St. Louis Cardinals baseball is so close I can almost taste it. So close, in fact, that the United Cardinals Bloggers are kicking up the annual roundtable. Many of these bloggers have been writing far longer than myself, and I’m helping kick off the discussion here at the Redbird Daily.
For those who are unfamiliar, one member of the group asks a question, and that person then posts a transcript of the discussion.
My question for the day:
There’s been a lot of talk about guys needing to bounce back for the St. Louis Cardinals to succeed in 2017, including Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake, and Jhonny Peralta. These guys, however, are guaranteed to be on the MLB roster come opening day if healthy.
In my mind, Spring Training is more important for players near the 25 man cut, or for young prospects. The Cardinals have a number of guys on the fringe competing for MLB roster spots, and plenty of high ceiling prospects in the lower ranks of the minors.
I want to know who you think has the most to prove during Spring Training. That could mean someone like Alcantara showing well enough to earn an aggressive promotion to AA, or it could mean Jordan Schafer proving he is ready to contribute for the MLB club.
In the end, this might serve as a list for players to watch during Spring Training. Spring games are pretty boring to watch without specific guys to focus on, in my opinion (am I allowed to say that?).
Mark, RetroSimba: Sam Tuivailala seems to be a player at a career crossroads and has a lot to prove this spring. Can he pitch with control and command and become a reliable setup reliever or closer-in-waiting? Or is he just a hard thrower destined to hit a ceiling at Triple-A? This spring, he needs to step up in order to be a serious factor in Cardinals plans.
Allen, The Redbird Daily: I agree with Mark. It seems like the bullpen may be short a right handed arm. That situation could get worse if they truly give Rosenthal a shot to sniff the rotation. I personally don’t think that’s going to happen.
Socolovich would be another player that will feel pressure for the same reasons mentioned above. Probably more so in his case due to being out of options.
It’s no different here. I’ll be watching guys like Harrison Bader, Schaefer, etc.
But the guy I’m really watching is Carson Kelly, for what he represents.
In an ideal world, where we had the Yankees checkbook, Yadier Molina would be a Cardinal for life. We don’t live in that world. If Kelly looks good, we’re less likely to extend Yadi, or at the least, have more leverage. if Kelly’s not so shiny, then Yadi has more leverage.
The kid’s only 22, but he did well in the minors last year. Hasn’t shown much thump, but I’m not a big HR guy. I think he could actually be a backup if the Cards wanted to (learning at Yadi’s knee), but the best place is probably AAA so he can get more AB’s. and if he continues to progress? Let the Cards/Yadi staredown begin!
So yeah, Kelly’s my guy.
Daniel, C70 At The Bat: I like Mark’s mention of Tuivailala, because I have to think he’s almost out of options. Looking at his history, he probably has one more for this year, but if that’s wrong Sam’s got to prove he’s a big leaguer, for the Cardinals or for someone else. Again, he’ll probably have a chance to go to Memphis, but if he doesn’t do well in spring they could be real hesitant to bring him back up (like they did–fairly inexplicably–with Socolovich last year.
I might have to go with Trevor Rosenthal here, though. Is he really back to being effective? Can he do it for longer periods of time? I don’t expect he’ll be the starter, but if he’s got command and he’s looking good, that’s a huge weapon for the bullpen. His last impression last season was a good one, so can he build on that or will he slip back?
Kevin, STL Cards ‘N Stuff: All great suggestions. I’m particularly intrigued by the Kelly/Molina situation, especially in how it will play out with Molina at the WBC for a while and his mentor relationship with Kelly when he returns. For Yadi, I truly think his next contract is going to come down to what he expects regarding playing time over the next three years, even more than money.
For me, though, I think the middle infield needs to show a strong start. I hate to be the one to say it, but Diaz only has one successful MLB season under his belt. For a guy just a couple years removed from passing through waivers, it’s important for him to show he’s still the guy from 2016 and not the guy that nearly found himself in another organization.
And despite Mozeliak and Matheny’s commitment to Wong at second base, it’s going to be critical to his psyche for him to have a solid, drama free spring. If he can put together an error-free (mostly) March and do what he wants to do at the plate, he will have a strong mental base to draw from in April, May, and beyond. If he struggles, however, that doubt will follow him into the season, and he’s already shown a difficulty to self-correct when games and at-bats count.
I know your question was primarily aimed at who makes the roster, but I think the spirit of it applies to Wong and Diaz in that the Cardinals and those two players need reassurance and confidence from the middle infield heading into April.
– Kevin Reynolds (@deckacards)
Josh, Pitchers Hit Eighth: Awesome question and one I needed to let marinate before answering. The position battle if you want to call it that is internal and has to do all with the new LF. No one is asking Randal Grichuk to become Holliday 2.0 right off the bat but add him to the extremely long list of STL players who deal with undisclosed injuries.
Grichuk must stay healthy and find his place sooner rather than later because he will be the odd one out in any OF rearrangements. Bader only real prospect who could have a say with a monster first half, but the clock is ticking for the other guy drafted along with some Trout guy.
Jon, Redbird Dugout: To me there’s a few guys on the 40 man who are at risk of falling off, but that’s more of a season long question. Along with prospects who need to stand out, though Spring Training can be an important part. But there’s a related question here that I don’t think I’ve seen anyone ask yet: who gets Alex Reyes’ bullpen spot?
There are seven spots in the bullpen and I think you can safely assume that Oh, Cecil, Siegrist, Rosenthal, Broxton, and Bowman have six of those spots nailed down. That leaves one opening.
The three guys who I see as up for that job are Sam Tuivailala, Miguel Socolovich, and Tyler Lyons. Tuivailala has one option remaining, Socolovich and Lyons are both out and will have to stick with the big league club or risk waivers.
I’m super high on Lyons as a reliever and think he could legitimately find a spot as a high quality lefty reliever who isn’t just relegated to specialist duty. Maybe not as elite as Andrew Miller, but I think the potential is there to get close.
Socolovich would seem to be the darkhorse, despite having a 1.89 ERA over 48 innings for the Cardinals the last two seasons and was arguably downright dominant when he did see game action last year with a 0.56 WHIP.
Tuivailala still has much to prove and will likely go down simply because of the path of least resistance. He has work to do as he nears go-or-go-home time.
But to me, those three guys are the guys for whom Spring Training means the most this year.
Carly, KMOV: I’m with Shoptaw on this one. I gotta go with Rosenthal.
When I go down to Florida, my attention is going to be set on him. We all know that he wants to be a solid starter in the rotation. I’m rooting for him, but he has a lot to prove. If we want to see the 2015 Rosenthal, then he has to work hard for it.
The Cardinals have some tough decisions to make when it comes to that final MLB roster cut. But the Cards also have to keep a close eye out for guys like Tuivailala, Jose Martinez, Bader, and Pham. These are all guys that could add depth to different spectrums of the baseball field.
Depth is key this season. The Cardinals’ pitching depth is still pretty solid despite the big hit they got from losing Reyes. As much as that sucked, losing Reyes really opened my eyes and made me realize how deep the Cardinals’ pitching staff really is.
So keep an eye on Rosenthal (and also Wacha). These guys have something to prove. This is why Spring Training and Spring Training games are so damn important.
Josh: Jon, great point about the pen as we know who C70 will be rooting for! Lyons starts on the DL I bet and could see time as a starter before coming back which puts him in the same boat as my under-the-radar reliever. Gant came over in the ATL trade and has the funky delivery that throws off batters. He is who I am watching for next month.
It’s been so long since he pitched in the majors, Cardinals fans have forgotten he was the first round pick back in the 2013 draft. He pitched prettty well in the 2014 postseason, but hasn’t been healthy since. Meanwhile, he has been passed by on prospects lists by the likes of Luke Weaver, Sandy Alcantara, Jack Flaherty, and Dakota Hudson.
Gonzales needs strong Spring to assert himself as an option going forward. Regardless of his performance in Florida, he’ll probably open the season in the Memphis rotation. I like Marco, and the Cardinals rotation lacks a southpaw. A return to form could set him up to be the de facto sixth starter, ready to go should a member of the rotation inevitably go down. If he peforms poorly or has another injury setback, however, you can probably forget about him ever being a contributor at the big league level.
Adam, The Redbird Daily: The guy that I’m most intrigued by will be Miguel Socolovich. He’s a guy on the borderline of the roster that’s out of minor league options. So the only real options are the two extremes. Either he makes the team and sticks in the bullpen, or he gets DFA and I would imagine picked up very quickly by another team. Plus I believe he’ll be missing time in spring for the WBC so it’ll be interesting how it plays out.
Since coming to the Cardinals he has almost completely quit throwing his four seam fastball in favor of a sinker. Since making that switch he has been nothing but productive. Not to mention he’s been pretty much dominant in his two stints in the majors with the Cardinals, posting a 1.89 ERA in 47.2 innings.
Socolovich deserves to be in the major leagues. I just hope that happens with the Cardinals and not another team.
Josey, Viva El Birdos: One guy who I am looking forward to seeing this spring is Jose Martinez. Depending on whether the Cardinals opt for 12 position players or 13, it’s *possible* he could make the 25-man out of camp, and I am hopeful he will get a chance; if not out of camp, then sometime down the road in ’17.He won the batting title in AAA back in ’15, and I liked what I saw from him at the end of last year, be it a small sample size, but still; with Tommy Pham being the only other option, I think any bit of success is in play.
Colin: After doing a little more research, I realized Marco will be out until late May… So I’d like to revise my answer.
Although he’s a lock to make the Opening Day roster, I’ll be keeping a close eye on Jedd Gyorko this Spring.
Gyorko is coming off a career year in which he mashed 30 bombs and was nearly an every day player. Despite his pop, he enters this season as a bench player. The Cardinals have expressed their sincere desire for Wong to run with the second base job, and by all indications, its Peralta’s job to lose at third base.
It will be interesting to see how Jedd handles a bench role, despite his 2016. He can be a really useful player for the Cards, but only if he has the right mindset. For that reason, I’ll be keeping a close eye on him during Grapefruit League play.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the first taste of St. Louis Cardinals baseball this weekend!