With about a week and a half left in spring training, the look of the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals is beginning to take shape. Most of the position battles have a declared victor, while a couple of decisions still remain unlikely to be resolved until the final day(s) of camp.
Starting with the team as a whole, the Cardinals sit at .500 after 22 games. There have been moments containing a barrage of runs mixed in with vexing droughts of offense. As you probably remember, this happened quite often in 2012 though the team still ended up as one of the best offenses in Major League Baseball.
The pitching has been up and down as well–mostly in the bullpen. Starters Adam Wainwright–named opening day starter–and Jamie Garcia are looking pretty good while Lance Lynn is starting to look like a front of the rotation starter. Jake Westbrook–who could end up being the fourth starter–has been OK pitching against slightly lower talent than his contemporaries.
I wrote about the fifth starter competition on Tuesday dealing with Joe Kelly versus Shelby Miller. Of course, Kelly made me look bad later that day, though I stand by my recommendation. Kelly now trails Miller both in ERA and BAA not to mention the latter’s strikeout rate is way ahead of Kelly. It was one bad outing but it was an outing that could tip the scales for Miller who also has faced slightly better hitters than Kelly thus far.
The bullpen has recently been graced with the presence of hard-throwing Trevor Rosenthal who manager Mike Matheny should move into a setup role. Though he may have been groomed to become a starter, I believe that Roesnthal should be prepared to eventually take over for closer Jason Motte. A 7th-8th-9th inning combination of Mitchell Boggs, Rosenthal and Motte should prevent any of those late inning rallys that stymied the 2012 Cardinals.
Offensively, things are pretty much set for the Cardinals. Catcher Yadier Molina and outfielder Carlos Beltran will soon arrive back in Jupiter after a great World Baseball Classic finish for team Puerto Rico. There are no concerns for Molina; he’ll likely be his usual reliable self behind the plate.
The middle infield–long in instability–will have two ‘new’ faces. Second baseman Matt Carpenter–who should hold off Daniel Descalso–and last season’s shortstop phenom Pete Kozma.
Over at the hot corner, there is concern over David Freese‘s back and his backup is currently the underachieving Ty Wigginton. The Cardinals have some options if things need to be shifted around but Freese’s offense won’t be easily replaced.
The outfield will pretty much look the same as it did last season though look for the Cardinals best spring performer Shane Robinson to push hard for playing time. Given the age–and wear–of veterans Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday, you may see quite a bit of Robinson.
Oh and there is some kid named Oscar Tevaras that everyone is talking about. He might be pretty good too if he gets called up at some point this season. As I mentioned, if he does, he needs to play regularly.
Lastly we have the two Cardinals I’m partial to–Michael Wacha and Matt Adams–who may become sort of wild cards for St. Louis. I feel that Adams is too good a hitter for a bench role and Wacha, if he continues to pitch at a high level, may break the Cardinals rotation should Miller and/or Kelly struggle; even Westbrook’s role could be in danger. Adams could be set up for a possible trade to acquire some immediate help but they need to be selling high on him.
Cardinal Nation is looking to have another strong team on their hands, yet we can’t forget that everything changes when the regular season starts. Always take spring training with a grain of salt.