I think it’s time to continue our piece by piece analysis of this years ball club. I’ve already discussed the bullpen and the infield. It seems now that the outfield is pretty well set, so let’s take a look.
Going into this offseason, many, including myself, thought that the Cardinals had a surplus of outfielders, and that one would have to be moved in a package to acquire a decent pitcher. As it turns out, the shocking trade of Jim Edmonds to San Diego was more of a salary dump type of move, as they received only a minor league infielder in return. I’m sure I won’t be the only one who’ll miss Jimmy patrolling center this summer.
So, without Edmonds, it’s much more clear what this season’s outfield will look like. Basically, there are six guys competing for five spots. Chris Duncan, Rick Ankiel, and Ryan Ludwick seem to be the givens, while Skip Schumaker, newly acquired Brian Barton, and top prospect Colby Rasmus will be competing for the other two roster spots. The guys over at Viva El Birdos make an excellent argument as to why Rasmus should start the season at AAA Memphis. Check out that write up here.
Chris Duncan is the only one on the list that can’t play center. He should get most of the playing time in left field. Last season, Duncan hit .259 with 21 homers in 375 at bats, and had limited playing time against lefties. I expect much of the same from Dunc this year offensively, while I believe his defense will be slightly improved.
Rick Ankiel, according to Mozeliak, is currently atop the centerfield depth chart. While I agree that Rick would be a fine centerfielder, I think his tremendous arm is better suited for right field. Also, I don’t think it makes much sense to move him to center to start the year only to have to move him back upon Rasmus’ arrival. If I had to guess, I’d say Ankiel gets plenty of starts at both positions. Last season, he hit a combined 43 home runs between Memphis and St. Louis. I love his power numbers, but would like to see him cut down on his strikeouts. Regardless, he’ll receive plenty of curtain calls in ’08.
The remaining outfield at bats will be shared in a platoon of Ludwick, Schumaker, and Barton. We know that Ryan Ludwick is a good 4th outfielder that can provide some right handed power coming off the bench. Last season, he hit.267 with 14 home runs and 22 doubles. Skip Schumaker is a good defensive outfielder, and has been deserving of a more important role with the team. Last year, he hit .333 in 177 at bats, and may be a candidate to bat leadoff. As for Brian Barton, we don’t really know what we’re getting. He’s had success at each level he’s played, even playing through a knee injury. As a Rule 5 draftee, Barton must remain on the roster all season, or be relinquished back to Cleveland. He’s supposed to have above average speed, and also could be considered to bat leadoff on occasion.
Overall, I think this is an exciting group, and should be very fun to watch. Now how many days until Spring Training?