For almost a month now the makeup of the Cardinals 2014 roster has been all but devoid of drama. The great shortstop caper of 2013 found a resolution in the form of Jhonny Peralta. The infield and outfield found depth and options with the additions of Mark Ellis and Peter Bourjos. It seems, barring a major unexpected move, that we have a pretty good idea of who will be in uniform for St. Louis when they open the season against Cincinnati. After a little closer inspection, however, we see that this roster is not set in stone just yet.
A typical major league roster is made up of twelve pitchers (5 starters, 7 relievers) and thirteen position players (2 catchers, 6 infielders, 5 outfielders). These numbers are not hard and fast; for a good portion of the 2013 the Cardinals kept three catchers on the active roster. But for our purposes it is a good starting point to consider exactly how the roster will look this year.
Let’s break down the options to get an idea of what Cardinal management will be looking at when pitchers and catchers report.
The first and easiest group to list is that of the known players who will be on the roster.
This list would include:
- Adam Wainwright
- Michael Wacha
- Shelby Miller
- Lance Lynn
- Joe Kelly
- Randy Choate
- Seth Maness
- Trevor Rosenthal
- Kevin Siegrist
- Tony Cruz
- Yadier Molina
- Matt Adams
- Matt Carpenter
- Allen Craig
- Mark Ellis
- Jhonny Peralta
- Kolten Wong
- Peter Bourjos
- Matt Holliday
- Jon Jay
These twenty names are the core of the team which will be on the roster barring a trade or injury. That leaves five roster spots to be filled.
There are two players that might make the opening day roster, or might begin the year with the AAA Memphis Redbirds. Both Carlos Martinez and Oscar Taveras are top of the line prospects that other teams would kill for. At this point Martinez is the only one to make an impression on the major league level. Given what he showed last year in the playoffs, the only reason he wouldn’t make the opening day roster would be so he could be ready as a starter in Memphis
until he was needed in the majors. The smart money is on Martinez being in St. Louis either as a setup man, or even as a starter.
Taveras is a bit more complicated. The number one prospect in all of baseball had his 2013 season derailed by injury, but all looks to be on track in 2014 so far. He could go down to Memphis for more seasoning. This move would keep his major league time from starting, and he would be on pace for a mid-season call-up to the majors. Opinions on the best plan for Taveras in 2014 diverge wildly, but this team is in no hurry.
Two important players for St. Louis will be on the comeback trail in 2014. Jaime Garcia (shoulder) and Jason Motte (elbow), will be working their way back on the roster. By all accounts Garcia is on pace to be ready for the start of the season. Motte on the other hand might not be ready until the season is underway.
The Final Spots
If we take our twenty bedrocks, and feel confident adding Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia, and assume that Allen Craig is in the outfield, we are still short one pitcher, one infielder, and one outfielder. This is where the front office will have decisions to make.
If Motte is not ready by the start of the season the last pitcher will probably come from these names: Keith Butler, Angel Castro, Jorge Rondon, or Sam Freeman. Tyler Lyons even has an outside shot at taking the last spot, but I am betting that he will begin the year in Memphis in case Jaime Garcia is not as healthy expected, or if the manager decides to leave the franchise cornerstone in the game for 276 pitches. Freeman might have a slight edge based on his work last year, but whoever this pitcher is he would just be keeping Motte’s spot warm if everything went right, which of course it never does.
The infield spot will come down to Pete Kozma or Daniel Descalso, with Greg Garcia maybe having an opportunity. Kozma is excellent at robbing teams of runs on defense, but unfortunately he does this for his own team with his bat. For all of his abilities as a defensive replacement late in games, Kozma would give the team next to nothing offensively as a pinch hitter, and he only plays one position. Descalso has more flexibility and would provide a left-handed bat off the bench in the infield while being able to play three positions (SS, 2B, 3B).
That leaves the final outfield spot for Shane Robinson or Oscar Taveras. As a fifth outfielder Robinson might be preferable just because of the small number of at bats that will go to that position. Of course Taveras has such upside that it might be worth putting him on the bench and finding ways to get him in the lineup like the team did last year with Matt Adams. If it is Robinson who takes this spot out of spring training, it might not be his for long.