St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak is nearly finished filling the immediate holes in the roster. He has signed Rafael Furcal to play shortshop. He inked his super-utility man Skip Schumaker and came to an agreement with a second lefty reliever, J.C. Romero. Lance Berkman is going to shift to first base to replace, or try to replace, Albert Pujols. Allen Craig moves to the outfield once he is healed. There you have it the roster is set. The Cardinals could still go after a bigger bat for the outfield, say Carlos Beltran or Michael Cuddyer. A move like that only lessens playing time for Schumaker. But what about second base?
Should we expect a strict platoon with Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene? Descalso is a lefty hitter so he would end up seeing a majority of the starts. If we figure he receives 70% of the starts he’d get about 400 plate appearances, but almost all of them against right handed pitching. At first glance this seems like a good idea. Descalso hit .190 versus left-handed pitching in 2011 and .280 versus right-handers in 309 plate appearances. He was pretty much platooned last season seeing only 66 plate appearances against lefties.
As for the other side of the platoon there is Greene. Greene has shown he can hit AAA pitching pretty well with above average power and he adds a speed dimension that Descalso does not have. Descalso doesn’t have the power dimension either for that matter. Unfortunately, Greene’s success in AAA has not translated at the major league level yet. In 142 career plate appearances against left-handed pitching, remember Greene hits right-handed, he’s hit a paltry .203 with only 3 home runs and 7 total extra base hits.
The potential does seem to be there for Greene. The homer/speed combo is very alluring. In 2011, with the Cardinals’ AAA affiliate Memphis Redbirds, Greene hit 14 HR with 19 SB and had a 1.001 OPS in 303 plate appearances. These are impressive numbers for a second baseman.
If we add Bill James’ 2012 projections for each together we get the following totals in the standard stats; 498 PA, .257 BA, 9 HR, 66 R, 48 RBI and 18 SB. This is not bad for a second baseman. Neither of them has shown any particular prowess at fielding the position. Both have career marks well below zero in UZR/150. As an aside, this infield up the middle is not going to be very good because Rafael Furcal is not a good shortstop. I digress.
It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals go with the strict platoon instead of seeing how Greene would fair with regular at-bats. His ability to drive the ball and use his speed gives him a leg up on Descalso in my opinion. The problem again is that Green has been up with the big club in three straight seasons with no success. Descalso performed admirably while filling in for David Freese and elsewhere last season. He is not flashy, but solid enough.
Will the loss of Pujols’ power entice manager Mike Matheny to give Greene a lengthy look? He is going to turn 29 during the summer so if he is going to show something it has to be now. I’d be willing to bet that if he hits in the low .200’s again this season, he’ll be elsewhere in 2013.
I would guess if the Cardinals sign a bigger bat to help minimize the loss of Pujols, they will be more apt to split at-bats almost evenly between Descalso and Greene versus a strict platoon. This way Greene gets some action against righties too to see how he fares. However, if the Cards stand pat from here, then you would have to think Greene would get an even longer look and a majority of the at-bats at the beginning of the season. Greene has the ability, if he can figure out major league pitching, to generate runs with his bat and with his speed. Greene’s upside is too enticing to have him ride the pine. Greene’s time is now or never. If he falters they can go to Descalso or even Schumaker to steady the ship and part ways with Greene.