JUPITER, Fl. (KMOV.COM) -- With spring training past its midpoint, the fight for a spot on the 25-man roster becomes feistier. Who obtains one of the final spots on the roster, Jose Martinez, 28 or Tommy Pham, 29?
How did it come down to Martinez and Pham? After counting out the Cardinals’ pitchers and position players, only one spot remains; and this spot is designated for adding depth to the outfield.
Pitchers: Matt Bowman, Jonathan Broxton, Brett Cecil, Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez, Seung Hwan Oh, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, (one bullpen spot remains, likely going to Miguel Socolovich who is out of options)
Catchers: Yadier Molina, Eric Fryer
Infield: Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Aledmys Diaz, Greg Garcia, Jedd Gyorko, Jhonny Peralta, Kolten Wong
Outfield: Dexter Fowler, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty
So what does each player have to offer?
In Jupiter, one seems to be making himself more present than the other. Martinez, with 37 at bats, has a .378 batting average along with 10 RBIs.
Martinez was once a minor leaguer with a slim-to-none chance of making it onto the Cardinals roster. Last season in the minors, Martinez put up a .278/.336/.421 line along with a .757 OPS. Now, he’s starting to make a name for himself.
What does this mean for Pham? In the minors last season, Pham slashed .236/.344/.382 with a .726 OPS. This was all within 33 games and 128 plate appearances. As for his 2016 major league season, it’s not much of a different story. He hit .226/.324/.440 with a .764 OPS.
It’s no question that Pham is having a rough first half of spring training. In 35 at bats, Pham has a dry .200 average. His OPS is also subpar, standing at just .517. He is going to have to fight hard in the remaining days of spring training to reverse his fortunes.
When it comes to defense, however the competition becomes tighter.
In 2016, Martinez had a fair season in Memphis and Omaha. In 69 games in the outfield, he had 103 chances to get an out - he put out 96 batters (including four assists). He committed three errors, ending the minor league season with a .971 fielding percentage. The defensive numbers aren’t flashy, but he gets things done. Martinez even has first base experience if the Cardinals really need it, and has flashed competency there this spring.
As for Pham in St. Louis last year, he played 66 games. In 73 total chances, he didn’t miss a beat. Pham had 71 putouts and two assists, making his fielding percentage to a perfect 1.000.
He also has the added value of being able to play center field, something Martinez does not offer.
If you’re looking at Martinez and Pham side-by-side, there are clear pros and cons for each. Martinez is starting to prove himself as a slugger. He beats out Pham in offense, but Pham seems a more seasoned fielder. Where one lacks, the other one thrives.
But given the current roster construction, Pham is at a disadvantage.
The Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler in the offseason to man center field. The effects of that move remain to be fully realized, but one change it forced was the move of Randal Grichuk to left. After playing his career primarily as a center fielder, the 25-year-old brings much better range to the corner. It also means St. Louis has a capable stand-in should Fowler need rest.
Pham’s primary edge was his ability to roam center field. If the Cardinals lean toward Martinez’s offense, they could move Grichuk over to center and deploy Martinez in left. Given his added value as a right-handed bat at first base, it’s hard to see him overtaken in the remaining days of March.