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MLB St Louis Cardinals

Rafael Furcal Injury Opens Door For Pete Kozma

Jake Roth- USA TODAY Sports

St Louis Cardinals insiders have revealed that shortstop Rafael Furcal‘s injured elbow isn’t getting any better.  Injured last season on August 30th, Furcal opted out of having surgery and elected to let the injury heal on its own–a decision he may be regretting.  As the intensity of his throwing program increased, he began to be plagued with bone spurs.

Right now you can’t feel too optimistic that Furcal will be ready on April 1st.  He may not even be ready at the All Star break.

That opens the door for a two man competition for shortstop between the newly-acquired journeyman Ronny Cedeno and promising youngster Pete Kozma.  But before you get too jumpy and want to look outside the organization for a solution, I wrote a piece about why St. Louis shouldn’t bother with the likes of Troy Tulowitzki.

Cedeno comes to St. Louis from the New York Mets on a one year contract to provide depth–and injury insurance–to the middle infield.  Since 2005 he’s bounced around four different National League organizations.  Cedeno is a career .247 hitter with not much speed and little power.  Defensively he’s middle of the road with a career -1.7 UZR/150 at shortstop.  Realistically, Cedeno is nothing more than a utility player and won’t provide much production in the Cardinal lineup.

Kozma, on the other hand, took full advantage of his 82 at bats last season hitting .333 with an OPS of .952.  He provided a late spark to St. Louis helping them lock up the last Wild Card spot in the NL.  In the playoffs he only hit .214 with a weak OPS of .686 though he did have a home run and seven RBI.  Furthermore, Kozma is a much more polished defender with a high ceiling of potential.

A case could be made that Kozma already has better tools than Furcal currently (possibly ever?) possesses.

Kozma has great numbers thus far–keeping in mind the minuscule sample size–in his major league career, it will be tough to look past Cedeno’s experience despite his shortcomings.  It’ll be an interesting competition for playing time though I firmly believe Furcal’s misfortune will be a blessing for Kozma.