Welcome to our second look at how the less-experienced roster contenders are performing in spring training camp. With two weeks remaining in camp, the key contenders for roster spots have remained healthy and several cuts have been made. The most recent was outfielder Magneuris Sierra sent down on Wednesday.
In past years, I focused these reports on top prospects and non-roster invitees, but for 2017, I have expanded the scope slightly – to include all of those contending for a spot on the opening day roster.
As I spelled out in my St. Louis opening roster prediction article posted Wednesday, the only roster battles seem to be for a bullpen spot and the reserve outfielder – and there seems clear front-runners for both.
But even for those with almost no chance to make the team now, despite there being no roster space immediately, making a good impression now can pay off later.
Of course, the usual small sample size warnings are relevant. Think of this as a hot-lukewarm-cold look from one period that could and likely will change substantially from one week to next.
The club got off to a fast start, but has cooled down with a 2-2-2 record over the last week, dropping their overall record to a still-solid 11-5-3. The pitching remains ahead of the hitting – with the latter on a recent downturn.
St. Louis’ staff has a cumulative ERA of 3.43. Though that is up from 3.09 last week, it is still the very best among the 30 MLB teams this spring. The team hitting is sliding, though. After just a .223 mark over the last six games, the spring team batting average is down 20 points from .288 through last week to .268 now. That puts the Cards at 15th in MLB. They are also 15th in runs scored with 101.
The Cardinals opened big-league camp with 68 players invited, with 40 on the 40-man roster and 28 non-roster invitees. They were vying for one of the 25-man roster spots to open the season.
The current totals are down to 36 and 18, respectively, for a total of 54. We are tracking 32 of them, with 14 others having been sent to minor league camp this week.
This group is those about whom I will be reporting. Of course, the 32 we are now tracking here – 16 pitchers and 16 position players - will further decline in count each week as camp continues and cuts are made.
I rank each player based on his momentum – high/medium/low. I want to be clear that is NOT how I assess their chances of making the team. Players will remain “medium” unless I see as a clear reason to shift them. Note that any player without a high/medium/low assessment this week did not appear in game action.
Innings pitched (IP), walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) and earned run average (ERA) are through first 21 games of the spring, coming into play on Thursday, March 16. The tables that follow are split into two groups – 40-man players and NRIs – and ordered by ERA or batting average among hot-medium-cold groupings.
The results - pitching
|Majors camp||50||Last wk||This wk|
|Alex Reyes||1||40m||St. Louis||0.0||DNP|
This time out, I gave six of the 16 contending pitchers a high mark. The primary contender for the last bullpen spot, Miguel Socolovich, continues to just get hitters out. Notice his baserunners allowed is the lowest among all 16 pitching contenders tracked here.
I’ve talked before about the strong showings by starter John Gant and reliever Matt Bowman, but quietly, Mike Mayers has also put together a very nice spring. I am not suggesting Mayers will make the team, but it seems clear both he and Gant are positioning themselves as contenders with Luke Weaver for the next shot at starting for St. Louis during the season.
Among the non-roster invitees, Josh Lucas and Ryan Sherriff keep putting up good numbers. I think the latter made a good decision to remain in camp during the World Baseball Classic and could fight his way into the left-handed relief picture during the season.
In addition, a medium score was assigned to two hurlers. Starter Arturo Reyes and reliever Zach Phillips look to be slated for jobs with Memphis after some good and some not-so-good outings this spring.
The final five pitchers in camp, three 40-man pitchers and two NRIs – are assessed as “low” or cold. Weaver, Sam Tuivailala and Rowan Wick each had rough appearances this past week. Jordan Schafer is likely out for the season and Mitch Harris is very slowly working his way back from his own elbow surgery.
Pitchers cut from camp
|Dropped off||T50||Ros||2016 end||IP||ERA||WHIP||Mo||Mo|
|this week||Last wk||This wk|
Before leaving big-league camp, four top 50 prospect pitchers each made strong appearances this past week – Daniel Poncedeleon, Sandy Alcantara, Jack Flaherty and Austin Gomber. Not so for reliever Robby Rowland in limited action.
The results – hitting
|Majors camp||50||Last wk||This wk|
|Jo Martinez||NR||40m||St. Louis||33||0.424||High||High|
This period, I am a tough scorer – or perhaps it is just the overall cooling of the offense. Of the 16 hitters remaining in camp, just two are considered “hot”. Jose Martinez’ continued success has rightly received a lot of attention, but for the future, Harrison Bader’s standout play is even more important for the organization.
I scored just three hitters as “medium” for the week. Non-roster invitee Paul DeJong continues to be solid in all aspects of his game. Joining him are 40-man roster players Anthony Garcia and Breyvic Valera. Garcia has not been flashy, but decent, while Valera had a modest, but positive 2-for-6 period.
That leaves a lot of “cold” hitters – seven to be exact. Of note are infielder Patrick Wisdom, in an 0-for-7 skid after a hot start, and Carson Kelly, just one for his last eight.
Clearly the player in the most crucial battle for a roster spot still in the deep freeze is Tommy Pham. Last week, the outfielder went 3-for-14 and is batting just .206 on the spring, including 11 strikeouts and four walks in 38 plate appearances. He does lead the team with three steals in three triess, but had no attempts this past week.
Pham, who spent all last season with St. Louis, needs to get going to keep Martinez at bay.
Three hitters expected to contribute with veteran play at Memphis this season – Chad Huffman, Todd Cunningham and Wilfredo Tovar – are all ice cold at the plate. All three being at or under the Mendoza Line for the spring is hardly encouraging.
Hitters cut from camp
|Dropped off||T50||Ros||2016 end||AB||BA||Mo||Mo|
|this week||Last wk||This wk|
|Je Martinez||29||NRI||State College||1||0.000||Low|
There were two kinds of cuts of hitters this past week – three high-profile 40-man roster hitters and three young catchers, no longer needed due to the pitching staff reductions.
In the former group, Sierra received considerable at-bats and impressed greatly, finishing his first spring camp at .387. For Eliezer Alvarez and Edmundo Sosa, their time is still ahead.
To see the Cardinals entire 40-man roster and non-roster spring training invitees, all transactions and more, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.
© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.