Sierra Has Peaked

Like most of you, I’m absolutely enamored with watching Magneuris Sierra do pretty much anything on a baseball field.  He’s dynamic, exciting and possibly the only player on the team faster than Mike Leake.  He represents the future of Cardinals baseball.  That’s why he’s nearly out of time.

Here are five reasons why it may be time to prepare to say goodbye for now.

Reason One – Matheny.  No, this isn’t a shot at Handsome Mike, although that’s not outside the realm of possibility.  In fairness to Matheny, he’s predictably written in Sierra near the bottom of a lineup, and that bottom third has proven productive, especially with Sierra in the lineup.  There is a defensible argument to be made that batting Sierra 7th or 8th each time out is putting him into position to succeed.  However, there is an equally persuasive argument to be made that Sierra profiles as a lead-off guy and should be used there.

Sierra has proven that he can get on base while also showing that he has close to zero power.  He possesses game-changing speed on the bases, and he could benefit from hitting in front of someone who sees a lot of pitches.  If Mike doesn’t think Sierra can produce there, then maybe it’s time for Sierra to go somewhere where he can work on becoming that guy.  Even if Mike does think Sierra can be at the top of the lineup, it would take an act of Congress to displace Fowler there anyway.

Reason Two – Development.  Playing with the big boys for a while has demonstrated that Sierra has the talent to hang with them.  The time has also exposed a few parts of his game that need some work.  He needs to get stronger, and he absolutely can/will get stronger over time.  He generates a solid contact rate with a short, compact swing, but that swing doesn’t have much behind it.  His game and his body seem more likely to mature in the minors where players have time to hone their skills instead of the big leagues where all the focus stays on what he must do right now to contribute.

Reason Three – Odd man out.  When Piscotty returns, an outfielder not named “Fowler” must pack up and head to Memphis or Springfield or Palm Beach.  While that guy could be Grichuk, that would leave Sierra fighting an uphill battle against Pham and Piscotty for the corner outfield spots.  Sierra needs all the reps he can get, and playing even 2/3 of the innings available probably isn’t enough.

Reason Four – The long game.  Unless the Cardinals have seen enough of Sierra to commit to him for the rest of the season, his rookie status needs to be left intact.  To lose that status, he has to exceed 130 at-bats or spend more than 45 days on the active roster before rosters expand.  He’s already at 30 at-bats and today is his 12th day on the active roster.  If the Cardinals keep him around for the weekend series against the Giants, that would put him at 1/3 of the allowable roster time.

As the argument goes, the Cardinals could keep using him until he goes cold.  If they do, then they run the risk of needing him again in the future to cover for an injury.  Jose Martinez could be that 5th outfielder, but he seems rather pedestrian compared to Sierra.  Better to bank those active roster days in case they are needed in July.

Reason Five – He’s peaked.  How much better can you reasonably expect Sierra to play?  He’s hitting .367 with a .406 OBP, but he’s slugging just .367.  He hasn’t recorded an extra base hit yet, and with his speed he just needs to hit the ball down the line past a corner infielder.  He could mix in some doubles, but he could also start struggling when the Cardinals face better pitching than what he’s seen thus far.

Sierra at 80% of what he is right now still probably gets playing time, but at some point that becomes a bit of a disservice to Sierra as he splits time AND plays something other than center.  He’s the future of the Cardinals.  He’s an investment.  He’s provided some surprisingly early returns, but it’s time to sell.  Let him take his current small sample size success back to the minors where he can work on fully becoming the player we’ve glimpsed that he can become.


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