This past November, the St. Louis Cardinals acquired outfielder Randal Grichuk along with Peter Bourjos from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for third baseman David Freese and pitcher Fernando Salas.
At the time, I felt the Cardinals were getting two very fine players. Bourjos is an exceptional center fielder with blazing speed. Grichuk was the sleeper. But baseball fans will continue to learn more and more about him. When they get to know Grichuk, I think they'll like what they see.
Grichuk played baseball at Lamar Consolidated High School in Rosenberg, Texas. He hit 21 home runs as a senior, which led the nation, and he hit .613 in 75 at-bats that season.
Grichuk actually got his taste of fame early in life. He and his Lamar National teammates played in the Little League World Series in 2003 and '04, when Grichuk was 11 and 12 years old, respectively. He has been involved in high-level baseball competition since.
Grichuk had planned to attend the University of Arizona. However, those plans changed when the Angels selected him in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. The Halos had back-to-back first-round picks that year. They chose Grichuk at No. 24 and Mike Trout at No. 25.
Grichuk, No. 12 on the Cards' Top 20 Prospect list, suffered some serious injuries. He has had a torn ligament, a fractured kneecap and a broken wrist. Grichuk recovered through two injury-shortened seasons, but the past couple years have been more complete and productive. Fully recovered, he got 575 plate appearances in 2012 at Class A Advanced Inland Empire and 542 plate appearances at Double-A Arkansas last season.
After 1,949 total plate appearances covering parts of six seasons, Grichuk has a .286 career Minor League batting average and 64 home runs.
After beginning this year at Triple-A Memphis, St. Louis promoted Grichuk to the Major League club, where he made his debut on April 28 at age 22. A good athlete, he has improved markedly since being selected by the Angels. The ball just flies off Grichuk's bat.
I saw Grichuk extensively in the 2012 Arizona Fall League. He hit only .228 in 57 at-bats covering 16 games. Grichuk hit two homers and drove in five runs. It was a bit of a disappointment from a first-round Draft choice.
I have seen Grichuk since, and he looks far more engaged in his at-bats, showing much more awareness of his own mechanics and in the way pitchers try to get him out. There is much more life and energy to his game.
Grichuk is athletic. Tall and lanky, he has an outstanding frame, at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. A right-handed hitter, Grichuk is skillful as an outfielder, but I think he can also succeed as a first baseman if necessary.
Grichuk's best tool is his raw power. He has the ability to clobber fastballs. In fact, Grichuk is very selective at the plate and isn't afraid to wait for a pitch he can drive, passing on sliders out of his comfort zone.
Not strictly a pull hitter, Grichuk has enough bat speed through the ball to generate back spin and loft on his long drives to all fields.
An aggressive hitter, Grichuk has busy hands at the plate. If he could steady his hand movement and shorten his swing a bit, his hitting results would likely improve. Grichuk has good plate coverage, but he does swing and miss a bit. I don't think he will be a high-average hitter, but rather, a steady and reliable source of power and run production.
A part of Grichuk's game I really like is his baseball instincts. He knows how to get the most from his skill and doesn't go beyond his own comfort zone.
Grichuk projects to be an average to a shade-above-average defensive outfielder. He can make all the plays by quickly reading balls off the bat, showing good range and direct routes. Grichuk has the arm strength and speed to play all three positions in the outfield.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.