Handicapping the 2007 Cards' 40-Man: Part Two

Without trades, injuries or waivers, at least 15 of the players on the St. Louis Cardinals' 40-man roster will not make the 2007 club out of Spring Training. In the second of a two-part article, we explain who that might be and why.

In the first part of this article, "Handicapping the 2007 Cards' 40-Man: Part One", we looked at a wide variety of off-the-field factors that will guide the St. Louis Cardinals' brain trust in selecting their 25-man roster at the end of March. Those factors included guaranteed contracts, options, outrighting, service time, pitching/hitting roster splits and more.

We also looked the Cardinals rosters in recent seasons to get a feel for the make-up of the club in terms of position players vs. pitchers, right-handed vs. left-handed hitters and pitchers and more.

In this installment, we will apply all of that background information to the Cardinals' 40-man roster and assess each player's chance of making the team. To do this, we need to make several assumptions.

Assumption #1: The roster will be the roster
One given is that the roster today will also be the current roster at the end of March. While I strongly doubt this will actually be the case, no one can accurately forecast trades or injuries or waivers. So, we go with what we know. Of course, this analysis will be updated as key facts change.

I also think it is a bit of a cop-out here in early February to make assumptions about injuries just to make the roster projection effort easier. Instead, we are going the hard way – assuming everyone will be ready to go and making some tough calls as a result – on paper, anyway! That leads to the second assumption…

Assumption #2: Injury situations are being reported accurately
This is extremely naïve and risky. But to keep this effort as straightforward as possible, I am going to go against my instincts and will assume for this effort that numerous injured Cardinals will be ready to answer the regular-season bell.

Mark Mulder
The only exception to my point above is Mark Mulder, who will be back at mid-season at best from his shoulder surgery and therefore, is assigned zero percent odds of making the opening day roster. Instead, he will be placed on the 60-day disabled list in all likelihood, freeing up a spot on the 40-man roster for someone either acquired via trade or perhaps a non-roster invitee making the club out of spring training.

Jason Isringhausen
Assuming Izzy will be ready to start the season seems a bit reckless, especially since we just received the first report about the oft-injured closer's first 20 pitches since surgery. It remains to be seen how Izzy's surgically-repaired hip responds to him repetitively throwing a baseball. I hope my fears are unwarranted, but only time will tell. It is the party line that Izzy will be ready, so I am going with it – for now, at least.

Jim Edmonds
Off-season heel and shoulder surgeries put the 36-year-old centerfielder's expected return sometime in the second half of March. Given Edmonds' reported dislike of spring training, he may not be in all that big of a hurry. Though he is seemingly always banged up and even given his advancing age, my gut tells me that Jim will find a way to be ready for the start of the 2007 regular season.

Juan Encarnacion
As much as the Cardinals may need an outfielder or two to start the season on the disabled list to relieve their traffic jam at the position, their right fielder is scheduled to be recovered from his wrist surgery in time to play in March. With no setbacks between now and then, I expect Encarnacion to be in the Opening Day line-up at Busch Stadium against the Mets on April 1. With Preston Wilson and So Taguchi also returning, that could mean no room for Skip Schumaker and John Rodriguez.

Ricardo Rincon
Some of you might say, "Who?" The veteran left-handed reliever is expected to be ready to fully compete in spring camp coming off shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the vast majority of the 2006 season.

Some of our readers seem to be in favor of simply cutting Rincon, not taking into account the $1.45 million he is owed for 2007. I don't see it that way. A potential trade candidate, yes, but for now, Rincon is here, which makes things more dicey for the other left-handers, Randy Flores, Tyler Johnson and Chris Narveson.

Following are my odds and commentary on all members of the Cardinals' current 40-man roster in terms of making the 2007 club out of spring training.

First is the split by position with left-handers (L) and switch-hitters (S) noted. You will see the players grouped into four columns. "Projected roster" is self-explanatory. Next are those I expect to "Miss the cut". Then, there is the Mulder column, "Disabled list", followed by those youngsters who are probably just glad to be there, a group I call "No-chance prospects", at least for spring 2007.

Next to the player's name is their projected odds of making the team and their options status. Any time you see an "N" next to the percent, that player is out of options. To send him down would require him to be removed from the roster, securing his approval to report to the minors (if over three years service) and him clearing waivers first – a tough combination to execute successfully.

A "W" means the only way for the player to be optioned out would be if the player agreed - plus he would have to clear waivers first. That is immaterial for most of the veterans, but certainly is a factor to consider for those who might be at risk such as Ricardo Rincon or Gary Bennett. More than likely if put in that situation, they would secure their release rather than go down to the minors.

A "WR" denotes the player could be optioned out and would be required to report, but would still have to clear waivers first. Only Aaron Miles is in that situation. The "NRI" next to Eli Marrero is a reminder that he would have to be added to the 40-man roster at someone else's expense if he makes the club.

If there is no letter next to the percentage, that means the player has options remaining and could be sent down without needing to be exposed to waivers – no strings attached. Obviously, the Cardinals have the most leverage with these players.

Projected roster (25) Miss the cut (7) Disabled list (1) No-chance prospects (7)
Starters (5)
Carpenter - 100/W Narveson (L) - 25/N Mulder (L) - 0/W Cate (L)  <1
Wells - 100/N Hawksworth <1
Reyes - 95
Wainwright - 95
Franklin - 60/N
Relievers (7)
Flores (L) - 60 Falkenborg - 15/N Cavazos <1
Hancock - 55/N Johnson (L) - 45 Dove <1
Isringhausen - 75/W Keisler (L) - 10
Kinney - 70 Thompson - 45
Looper - 100/W
Rincon (L) - 55/W
Springer - 60/N
Infielders (5)
Eckstein - 100/W Hanson <1
Kennedy - 100/W Ryan <1
Molina - 100
Pujols - 100/W
Rolen - 100/W
Outfielders (3)
Duncan (L) - 95 Rodriguez (L) - 45 Haerther <1
Edmonds (L) - 80/W Schumaker (L) - 30
Encarnacion - 90/W
Bench (5)
Bennett C - 60/W (Marrero - 35/NRI)
Miles (S) MIF - 75/WR
Spiezio (S) IF/OF - 95/W
Taguchi OF - 70/N
Wilson OF - 95/W

I call eight players "Locks" to make the team, with three more gated only as "Injury near-locks". "Near locks" would really have to screw up to not claim their spot on the opening roster. "Over the line" are the rest to whom I gave between 50% and 70% odds of making the club. That makes 25 players.

	Locks (8)
Crpentr	The ace.
Wells	Several years removed from a good season.
Looper	Starter experiment may end as he returns to pen.
Eckstein	When will he be signed for '08 and beyond? 
Kennedy	Newcomer offers stability at revolving-door spot.
Molina	Will he hit? Will be be able to catch 140 games?
Pujols	El Hombre!
Rolen	Only his health can hold him back.
	Injury near-locks (3)
Izzy	They say he'll be ready. I will believe it when I see it.
Edmonds	Lotsa bumps and bruises, but play two more years.
Encarn.	Could be trade target, but may be few takers.
	Near locks (6)
Reyes 	Would have to implode or injured to not make team.
W'wright	Ditto.
Duncan	Again, here to stay unless serious regression.
Wilson	Only cheap contract makes him not a 100% lock.
Spiezio	Two-year deal sealed the switch-hitter's spot.
Miles	Switch-hit and little competition make this too easy.
	Over the line (8)
Franklin	Best #5 starter on paper? I still expect a trade.
Flores	Seniority, but others want his job. Trade bait?
Hancock	Won't want to risk losing and can't send down.
Kinney 	Belongs despite lack of pedigree and experience.
Rincon	Experience & contract make him incumbent for now.
Springer	Veteran has job to lose. Maybe he will, though.
Bennett 	Seems set, but Marrero could make it interesting.
Taguchi	Favorite probably gets nod over better choices.
	Disabled list (1)
Mulder 	Out until mid-season
	Miss the cut (7 + 1 NRI)
Narvesn	May not pass thru waivers, so trade most likely.
Flknborg	Out of options, so I expect a release.
Johnson 	Victim of numbers. Would be back soon.
Keisler	"Go down to Triple-A and be ready".
Thompson Could be asked to start in AAA if remains a starter.
Rodrguez	Blocked. Would have to report to Triple-A if asked.
Schumkr 	Won't make club like '06. This is his last option year. 
Marrero 	All told, I think Eli will be in Memphis to start 2007.
	No-chance prospects (7)
Cate	Will he start or relieve in the minors?
Hawks.	Needs to stay well & impress in '07 to get '08 shot.
Cavazos	Might get a chance later when injuries hit others.
Dove	Perhaps year away from being serious competitor.
Hanson	Needs to put awful 2006 behind him.
Ryan	Needs to stay well and produce in Memphis.
Haerther	Slipped a bit in 2006, but can rebound in Triple-A.

What this indicates is that if the organization wanted to ensure they could keep Narveson and Falkenborg, they could send down Flores and Kinney instead. However, that would probably not be the route to take to put the best team on the field. In this unlikely scenario, Thompson, Johnson, Flores and Kinney would all be in Memphis, simply because they have options remaining.

For the outfielders, sending down John Rodriguez and Skip Schumaker might not be an easy decision, but in terms of options remaining, the club could do it with no risk of losing the players. That is not the case with So Taguchi.

Will all the experienced players competing for jobs, the non-roster invitees seem to have a greater challenge than ever to make the roster. In fact, if my current predictions come to pass, no NRIs would make the team for the first time in at least the last three springs.

In the final table, I assess what would need to happen for those who I project to "Miss the cut" to gain an improved chance of making the club. Some of the scenarios offered are quite plausible, but in every case they require other shoes to drop.

Miss the cut  How to improve chances of making the 25-man
Narveson  Just too many starters and too many lefties unless he really impresses.
Falkenborg Might have a slightly better chance if both Springer and Kinney blow up.
Johnson Needs Flores or Rincon traded or injured or Izzy not ready. Could happen.
Keisler  I just don't see what he could do other than pray a lot. 
Thompson  Starting could hurt chances of making club. Might get reprieve if Izzy not ready.
Rodriguez  Needs Edmonds or Encarnacion to not be ready or So to bomb.
Schumaker  Needs Edmonds AND Encarnacion to not be ready or So to bomb.
Marrero (NRI) Would have to BOTH hit well and catch well to beat out Bennett.

As I said in the earlier "Handicapping the Cardinals' NRIs – 2007" article, we will find out how good my prediction skills are in less than 60 days as camp breaks. If there are any major changes to the roster due to signings, injuries or trades in the interim, and we know there will be, I will look to update my projections accordingly.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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