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Cardinals prospect Stephen Piscotty: how much power can we expect?

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Stephen Piscotty
Stephen Piscotty
Joel Auerbach

St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect Stephen Piscotty is on a tear down the stretch run for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds, hitting .385 in his last 10 games and .320/.381/.440 overall in the month of August. This is a sharp uptick from a July slump that saw him hit just .200/.267/.263 over as 28-game stretch. He'd hit well in April, May, and June, so it is good to see him pick things up again to close off the season.

Overall, Piscotty is hitting .290/.353/.406 with 30 doubles, eight homers, 39 walks, and 57 strikeouts in 127 games, 514 plate appearances for the Redbirds.This looks like a fine season on the surface but his wRC+ is just 100, his wOBA+ 103. When park/league context is considered, his production has been just slightly above average by Memphis/Pacific Coast League standards.

Piscotty was a supplemental first round pick by the Cardinals in 2012 out of Stanford University. He was a solid hitter in college, hitting .341/.410/.466 over a three-year period, but like many Stanford products he didn't show the home run power that scouts would normally expect from a player with his size (6-3, 210) and physical strength. Last year he hit .292/.348/.477 (wRC+134) in 63 games in High-A and .299/.364/.446 (wRC+129) in 49 games in Double-A. He's retained the batting average and OBP this year but with further slippage in his home run power, which is not what scouts wanted to see.

Scouting reports haven't changed much. PCL observers report that he handles both fastballs and breaking balls well and is tough to trick. Although he is rather aggressive and doesn't draw a large number of walks, he also doesn't chase junk outside of the zone; his approach is one of controlled aggression. He'll pull for power occasionally (as shown in the video clip below), but for the most part he goes with the pitch and is content to hit line drives to the outfield.

His batting averages have held up, but each move up the ladder seems to cut 30 points off his isolated power.

A former third baseman, Piscotty has developed into a solid defensive right fielder. Unfortunately he doesn't run well enough to play center field, and without more home run power he'll have trouble finding a regular role as a corner outfielder.

Ultimately we are faced with the same questions we had pre-season: will more power come?

The fact that he's maintained his propensity for contact is a good sign: he isn't over-matched by advanced breaking pitches or plus velocity. The key will be adding more loft to his swing and turning his strength into home run power, but without losing the positive attributes of his approach.

Whether he can do that or not, I don't know.