Cardinals Spring Training Notebook 02/19

A rundown and analysis of the Cardinals 40-man roster and who will Cardinal manager Tony La Russa choose to put on his 25-man roster at the end of spring training and why.

Legend (Bold indicates my 25-man roster projections)



Pitchers

68 Mitchell Boggs – (RHP), I have Boggs 7th on the starting pitching depth chart, behind Kyle McClellan and slightly ahead of Brad Thompson. If Carpenter isn't ready and Pineiro doesn't have a strong spring training, Boggs could make the trip north with the team when spring training is over.

29 Chris Carpenter – (RHP), should be ready by opening day, worst case scenario missing just a couple of starts. He should be back in form, barring any setbacks, by the first part of May, which is going to be critical if the Cardinals are going to be able to compete against the Chicago Cubs this season for a division title. The Cardinals are hoping Carpenter will be ready by opening day, just don't expect him to be dominate right out of the gate.

31 Ryan Franklin – (RHP), is the Chairman of the bullpen-by-committee approach if La Russa decides to use this strategy to start the season. Franklin led the club with 17 saves last season but was inconsistent at times. I wouldn't be surprised to see him rack up somewhere between and 12-17 saves this season.

64 Jaime Garcia – (LHP), will miss most if not all of the 2009 campaign recovering from ligament replacement surgery on his pitching elbow last September. Considered perhaps the best pitching prospect in the Cardinals minor league system, fans will have to wait until 2010 to see this promising lefty in action again.

77 Blake Hawskworth – (RHP), finished the 2008 season with a 5-7 record, appearing in 18 games, including making 16 starts for the Triple-A Redbirds. His ERA went up to 6.09 in 08 from 5.28 in 07 and his WHIP ballooned to 1.680, up from 1.473 in 07. Hawksworth had to deal with a sprained MCL in June and never did really get on track or pitch to his potential in 2008. His contract expires in March, it will be interesting to see if he is given another contract with St. Louis, after another disappointing season.

52 Josh Kinney – (RHP), had to endure a extended recovery period after recovering from two 2007 elbow surgeries, before being recalled from a minor league rehab assignment when rosters were expanded on September 1. He managed to pitch seven innings in seven appearances, without giving up an earned run. The hero from the 2006 World Series is expected to be healthy and make a major contribution out of the bullpen this season.

26 Kyle Lohse – (RHP), will step right in and fill the role as the team's #2 or #3 starter, depending on the health of the club's staff ace, Chris Carpenter. In his first season in St. Louis, Lohse posted a team leading 15 wins, going 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA, 119 strikeouts and 49 walks. He made 33 starts and pitched a team high 200 innings, reaching the 200 innings milestone for the second time in his career.

56 Charlie Manning – (LHP), will compete with Ian Ostlund and Royce Ring for a spot in the St. Louis pen. LHP Trever Miller will hold down one lefty position, with Manning having an early lead over Ostlund and Ring for a second spot. The Cardinals will probably start the season with just two lefthanders in the bullpen.

46 Kyle McClellan – (RHP), is in the running to fill in, in the starting rotation if Chris Carpenter isn't ready to start the season. McClellan has been conditioning himself to be ready to start this season. McClellan could make life difficult for RHP Joel Pineiro who is coming off a less than impressive 2008 season. His future as a starter could hinge on the development of a third pitch to compliment his 89-94 MPH fastball and nasty curve. Kyle appeared to hit the wall late last season so it will be interesting to watch his progress this year.

43 Trever Miller – (LHP), #1 on the lefty depth chart, Miller delivered a strikeout per inning in a situational role in the Rays' bullpen in 2008, holding lefties to a .209/.305/.308 line. He'll perform the same left-handed specialist role for the Cardinals in 2009.

60 Jason Motte – (RHP), has made the successful switch from catcher to pitcher and could find himself as the Cardinals closer by the time the season starts. Worst case scenario he'll share closing duties with right-handers Chris Perez and Ryan Franklin. Motte was phenomenal in a brief stint with the Cardinals in 2008, striking out 16 and giving up just five hits in 11 innings. Jason saved nine games with a 3.24 ERA with 14.9 K's per game at Triple-A Memphis.

34 Chris Perez – (RHP), is having some issues with a bone spur in his left ankle that is requiring him to work on his pitching motion this spring. The "closer of the future" could end up starting the season at Triple-A Memphis, depending on how well Jason Motte pitches, or how well Perez is able to adapt to his new pitching motion.

35 Joel Pineiro – (RHP), is whining about not being able to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, it's funny, I never heard him whining about not being able to pitch effective for the Cardinals last season after finishing the year with a 7-7 won-loss record with a bloated ERA of 5.15. Another Dave Duncan reclamation project, Pineiro signed a three-year, $14.5 million deal with the Cardinals in Jan. 2004 but it's possible, despite the guaranteed contract that he could lose his spot in the rotation to either Kyle McClellan or even Mitchell Boggs.

40 Royce Ring – (LHP), is competing for a spot in the Cardinals bullpen as a lefty specialist, but he'll likely start the season at Triple-A Memphis and be a left-handed insurance policy for St. Louis.

78 Matthew Scherer – (RHP), a late addition to the Cardinals 40-man roster, Matthew will miss the first month of spring training with an injury being described as a strain of his right elbow. Matthew was a long shot to make the team out of spring training even if he was healthy, the odds now with the injury hover around 10,000-to-1.

48 Brad Thompson – (RHP), is in good enough condition to compete for a spot in the Cardinals rotation, but will likely spend most of the season in the bullpen with a few opportunities for a spot start throughout the year. If the Cardinals need more than a couple of starts, look for Kyle McClellan or Mitchell Boggs to get the call.

50 Adam Wainwright – (RHP), last year Wainwright missed 11 weeks of playing time due to a sprained middle finger, after getting off to a good start on the season with a record of 4-1 and a 2.91 ERA before landing on the DL. Wainwright finished the season with a 11-3 record with a 3.20 ERA in 20 starts with St. Louis. Adam is the team's staff ace until Chris Carpenter returns and if the Cardinals have a chance for a division title, they are going to need at least 30 starts from each of these to studs at the top of the rotation.

37 Todd Wellemeyer – (RHP), continues be one of pitching coach Dave Duncan's best reclamation projects. Wellemeyer made 32 starts for the Cardinals last season posting a record of 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. He got stronger and better as the year wore on, with nine out of the last 12 starts made by Wellemeyer being quality starts. An amazing stat that stands out is Wellemeyer never topped 80 innings in a season before, he pitched 191.7 innings in 2008.

Catchers

21 Jason LaRue – didn't get much playing time last season, getting only 164 at-bats. He plays solid defense, has a plus arm and some pop in his bat. A very good backup.

4 Yadier Molina – won a Gold Glove despite not having his best defensive season ever, as a matter of fact, it probably was his worst year behind the plate, but he did have his best offensive season of his career, hitting .304 with seven home runs and 56 RBIs. One of the best arms and catchers in the league.

Infielders

23 Brian Barden – could actually make the Cardinals 25-man roster out of spring training. Somebody is going to have to be able to catch those grounders in late innings with the game on the line, it could be Barden. I can see a scenario where Barden doesn't start the season on the 25 man roster, but is called up when David Freese returns to Memphis after Glaus is activated off the DL. Right now, I think he has a shot with Glaus on the DL to break camp with the club.

8 Troy Glaus – got off to a slow start last season which didn't initially endear himself to the fans, but he wound up batting .270 with 27 home runs and 97 RBIs and led the league with a .982 fielding percentage, perhaps he just needed time to adjust to the new league. It's a funny thing about first impressions, I was still defending Glaus deal into September. Glaus will likely miss the first four to six weeks of the season recovering from arthroscopic surgery performed on his right shoulder. One factor in trying to determine when he'll return to the Cardinals starting lineup will be if he goes on a rehab assignment for up to 20 days. That decision could be based on how well the interim third baseman is playing in his place.

3 Khalil Greene – will need to rebound from a disappointing 2008 campaign when he hit just .213 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs in an injury shorten season. The Cardinals are hoping that he can regain the form he had in 2007 when he hit 27 home runs and 97 RBIs. He'll probably end up somewhere in the middle, I'm not expecting 20+ home runs, but I like this kid, he is in his walk year and if you can't resurrect your career and play in St. Louis, you can't play anywhere.

67 Tyler Greene – could play his way on the club if the Cardinals decide to go Greene on the infield and Skip Schumaker falters at second base and utility infielder Brendan Ryan finds himself back in La Russa's doghouse, which is probably just a matter of time. Greene is a shortstop that could fill in at second and even at third if necessary. He didn't hit in his time at Memphis last season, hitting just .234 with 0 home runs and seven RBIs in 30 games and 111 at-bats for the Redbirds. Greene will have to really hit the next few weeks to stick with St. Louis out of spring training.

70 Jarrett Hoffpauir – will likely spend the entire 2009 season at Triple-A Memphis. Ranked by the Birdhouse at #14 in the preseason Top 40 Prospect Rankings, Hoffpauir had a quiet season, hitting .273 with four home runs and 45 RBI. Hoffpauir remains on the Cardinals 40-man roster, a foot injury may have contributed to him not being called up in September. I have him way back on the depth chart at second, with Schumaker, Ryan, Barden and NRI Joe Thurston keeping him from getting an opportunity to play in St. Louis this season.

5 Albert Pujols – is the only player, other than Stan Musial, to win more than one MVP in a Cardinals uniform and the amazing thing is he did it when he was hurt most of the season. Pujols is the modern day version of "the Man", enough said.

13 Brendan Ryan – has the early edge in securing a spot on the Cardinals bench, if for no other reason, he can play three infield positions. It's unlikely that he'll end up winning the job at second, even with the main competition for the position being outfielder Skip Schumaker and a host of others including; Brian Barden, Joe Thurston and Jarrett Hoffpauir.

Outfielders

24 Rick Ankiel – was off to a great season last year until he was slowed down by a sports hernia that eventually required surgery. He's in camp with a new contract and is at 100% physically and mentally. If Rasmus makes the club, Ankiel will shift to left. Ankiel has problem taking good routes to the balls hit to center allowing too many fly balls and line drives to fall in. Rasmus will be in center if he makes the club, bumping Ankiel to left, even though I would rather see Ankiel in right field with his arm.

54 Brian Barton – isn't protected by the Rule 5 Draft roster requirements this year and will likely start the season at Triple-A Memphis. He's probably ahead of Joe Mather on the depth chart and certainly ahead of Nick Stavinoha, but unless either Schumaker, Duncan or Ankiel are traded to someone to thin the herd in the outfield, Barton will be in Memphis with the blues. I don't see him ahead of a healthy Chris Duncan on La Russa's depth chart.

16 Chris Duncan – was limited to just 76 games last season and back problems robbed him of his power and his only claim to a spot on the Cardinals 25-man roster. Duncan is healthy and will be competing for a starting role in 2009. Duncan had back-to-back seasons of at least 20 home runs in 2006 (22 in just 280 ABs) and 2007 (21 in 375 ABs), that people tend to forget. It is a crowded outfield, especially if no one is traded before opening day. That said you can expect Duncan to get his fair share at-bats and forget about him starting anywhere but on the major league roster.

47 Ryan Ludwick – is a happy camper with a new contract and knowing that he's the team's right fielder on opening day. Hungry to prove that his 2008 season wasn't a fluke, Ludwick would like to add a second Silver Slugger Award to his trophy case. Don't bet against him. Ludwick shocked the world or I should say, everyone else other than the regulars in the Birdhouse forums, with an MVP-caliber season, finishing with 37 homers, 113 RBI, and a .299 batting average in 2008.

62 Joe Mather – is playing second, third and in the outfield, trying to find a way to make the major league club this spring. I would like to see Mather playing every day, even if that means starting the season out at Memphis, though I would be hard pressed not to room for him on the bench. The consensus among most pundits is the Mather will never develop into more than a fourth or fifth outfielder, I think he could be a starter for a lot of teams, it just won't be with the Cardinals and it won't be this season. I like this kid, I'm giving him a slight edge over Barton to make the team's 25-man roster.

55 Skip Schumaker – has a guaranteed spot on the Cardinals roster, but will be spending most of spring training proving that he can handle playing at second base. Worst case scenario he could end up in a platoon situation (he hit .340 against right-handers last season) at second or in left. Naw, worst case scenario is Schumaker will be traded at some point this season. There isn't a lot of love any more in the game, see Jason Isringhausen. How hip am I? I thought the new movie that is out, "He's not that into you", was a baseball movie about Tony La Russa and Jason Isringhausen.

61 Nick Stavinoha – could have been the minor league comeback player of the year if the Cardinals had such an award. Even after coming off his best season, Nick is still going to have trouble getting any at-bats with the Cardinals before a September call up.



Non-roster invitees I'm projecting will make the team's 25-man roster include; OF Colby Rasmus and third baseman David Freese.





Ray Mileur can be reached via email at raymileur@yahoo.com.

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