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.
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|
|looking good||C Martinez||Webb (L)|
|may need long man||Wainwright||Gant|
|is groin problem past?||Kim (L)||G Gallegos||closer?|
|my long man leader||Ponce de Leon||Helsley||my pen leader|
|third lefty?||Gomber (L)||Fernandez||0.00 ERA|
|0.00 ERA||Cabrera (L)|
|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|
|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)|
|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.
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.
|Comments||Starting eight||Reserve five||Comments|
|Wong||B Miller||back tightness minor|
|back tightness minor||Carpenter||Ravelo||no options – .861 OPS|
|Carlson (NRI)||major push – 1.158 OPS|
|Dean||solid – .953 OPS|
|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)|
|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.
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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