to work on hitting. Pham was scheduled to do so also, but those plans had the be shelved after Grichuk underwent surgery for a sports hernia.
Had it not been for injuries the trio of young outfielders may have become more familiar names earlier than this year.
A quad strain kept Pham from breaking camp on the Cardinals' major league roster last season, ultimately landing him on the 60-day disabled list. Back and elbow injuries forced Grichuk to the DL last season.
Aside from a scary outfield collision with Peter Bourjous that caused him to miss a few games last year, Piscotty has been relatively healthy during his time with the Cardinals.
A right-handed hitting alternative at first base for the Cardinals, he has missed a couple of two days at spring training because of what the Cardinals believe is food poisoning.
Piscotty hit .305 with seven homers and 39 RBIs in 256 plate appearances last season.
With Holliday a potential free agent following this season, the Cardinals also enjoy a certain amount of payroll security with the young trio. None of them can file for salary arbitration until after the 2017 season.
If they perform, the outfield could be theirs for years to come.
''Being able to come up together, have success together, hopefully have some future success together, I mean it's pretty special,'' Grichuk said. ''It's a bond that can't be broken. Something that hopefully will link us together and keep us friends forever.''