The St. Louis Cardinals have been successful by almost any standard. The team has consistently found itself in the postseason. It has managed to develop talent at most key positions on the field. It has often been the blueprint by which other teams hope to do business.

However, one thing has been noticeably absent. The Cardinals have seemingly turned away from the long ball. Home runs are an attractive stat that do not always indicate success. That said, power can change a game in a hurry. The team has lacked that consistent, powerful punch to its lineup.

Meet Xavier Scruggs.

Scruggs is a power-hitting prospect who earned a brief introduction to St. Louis fans during the 2014 season. More importantly, he is a power hitter that stands on the right side of the plate. Right-handed power hitters have not been an abundant resource for the team recently.

Scruggs has posted impressive power numbers throughout his minor league career. He has hit over 20 home runs and driven in more than 70 runs in each of the last five seasons. His strikeout rates are alarming, but he has shown the ability to reach base as well. He is 27 years old, so he is not a young prospect, by any means.

As much as the Cardinals could use Scruggs’ bat, there are obstacles in his way. Namely, Scruggs is a first baseman, and the team fully intends to give the bulk of those at-bats to another power hitter, Matt Adams.

Adams is a lefty, and the Cardinals could use a right-handed complement. That would seem to open the door for Scruggs, but the team ventured into the free-agent pool to sign Mark Reynolds, specifically for that role. 

Scruggs showed some desire to unblock his path this winter. According to Brian Stull of St. Louis Baseball Weekly, Scruggs played a considerable amount of outfield during winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Scruggs reports a feeling of success with playing the new position, as he shared with Stull: “I didn’t get to rob any home runs, I made some diving catches which was pretty cool. I felt comfortable out there–I think I made maybe one error…it’s good to finally put into play something that I’ve been practicing for a long time. Whatever comes my way, whether it be outfield-infield, I’ll be ready.”

It is not that the outfield really needs the extra competition. Manager Mike Matheny will already be looking at a starting outfield of Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Jason Heyward. Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, Peter Bourjos and Tommy Pham will all be competing for a roster spot. 

The deck, at least entering spring training, is stacked against Scruggs. He finds himself unlikely to be the preferred option to back up either at first base or in the outfield.

Adding a new position and subsequently raising his value makes Scruggs an interesting option in 2015. While he will likely find himself in Memphis playing for the Triple-A Redbirds to start the season, the flexibility of where he can be used on the field will make him a candidate for major league promotions throughout the season. It will also raise his value in trade discussions. In addition, the Cardinals could use other outfielders in a trade knowing that Scruggs could fill the role, if necessary.

No matter how you look at it, Scruggs has enhanced his value this winter and given the Cardinals yet another homegrown commodity.


Statistics in this article are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Bill Ivie is the founder of I-70 BaseballFollow him on Twitter to discuss baseball any time.

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