Barring injuries, of course. Those things always have a way of changing a team’s original plans.
Let’s start with the position players. 13 spots are available. Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Jason Heyward, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Mark Reynolds, Tony Cruz and Peter Bourjos are locks. Randal Grichuk is close to being a lock since the Cards seem pretty content to give Stephen Piscotty more time in AAA. But a poor showing by Grichuk with a dominant spring by Piscotty could change that thinking.
That leaves one backup infield gig…the one vacated by Daniel Descalso’s non-tendering. Dean Anna, Ty Kelly and Pete Kozma are the favorites with Greg Garcia on the outside but not totally without a shot.
Anna is a former minor league batting champion while Kelly has the power potential. Kozma is the best defensive shortstop on a team that doesn’t have a true backup to Peralta. One of the fascinating dynamics here is the fact Kozma’s out of options. The Cards can’t send him back to Memphis without passing him through waivers first.
Would they dare risk losing Kozma to give a chance to Kelly or Anna? Or will they stick with the former number one pick for their comfort level? That’s the one big question regarding the position players in spring training.
As for pitchers there is about the same amount of intrigue. We know the starting five. Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez are expected to be in the rotation on Opening Day.
The bullpen is mostly set. Trevor Rosenthal, Jordan Walden, Matt Belisle and Seth Maness comprise four of the righties while Randy Choate is the lone lock among lefties.
There are many who believe Marco Gonzales is a sure fire lock to make the club regardless if he’s pitching in the rotation or the bullpen but I’m still not 100% sure the Cards don’t want him starting in Memphis getting ready to come up at a moment’s notice. Still, the likelihood is Gonzales will be with the Cardinals come early April.
If that’s the case there’s room for one more reliever. It could be a fifth righty (Sam Tuivailala anyone?) or a third lefty (Kevin Siegrist? Sam Freeman?).
Siegrist is the wild card here. We all know how good he is. In 45 games in 2013 he had a 0.45 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. But the 25-year old struggled last year largely due to injury. So if he’s healthy this spring training he’ll be on the team because the assumption is he’d be performing well. If not? That opens the door for Freeman and Tuivailala.
Freeman would seem to have the edge there since Tuivailala doesn’t have much experience at the AAA level, let alone in the big leagues. But I have little doubt management is hoping it doesn’t get to that point. They want Siegrist to be healthy and on the team.
So from the looks of it there doesn’t seem to be much intrigue in spring training from a roster construction stand point. Aside from a utility infielder and a middle reliever all jobs are pretty much secure.
But if Jason Motte, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia and Rafael Furcal have taught us anything over the last few years it’s that things can change at the snap of an elbow, shoulder or knee. Then it could get crazy.