TCN Blog 2015 Top Story #20: The Bench Turns Over

Though the St. Louis Cardinals won 100 games during the 2015 regular season, their five-man bench was generally underutilized. One reason is that they did not hit well individually or as a group.

That put pressure on the starters to play more than some of them should. I feel this was a contributor to the team’s early October exit. More on that is coming in a future article in this series.

Though batting average is not the be-all and end-all, here are the full-season marks for the five primary 2015 reserves along with their number of at-bats:

CIF Mark Reynolds (382): .230
OF Jon Jay (210): .210
C Tony Cruz (142): .204
OF Peter Bourjos (195): .200
MIF Pete Kozma (99): .152

In the weeks since the playoffs concluded, all five became former Cardinals. (Their new homes are noted in parens.)

Reynolds (Colorado) and Kozma (Yankees) departed via free agency, the latter after having been removed from the 40-man roster. Bourjos (Philadelphia) was lost via a waiver claim before Cruz (Kansas City) and Jay (San Diego) were traded. Jay, Cruz and Kozma had been career Cardinals.

This purging of the bench comes a year after two other homegrown long-time reserves in Shane Robinson and Daniel Descalso were let go.

For 2016, the final makeup of the bench is yet to be determined, but as of this writing, it could consist of these players. Their 2015 batting averages are listed.

1B/OF Brandon Moss: .250 (with StL)
OF Tommy Pham: .268
C Brayan Pena: .273 (with Cincinnati)
IF Jedd Gyorko: .247 (with San Diego)
IF Greg Garcia: .240

The worst hitter of the new five had a higher average last season than the best of the 2015 crew. Of the new five, only two – Pham and Garcia – came up through the Cardinals system. Moss and Gyorko were trade acquisitions and Pena was signed as a free agent.

If another hitter is signed or acquired, whether an outfielder or first baseman, the two players most at risk could be the two homegrown Cardinals, if for no other reason than because they have minor league options remaining. Of course, a trade could impact the team in multiple ways.

Time will tell, but as a whole, this new group seems to have more offensive potential than their predecessors. If they are utilized more frequently than the 2015 bench, the 2016 Cardinals may be better balanced for the long haul as a result.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

Follow me on Twitter.