ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The Cardinals are back in St. Louis for two days of appearances, autographs and interviews. Though Saturday's session was canceled, Sunday featured a parade of players with plenty to say. Here's first highlights from the first half of the day.
Stephen Piscotty remaking his body
The Cardinals have called for more athleticism in 2017, and Piscotty has responded. The outfielder has spent the months since the season's close doing intense agility training, looking to find more explosiveness.
Ever the student of his own game, the 26-year-old began to mine his body for any untapped athleticism.
"I think from a training perspective, I had felt in the past offseasons I didn’t really know what I was after. This year I do. I just want to get a little bit quicker, a little bit sharper. I just felt dull toward the end of last year. Kind of with my throwing it didn’t feel as crisp, and the fatigue had set in. I knew that if I’m going to play another 162 I’m going to have to be at tip top shape. That was a big focus," he said. "I’m trying to get way more explosive, much quicker, my body composition is changing for the better. everything is firing on all cylinders and I’m really happy with how my offseason training has gone."
After beginning spring training with a mandate to push the limits on the basepaths, Piscotty saw the leash shorten a bit as his success rate dropped. With his revamped training regimen, the young outfielder says he plans to revisit the idea of him as a base stealer.
"I got thrown out a couple times so the red lights started coming more often. That went along with we started hitting all these home runs and there was no reason to be stealing. So I totally get it," he said. "That is a goal. I’m going to try to get even better and continue on with that path. That work come in spring training, right now it’s just pure athleticism. We have so many great people who come down to spring training. Like Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith and they come and teach that type of technique and stuff. That will come. Right now it’s just pure athleticism."
Greg Garcia wants more
Garcia, who has bounced between a full-time role in Memphis and a utility spot on the Cardinals, now finds himself on the banks of the Rubicon. Out of options, the 27 year old must either stick on the big club in 2017, or face waivers if the Cardinals want to demote him.
As a solid defender and disciplined batsman, Garcia would draw interest from the 29 other teams, and his contributions last year should give the Cardinals pause if they face that proposition.
In 99 games (257 plate appearances), he hit .273. His on base percentage was .393. Both those numbers are likely news to most Cardinal fans, but they’re the result of a player determined to maximize return on limited investment. Garcia hit .348 off the bench, and drove in three runs. He played above average defense at the three stations he manned. If you like those numbers and believe there’s a large enough sample to extrapolate without fear, Garcia is a two-win player.
Perhaps that’s why he came out swinging at the Winter Warm-Up, saying he’s looking to play in a whole lot more games in 2017.
“My goal coming into spring training is to compete for a starting job,” Garcia said. “I think a lot of people just kind of label you a utility guy, this and that, but I feel like I work too hard to set my goals that high. I want to try to win a starting job at one of those positions and see what happens.”
Carson Kelly set for every day work
After getting a taste of the major leagues in September, Carson Kelly is slated to begin the 2017 season in Memphis. With Kelly, the Cardinals still emphasize playing time and repetitions as the young catcher continues his development.
“The Cardinals have a great plan; they’re always looking to maintain what we have, but also for the future.” Kelly said. “So I think going to Memphis or if it’s in the big
leagues–whatever the case may be–you gotta take it day by day. I’m just going to make the best of those opportunities.”
Eric Fryer is expected to open the season as Yadier Molina’s backup after the Cardinals signed him to a minor-league contract last month. That Kelly won’t start the season in St. Louis, where he went 2-13 in a short stint at the end of last season, is not a demerit on his progression. In fact, should Molina miss time to injury, it would not be surprising to see Kelly leap Fryer for playing time with the Cardinals.
Kelly batted .286 in 77 at-bats in the highly competitive Arizona Fall League, and should he continue on his current trajectory, the Cardinals would probably prefer him as the major league starter if the need should arise.
Paul DeJong, newest Cardinal short stop prospect?
At every level through the minors, Paul DeJong has primarily been a third baseman. That changed with his time in the Arizona Fall League, where DeJong played shortstop in preparation for a full-time position change. The Cardinals are planning for DeJong to begin the season as the starting shortstop at Class-AAA Memphis, and the work in the fall league has him feeling good in the new role.
“Very comfortable,” DeJong said of playing shortstop “I played there all throughout the fall league, and I felt like I made every play over there. I can make the routine play. I think it just adds another edge to my game to get me in the lineup at a different position.”
With a crowded infield at the major league level, positional flexibility makes DeJong a more valuable asset for the organization. He has performed offensively at every level, posting a line of .260/.324/.460 with 22 home runs last season in Class-AA Springfield. The jump to Memphis moves DeJong closer to being a realistic option for a major league call-up should the Cardinals need infield help in 2017.
Marco Gonzales is training for his career
After a lost season due injury, Gonzales may have drifted to the back of most fans’ consciousness. The lefty exhilarated Cardinal Nation in his 2014 debut against the Rockies, but has seen a major league mound just once in the last two seasons (going 2.2 innings and surrendering four runs in 2015).
After Tommy John surgery last year, Gonzales has been quietly rehabbing and rebuilding his body, changing anything and everything he can to keep his dream within reach.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself. Learned a lot about patience, dedication, my work ethic, it was all tested,” he said. “When you have six months not having throw, not having to be in games, you can really take that time to redevelop everything you may have missed, any weaknesses you may have.”
His best shot at making the 25-man roster is in the bullpen, but the departure of lefties Tim Cooney and Jaime Garcia have left a hole that keeps a door cracked for him to return to the majors.