It’s way too early to really know anything in Spring Training, yet. Pitchers destined for AA and AAA are throwing innings against hitters with Major League experience; staff aces are focusing more on fine-tuning pitches than getting hitters out; and hitters lucky enough to get off to a fast start are over-shadowing players that will make a strong push in mid-March.
Of course, that means it’s the perfect time for Cards ‘N Stuff to make our first prediction of the season!
Below is a potential 25-man roster for the Cardinals on Opening Day. Following the roster list, we’ll discuss a few notable inclusions or exclusions.
Quick Notes: Any player with a $500,000 salary in the following table simply means we don’t know his exact contract term, but he’s young enough that it should be in that vicinity. Also, Chris Carpenter’s $10.5 million salary is not included in the roster chart, but obviously it counts against a team’s annual budget (for the Cardinals, that’s approximately $110 million). Alright, let’s get into it…
|Edward Mujica||RHP/7th Inn.||RH||3,200,000||18|
|Total Bench Players||5|
|Potential Salary Total||101,075,000|
Shelby Miller in the rotation. I know he hasn’t even thrown a pitch yet, but Miller seems the obvious choice – assuming his shoulder is fine and he pitches as expected this Spring – for that fifth spot in the rotation. He’s been making a B-line for a rotation spot in St. Louis since he was drafted, and both pitchers he’s competing with – Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly – have shown clear value out of the bullpen (in Kelly’s case, as the undervalued multiple innings reliever and spot starter). Miller in the rotation just seems to be the path of least resistance.
Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal in the bullpen…but no Fernando Salas. In addition to having a rocky season last year, Salas seemed to have been pushed into the background by the rookie phenoms. Rosenthal’s ability to dominate any at-bat out of the ‘pen combined with both he and Kelly’s ability to pitch multiple innings, face either RH or LH hitters, and make spot starts if needed means their value simply exceeds Salas’. Plus, the bench player situation almost demands carrying 12 pitchers as opposed to 13. The result means Fernando Salas will likely be the first to fall victim to the ascension of the young guns.
Ronny Cedeno beats out Pete Kozma…sort of. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think Kozma is going to out-hit Cedeno at the plate while doing enough in the field to secure a spot. Unfortunately, the fact that Mozeliak could be wary of releasing a player he signed for over a million dollars – and the likelihood that Cedeno will play well enough to keep from losing a spot – means Kozma most likely starts the season in AAA. But don’t be surprised if Kozma DOES force Mo to swallow a million bucks and stick him on the roster…
Ty Wigginton instead of Matt Adams. Wigginton is in a bit of a different situation compared to Cedeno. With a multi-year contract (2 years at $2.5 million each year), veteran experience coming off the bench, and his ability to play 3B, he’s going to get the edge over Adams. Of course, Adams could make the team as a bench player and pinch hitter, but his inability to play any position other than 1B significantly limits his contributions to the club. And then there’s the trade factor. Considering the club’s experience with 1B injuries last season – plus Craig’s ailing shoulder in Spring Training – it would be tough for Mo to trade away his Allen Craig insurance when that insurance has such a high upside. He’s more likely to retain Adams for at least half the season while letting him continue to build his value in AAA. In St. Louis as a bench player with extremely limited ABs, his value can only go down. But, the fact remains that Adams is likely trade bait. He’s blocked at his only position, and the Cardinals have no need of a DH. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him put in a productive season at AAA, ready to step in if Craig is injured, until finally being packaged in a trade near the end of July. Of course, any trade that includes Adams would have to be a significant one for the future – think shortstop…
Shane Robinson instead of Oscar Taveras or Adron Chambers. With Jon Jay in center for the Cards, Chambers – who also hits from the left side with very little power – holds little value. The Redbirds would love to see a right-handed center field option who can provide consistent production at the plate. Hello, Shane Robinson. The small’ish outfielder is hitting like Ted Williams in Spring Training, and his outfield play is becoming notable as well. With Robinson, the Cardinals know what they have with very little concern for limited at-bats. He has bench experience in St. Louis, and he can play any outfield spot. It’s going to be hard to leave him off the roster if his hot hitting continues. Of course, Oscar Taveras has the potential to make Mo and Matheny forget about the fact that he hits left-handed. His dynamic bat can make Cardinal fans go all googly-eyed, but Mo seems to be a bit more grounded. Oscar’s attitude and maturity concerns make him a perfect fit for Pop Warner in AAA – at least for half a season – and the chance to further develop his swing and outfield play in Memphis against a higher quality of competition could mean a smoother transition at the MLB level. Of course, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday at the corner outfield spots in St. Louis could actually help Taveras make it to St. Louis in July or August. Both players have shown a need for frequent rest – especially late in the season – and only Taveras has the ability to replace the power and offensive ability lost when either All-Star sits. Robinson makes Opening Day…but Taveras likely makes the playoff push for the second half in St. Louis.
That’ll do it for this round. By the end of next week, things could look drastically different – especially if Furcal’s elbow doesn’t cooperate – but for now, the team’s depth is looking mighty strong.