In some years, this discussion would be necessary for both position players and pitchers, but not so in 2012. The pitching staff looks more set and there are less possible variations so it wasn't necessary this year. (To review the pitching predictions, check out "Cards projected 2012 minors rosters: Pitchers".)
Given that, I have split the discussion of the position players into two parts, with this first article covering the major league club. The minor league teams will follow.
The opening day starting lineup (barring injuries) for the Cardinals seems nearly set with second base as the only area that appears to be up for grabs.
The possibilities would be open for more discussion if Allen Craig was expected to be available for opening day, but that seems unlikely. For this discussion, we are going to assume he opens the regular season on the disabled list (DL).
That leaves the bench players in St. Louis. The assumption is that the team will carry 12 pitchers and five position bench players.
That takes care of three of the five bench spots. At this point it gets complicated as the Cardinals have so many players who have the ability to play both the infield and the outfield. Of the remaining two spots, I would guess the Cards want at least one more player who can play in the outfield (Schumaker and to some extent Greene can also play the outfield as can first baseman Lance Berkman.)
The list of candidates for the additional outfielder is long. It includes five players:
Shane Robinson (all three are true outfielders who play nowhere else)
Mark Hamilton (also plays 1B)
Matt Carpenter (also can play 3B and fill in other infield spots in an emergency.)
Analyzing this was difficult. A simple approach would have either Komatsu or Chambers as the favorites since they are left-handed hitters and two of the three starting outfielders can hit right-handed (Holliday and Beltran, a switch-hitter).
However, Schumaker is nearly a true outfielder and he also bats from the left side. In the end, I chose to go with Chambers as my fourth outfielder as I think his speed and on-base ability will tip the scales in his favor. Some say he needs to go to Memphis and play every day but since the fourth outfielder position will likely be claimed by Craig when he returns from the DL, Chambers most likely will get work at Memphis later in the season.
The final bench spot should go to an infielder. Again, the versatility of those already assumed to be on the roster makes the choice more difficult. Both Greene and Descalso can play 2B, SS, and 3B so the position ability of the final bench spot may be less important.
The four candidates for this reserve infield spot are:
Mark Hamilton 1B (and limited OF)
Matt Carpenter 3B (with the ability to play fill in at SS/2B/1B and OF)
Pete Kozma 2B/SS/3B
Alex Cora 2B/SS/3B
I quickly eliminated Hamilton and Kozma from consideration. I believe it would take a monster spring by Hamilton to put him in contention given his limited defensive repertoire. Kozma would seem not ready as a hitter based on his 2011 results.
Carpenter making the team could also influence (and possibly be influenced by) the selection of the backup catcher. The versatility of Cruz (who can also play 1B and 3B) would negate some of the benefit of Carpenter.
So to summarize, the minor league roster predictions for position players will be based on the following 13 position players being on the Cardinals' 25-man opening day roster.
Yadier Molina (R)
Lance Berkman (S)
Tyler Greene (R)
Rafael Furcal (S)
David Freese (R)
Matt Holliday (R)
Jon Jay (L)
Carlos Beltran (S)
Tony Cruz (R) or Bryan Anderson (L)
Adron Chambers (L)
Skip Schumaker (L)
Daniel Descalso (L)
Matt Carpenter (L)
In this scenario, all the above mentioned players who do not make the 25-man roster would be candidates for the Triple-A Memphis squad with the exception of Komatsu. He would need to be placed on waivers and possibly be offered back to his original (Washington) club if he does not make St. Louis' 25-man roster due to his status as a Rule 5 draftee.
In the final article of this series, I will share my predictions for the position players on the season-opening rosters for Memphis, Springfield, Palm Beach and Quad Cities.
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