Cardinals Opening Day Roster Predictions

Brian Walton's annual explanations as to which players he thinks will make the St. Louis Cardinals opening day roster and why.

I have been somewhat remiss this spring in not offering up my opening day roster predictions before now. First, let's look at the numbers. With just two weeks remaining prior to opening day, a dozen more cuts remain.

In camp  37
Opening day 25
Cuts remain 12
Pitchers 19 12 7
Catchers 3 2 1
Infielders 8 6 2
Outfielders 7 5 2

My assumption is that the Cardinals will open the season with 12 pitchers. I stand on pretty firm ground there in that the club has started with that configuration in nine of the last ten years. The only exception was in 2005. That spring, a recovering Matt Morris opened the season on the disabled list. Due to off days, the club got by until Morris was activated to make his first start on April 19.

For me, the lack of suspense comes from the reality that the club is pretty well set with the possible exception of three situations.

1) Whether Kyle McClellan starts or relieves.
2) The identity of the seventh reliever.
3) The two reserve outfielders from Allen Craig, Joe Mather and Nick Stavinoha.

In the first case, we will know much more after Jaime Garcia's Monday outing against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee. Another strong showing and pencil could soon change to ink. McClellan has been good, but not great and Rich Hill may soon need to make a tough decision about his future.

If McClellan yields his rotation bid and heads to the pen, Mitchell Boggs' chances of remaining decline a bit. He still seems in the lead, though non-roster invitee Fernando Salas is making the competition interesting and recent rumblings from the coaches imply Adam Ottavino should not be counted out. If McClellan starts, then Salas' or Ottavino's chance improves considerably, with Garcia likely Memphis-bound.

Barring late spring injuries of course, both catching and the infield seem set. Matt Pagnozzi and Tyler Greene will head back to Memphis and Ruben Gotay will also need to bide his time in Triple-A.

I have the outfield battle oriented toward Allen Craig and Joe Mather winning, but Nick Stavinoha continues to hit, making this far from a sure thing. Because of Mather's versatility, especially ability to back up Colby Rasmus in centerfield, I see the real competition between Craig and Stavi, with the former holding a slight lead.

Starting pitchers (5) Out (3)
Chris Carpenter Rich Hill (NRI)
Adam Wainwright Adam Ottavino
Brad Penny P.J. Walters
Kyle Lohse
Jaime Garcia (L)
Relief pitchers (7) Out (4)
Ryan Franklin Fernando Salas (NRI)
Blake Hawksworth Eduardo Sanchez (NRI) 
Kyle McClellan Oneli Perez (NRI)
Trever Miller (L) Pete Parise (NRI)
Jason Motte
Dennys Reyes (L)
Mitchell Boggs
Catchers (2) Out (1)
Yadier Molina Matt Pagnozzi
Jason LaRue
Infielders (6) Out (2)
David Freese Tyler Greene
Felipe Lopez Ruben Gotay (NRI)
Julio Lugo
Albert Pujols
Brendan Ryan
Skip Schumaker
Outfielders (5) Out (2)
Allen Craig Jon Jay
Matt Holliday Nick Stavinoha
Ryan Ludwick
Joe Mather
Colby Rasmus

If the opening day 25-man roster lines up as I predict, 2010 will become only the third spring in Tony La Russa's 15 years with the Cardinals that a non-roster player did not make the team. The other times were in 1999 and 2007. The most NRIs to make the opening day club in any given year was four in 2003.

Last spring, three NRI's came north with the Cardinals from Florida – prospects David Freese and Colby Rasmus and journeyman infielder Joe Thurston.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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