Projecting the Cards' 2006 Opening Day Roster

If the Opening Day 25-man roster had to be selected based on what we know today, who would be on it and why?

Well, it is far too early for this, but here goes anyway. The reason I am identifying my initial 2006 roster now is because I have some different ideas on how it might come together. Whether or not it becomes reality, we'll all know at the end of March.


First of all, there are 38 players currently on the 40-man roster. I will also include three non-roster invitees who may contend for roles. I have broken down each position category into four groupings: "locks", "make the cut", "miss the cut" and "not a viable chance". Of course, the middle two categories are where much of the debate could occur.


For purposes of this report, only those who are currently on the team are included, and all of those currently on the team are included. Trade and free agent signing speculation are for other articles.


This 25-man roster is made up of 12 pitchers and 13 position players, of which I call 18 locks. In other words, seven jobs at most are open, in my opinion, and that is even stretching it. My top 25 names are underlined.


2006 Roster Total Locks Make cut   Miss cut  No chance
Starters 5 5 0   1 2
Relievers 7 4 3   2 1
Catchers 2 1 1   1 0
Infielders 6 4 2   2 3
Outfielders 5 4 1   2 2
Total 25 18 7   8 8


Pitching Locks (9)




Chris Carpenter – Simply the ace.

Mark Mulder – In a salary drive year to prove he can earn ace money, too.

Jason Marquis – Assuming he's still here, he'll be out there every fifth day.

Jeff Suppan – Dependable as a fine watch. Ok, a moderately-priced one.

Sidney Ponson – Forget all the speculation about him being at risk to make the team. His contract is guaranteed. Ponson would be the only reason Ponson doesn't make the team.




Randy Flores – Assuming he is healthy and ready to pitch, he'll be there as the #1 left-hander.

Jason Isringhausen – Not always pretty, but gets the job done time and time again.

Braden Looper – $13.5 million reasons to look for this name for three more years.

Ricardo Rincon – Proven veteran lefty would have to screw up royally to not make the team.


Make the cut – pitchers (3)




Anthony Reyes – The Cards can afford to take it easy with Reyes. He has options remaining, so could go down and start in Memphis if need be, rather than take a pen spot, but I project him here.

Brad Thompson – Proved he belonged last season, but hasn't built up enough goodwill to be a lock. Still, it would be a surprise if he is sent down. On the other hand, if Felix Rodriguez is ever signed, for which the odds seem to decrease each day, something would have to give.

Juan Mateo – I will go out on a limb here for one simple reason. The Cards wouldn't have wasted the money on him if they didn't think he could be a major-leaguer now. In other words, here in January, it is still Mateo's job to lose. Of course, that could change come March.


Miss the cut - pitchers




Adam Wainwright – Jocketty said they were the "Big Six", not the "Big Seven". Sorry, Adam.




Carmen Cali – A leading candidate for the third lefty. But, if Mateo makes the team, or La Russa wants to start the season with 11 pitchers, there is no room. I am still waiting to see if Cali's velocity is back, anyway.

Tyler Johnson – Ditto. Will likely re-appear in St. Louis later in the season, but more work at Triple-A is not a bad thing.


Not a viable chance - pitchers




Dennis Tankersley (non-roster invitee) – Hasn't shown much in the last two or three years to indicate he can contribute in the majors. Likely starter at Memphis.

Chris Narveson – Needs more seasoning to be a viable competitor in this game.




John Riedling (non-roster invitee) – Didn't get a major league deal for a good reason. Too many guys to leap over.



Catching Lock (1)


Yadier Molina – I just hope he can catch 140 games in 2006. Playing in the World Baseball Classic will enable his backups to get a lot of work early on.


Make the cut – catcher (1)


Gary Bennett – It isn't fair, but I can't get the name Chris Widger out of my head. Still, Bennett's $800,000 deal is guaranteed, so it would be really expensive for the Cardinals if he played himself off the team. Nice job done by Bennett's agent.


Miss the cut – catcher


Michel Hernandez – I just have a feeling Hernandez may soon be ready to contribute at this level, but realistically he is just being considered as insurance at this point. If it was a level playing field, I would look for him to have a chance, but that isn't the case.



Infielder locks (4)


David Eckstein – Consistently exceeded expectations in 2005.

Albert Pujols – I hear he is pretty good with the bat.

Scott Rolen – Let's hope he can shoulder the load.

Junior Spivey – I think Mr. Spivey will surprise in 2006.


Make the cut – infield (2)


Hector Luna – In my book, Luna is pretty close to a lock due to his proven versatility and upside. The fact he at least tries to play outfield is a big plus, especially given La Russa may be going with only a five-man bench. It is difficult to feel comfortable with either Luna or Cruz as Rolen's back-up, though.

Deivi Cruz – I have never been all that impressed with Cruz during his ten-year career. Yet, if he can show proficiency at third base, he could win this job. Just as likely, he'll see his first-ever action in left field in March. (I do hope I am wrong about that, though!) However, be aware that Cruz' 2006 contract is not guaranteed, so he could be waived during March with the Cardinals only liable for termination pay.


Miss the cut - infield


Aaron Miles – I see it as Miles vs. Cruz and I like Miles' upside. A dark horse at this point, but switch-hitting ability is valued, especially from the left side. If he can show the ability to play other positions, Miles could beat out Cruz. This roster spot is my closest call on the entire team. However, Miles has options remaining, as does Luna, which is why he is listed down here.

Brian Daubach (non-roster invitee) – There are better options in the outfield and a back-up first baseman is a luxury the team cannot afford. Too bad he can't play third.


Not a viable chance - infield


Chris Duncan – Not clear if he is ready to be considered an outfielder yet. Will need reps in Memphis chasing flies.

Travis Hanson – Check back in 12 months.

Brendan Ryan – Check back in more than 12 months.



Outfield locks (4)


Larry Bigbie – The front-runner to start in left.

Jim Edmonds – Could also become the back-up first baseman.

Juan Encarnacion – Arguably the new player who will be most closely-watched this coming season.

So Taguchi – Unless he got very old very fast over the winter, So will be on the team. However, he does have one option year remaining.


Make the cut – outfield (1)


John Rodriguez – Has shown he belongs, but needs to keep improving in all aspects of his game. Another lefty off the bench is nice to have in the late innings. Should demonstrate enough to hold off spirited competition, but could be sent down if the situation warrants.


Miss the cut - outfield


John Gall – Back to Memphis again after finally getting his MLB debut. Could be back during the season.

Skip Schumaker – Not sure that Skip is ready for the big time. More time in Memphis can't hurt.


Not a viable chance - outfield


Rick Ankiel – Sorry folks, but Ankiel is simply not ready for the majors and is not equipped to beat out Taguchi or J-Rod. The main question will be if he can pass through waivers again. At age 27 in July, his biological clock is ticking louder and louder.

Reid Gorecki – Needs a strong comeback season to justify staying on the 40-man. That is a far more reasonable goal than making the Cardinals out of spring training.


Again, no guarantees here, but what do you expect for a forecast 90 days early? I'll be back to revisit this subject no later than the spring.

And remember, spring will be here sooner than you think! Cardinals' pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on February 16, with their first workout the next day. The remainder of the team reports on February 20 and will have their initial workout the following day.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at


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