Today, we will continue our look at the 2012 Cardinals and how they match up in the National League Central. As detailed in Saturday’s post, this is done using WAR projections from The Hardball Times’s Oliver projection system. These results can be viewed using the table I have posted here. On Saturday, I looked at the 2012 projected starting lineup. Today I will look at the bench and the pitching staff.
We’ll start with a glance at the bench. As seen in the table, currently our bench is projected as having Tony Cruz as the backup catcher, Tyler Greene as the utility infielder, Skip Schumaker who can play at second and all three outfield positions, and Erik Komatsu and Adron Chambers who both can presumably play all three outfield positions.
The first area to look at is the backup catcher. This is one area where we might see a difference between Tony LaRussa and Mike Matheny. Historically, Tony has viewed the catcher position as a defensive priority. From Matheny’s time behind the plate to Yadier now, Tony hasn’t seemed to put a premium on offensive production from the catcher. This has stretched to the bench also, as the backup is usually a defensive player as well. If the Cardinals stay internal for their backup catcher, then Spring Training could see a three-headed race between Tony Cruz, Brian Anderson, and Steven Hill. Cruz is the best defensive option, but offers next to nothing with the bat. Hill has shown some pop in his bat, hitting 14 home runs in 37 games between AA and AAA, and is serviceable defensively. Anderson has hit for decent average in his minor league career, but has always seen criticism for his defensive play. If the Cardinals choose to stay internal, I’d say that Steven Hill is the most well-rounded option. However, for probably around the same one million dollar contract they paid to Gerald Laird last year, they could possibly look at Chris Snyder. He is a definite risk and his best years are behind him, but he put up a 0.7 WAR season for the Pirates last year, which would be good production for a $3 mil player. At a small price, if he falters, we could fall back on our crop of younger guys.
Chambers and Komatsu have really similar skill sets, so having both is unnecessary. If the Cardinals go with my plan of signing Beltran, then one will have to go. Since Komatsu would have to be returned to Washington and has a little more patience at the plate, he will probably stay on the roster while Chambers goes back to AAA for seasoning.
With two outfielders already in the fold, Skip’s value would come as an infielder. Since there are much better infielders in our system, I was actually hoping for a non-tender, but Skip is here to stay for two more seasons.
The starting rotation looks set with Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jake Westbrook. The Cardinals tried to move the last years of Lohse and Westbrook’s contracts, but there were no biters so it looks like they’ll finish out their deals as Cardinals. I don’t see the Redbirds looking for depth as the system is full of guys that could spot start as a #4 or #5 pitcher.
The bullpen is another area that looks pretty set. Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, and Eduardo Sanchez will finish out games in some order with possible shuffling of the setup and closer roles early in the season. All three are solid cheap options whose production could not be replaced on the free agent market without paying a premium. Our middle relievers are Kyle McLellan and Lance Lynn. Lynn has the repertoire to be a #5 starter but I think has the moxie to handle high pressure situations. I could see him entering the closer mix at some point this season. McLellan is lost money. He is the worst pitcher in our bullpen and another player I was hoping would be non-tendered. Our system is chock full of right-handed relief options that are better than K-Mac, such as Adam Reifer, Chuckie Fick, and Mitchell Boggs. If McLellan can be moved, it would benefit the team. Marc Rzepcynski looks like he may be the swingman, but that could also be Lynn’s role. Scrabble was solid in the playoffs. A year under Dave Duncan’s wing could really do wonders for him. The only hole in the pen going into the offseason was a true lefty specialist, as Scrabble is effective against hitters from both sides of the plate. The Cardinals signed JC Romero last week to fill this void. For $750k, it’s a cheap gamble, but I think better options were available, such as Hong-Chih Kuo, Mike Gonzalez, Darren Oliver, and Jose Mijares.
In general, as long as the Cardinals go after an outfielder, I think the team has a very good chance of winning the division. The Brewers are going to be without Braun for a third of the season and Fielder for the entire season. The Reds are a wild card, but strengthened their rotation with the addition of Mat Latos. The Cubs, Pirates, and Astros don’t pose a real threat to the division championship.
Does number 12 in 2012 look like an attainable goal to you? What areas do you think the Cardinals could look to improve? Let us know in the comment section.