2020 Cardinals Opening Day Roster Predictions – Mid-Camp

photo: Byung-Hyun Kim (Jim Rassol/Imagn)

With the St. Louis Cardinals taking Friday off, the club is 6-7-2 through 15 Grapefruit League games. Including the spring finale in Texas on March 23, 16 contests remain.

To recognize the midpoint, I will return to update my pre-camp Opening Day roster predictions, as shared with subscribers to The Cardinal Nation.

Breaking Down Cardinals Relief Pitching Decisions – Spring 2020

Breaking Down Cardinals Reserve Decisions – Spring 2020

Here are the key background changes since camp began – Andrew Miller (nerve) and Yairo Muñoz (hamstring) join Jordan Hicks and Miles Mikolas on the projected injured list.

Muñoz was not likely to be on the opening 26-man roster, anyway, but assuming Miller cannot go, a third contested bullpen spot will be created.

With the opening of minor league camp this coming week, a significant number of the 74 players in camp (39 pitchers and 35 position players) will be cut. Opening Day assumptions are 13 active pitchers and 13 position players.

(Update: Munoz was released and 13 players were sent down to the minors on Saturday, March 7.)


As before, player names are in the middle, with comments to the outside.  All players in camp are accounted for.

Comments Starting five Relief “set five” Comments
Flaherty  Cecil (L)
looking good C Martinez Webb (L)
may need long man Wainwright Gant
Hudson Brebbia
is groin problem past? Kim (L) G Gallegos closer?
open #1
open #2
open #3
“Challenging five”
my long man leader Ponce de Leon Helsley my pen leader
third lefty? Gomber (L) Fernandez 0.00 ERA
0.00 ERA Cabrera (L)
To Memphis
Reyes  inconsistent
Injured list
flexor tendon strain Mikolas (to IL) Hicks (IL) Tommy John recovery
A Miller (L to IL) nerve problem
No MLB experience
later 2020 debut Woodford
2021 debut Seijas
2021 debut Sanchez
Not spring 2020
Parsons (NRI) Kaminsky (L NRI)
Crismatt (NRI) R Ramirez (NRI)
Bostick (NRI) Whitley (NRI)
Oviedo (NRI) J Cruz (NRI)
A Rondon (NRI) Elledge (NRI)
FaGalde (NRI) Dobzanski (NRI)
Kruczynski (L NRI) Santos (NRI)
Roberts (NRI)
Thompson (L NRI)
Liberatore (L NRI)
(L) left-handed pitcher
bold = 40-man roster

Despite Kwang-Hyun Kim’s recent groin injury, he has returned to pitch effectively. I believe the Korean lefty will remain in the rotation until/unless he shows he cannot go.

As good as Carlos Martinez has been, allaying fears about his durability, Adam Wainwright’s outings have returned questions about his effectiveness. The veteran should remain in the rotation, but the long man in relief could become more important. This may specifically relate to Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon.

The number of bullpen openings is up to three, as the pitchers I see as realistically challenging for those openings are down to five. They all have a great case to make the team.

Across a total of 27 spring innings, these five contenders have allowed just two runs (0.67 ERA). Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera and Junior Fernandez have yet to give up a run, while Ponce de Leon and Gomber have yielded just one tally each.

Alex Reyes has yet to demonstrate the needed consistency, so I project him starting the year with Memphis.

Regarding the closer, it seems the choices have narrowed. If Miller remains out/ineffective and Martinez claims his rotation spot as expected, I see Giovanny Gallegos as being the most likely ninth inning man to start the season. Helsley and John Gant are still pitching multiple innings in games, though that could change ahead.

If I had to fill the final three roster spots today, it would be the right-handers – Ponce, Helsley and Fernandez. But if they want a direct replacement for Miller, the fellow lefty Cabrera or even Gomber could slip into the mix.

The front office and Mike Shildt could easily view it differently, as I do not see a bad choice among the five top contenders.

Position players

Comments Starting eight Reserve five Comments
Molina Wieters
Goldschmidt Edman .739 OPS
Wong B Miller back tightness minor
DeJong Thomas .921 OPS
back tightness minor Carpenter Ravelo no options – .861 OPS
1.090 OPS O’Neill
.880 OPS Bader
.095 BA Fowler
“Challenging two”
Carlson (NRI) major push – 1.158 OPS
Dean solid – .953 OPS
To Memphis
Knizner .150 BA
Sosa .192 BA
Williams .095 BA
Injured list
Not spring 2020 No MLB experience
extra catchers other NRIs
Godoy (NRI) Nogowski (NRI)
O Hernandez (NRI) Schrock (NRI)
Ju Rodriguez (NRI) E Mendoza (NRI)
D Ortega (NRI) Baker (NRI)
I Herrera (NRI) Gorman (NRI)
C Soto (NRI) Robertson (NRI) MIF injury add
A Wilson (NRI)
Pages (NRI)
Antonini (NRI)
bold = 40-man roster

I have the same 13 position players making the Opening Day roster as I predicted before camp – however, I am less sure about it than before.

As everyone reading this already knows, Dexter Fowler is not hitting well and Dylan Carlson is. In encouraging news for the team, so are Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas and Harrison Bader.

Dylan Carlson

A decision to put Carlson on the 26-man roster, while seemingly obvious to many fans, cannot be made in a vacuum. Like every other roster move, there are related impacts to consider.

What this is NOT about, however, is service time manipulation.

Specifically, we know that Carlson will not make the team except in a starting role – not in a job share or coming off the bench. So, heading out of camp, would the Cardinals put Carlson in the lineup, knowing that Fowler would be the likely one to move into a reserve role? Are they ready to make that call, starting a relatively inexperienced outfield of O’Neill-Bader-Carlson?

And even if so, would they do that knowing the domino impact that Thomas would be pushed down to Memphis or Rangel Ravelo would be exposed to waivers?

It is also worth noting that through the first half of camp, utility man Tommy Edman is not outhitting any of the true outfielders competing for a roster spot, while peer Brad Miller is reportedly close from returning to action following lower back soreness. I see both reserves making the team, but maybe not securing as many outfield at-bats as some thought previously. Their left-handed swinging capability remains their key offensive differentiator.

The Carlson and related questions are the key ones to be answered for the position players ahead.

Three earlier contenders for the 26th spot are all currently hitting below the Mendoza Line – Andrew Knizner, Edmundo Sosa and Justin Williams. I have this trio starting 2020 back with Memphis.

Newcomer Austin Dean is hitting well, but he would need an injury to one of the outfielders ahead of him to make the team. Not likely, even as the 26th man.

The next two and a half weeks should be really interesting as the final decisions affecting the Opening Day roster are revealed.

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