St. Louis Cardinals’ Spring Training Countdown: Eight Days

Mar 5, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; A general view of baseballs on the field at Roger Dean Stadium prior to a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; A general view of baseballs on the field at Roger Dean Stadium prior to a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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We are down to eight days until pitchers and catchers report to St. Louis Cardinals’ Spring Training, and day three of my exploration.

As I continue my examination of players who should start the season in Memphis, and in anticipation of the approaching Spring Training, I find myself taken by Jeremy Hazelbaker.  I had the joy of watching Hazelbaker play a few games in the 2015 season with Memphis and I am thrilled to get the chance to watch him first-hand once again in 2016.

Hazelbaker, a 28-year-old who primarily plays in the outfield could have just as much potential at first base. He took an interesting trajectory in 2015, having started with the Dodgers organization in AA-ball only to be released on May 1.

The St. Louis Cardinals showed interest and signed him to a minor-league contract just twelve days later.  In November of 2015, Hazelbaker elected free agency to then receive a contract from the Cardinals in December. He has been assigned to Memphis and invited to Spring Training for 2016.

When I first saw Hazelbaker in Memphis, I was impressed with his power. During his tenure with the Redbirds, in 207 at-bats, Jeremy posted a .333 batting average and .998 OPS.  This amounted to 10 doubles, 10 home runs, and 46 RBI.  What stood out to me, beyond the stats, was his prowess at the plate: there was a demeanor about him that seemed to predict positive outcomes.

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During the 2015 Venezuelan Winter League, Hazelbaker continued to post impressive numbers.  In 136 at-bats, Jeremy posted a .338 batting average and .899 OPS.  This amounted to 7 doubles, 2 home runs, and 18 RBI.  One thing that really impresses me about him is his lack of hitting into double plays.

In Memphis, Hazelbaker hit into a mere three double plays and during the Winter League he posted only one GDP. One other thing of note from the Winter League: Hazelbaker was intentionally walked three times which might indicate that others noticed his at-bat prowess as well.

I’m not alone in my admiration of Hazelbaker nor alone in being impressed with his offensive numbers.  In July of 2015, after his appearing in only fifteen games with Memphis, Viva El Birdos posted praise.  I can only imagine that he will continue to impress us all in 2016.

While he has never appeared at first base, it would not surprise me to see him getting some appearances here in 2016 with the logjam of outfielders already appearing in St. Louis.  Add to this the departure of Memphis’ stalwart first baseman Xavier Scruggs, and Dan Johnson electing free agency, Memphis might have a hole at first base.  Filling this hole with a player like Hazelbaker might present additional holes in the outfield but could be worth attempting.

Next: St. Louis Cardinals' Spring Training Countdown: Nine Days

In closing, let’s face the fact that Memphis needs a first basemen, Hazelbaker could be the solution, but- simultaneously- Hazelbaker may have a nice home in right field in the absence of Stephen Piscotty from Memphis’ roster.  Either way, I will enjoy watching Hazelbaker add positive stats to his career with Memphis.

Follow me on twitter and keep watching for a new article over these next nine days as I look at the players who excite me for the upcoming season!