Following the Easter loss, the St. Louis Cardinals made additional cuts to the roster as the opening day real estate continues to become smaller and smaller.
Am I the only fan worried by the performance of the St. Louis Cardinals this spring? I know that conclusions shouldn’t really be drawn from spring numbers but I’m seeing less and less to hang happy hats upon in relation to offense or defense.
As spring gets closer to its close, the real estate for roster spots becomes smaller and smaller. Following the loss today to the Marlins, the Cardinals sent six additional players packing to minor league camp. These are reviewed here below.
Tim Cooney– LHP
Before the start of spring, I predicted that Cooney would serve Memphis at the top of the rotation. While I still feel this is a real possibility, this spring has been a disappointment in the Cooney camp thanks to injury and his inability to play. This cut is less about performance and more about the lack of performance. Prediction: Cooney will serve 2016 at the top of Memphis’ rotation.
Prior to the injury, Cooney appeared in one game pitching two complete innings. In this outstanding game, Cooney surrendered zero hits but gave up two walks. He left this game with an ERA of 0.00 then arm soreness settled in and removed him from action.
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Prediction: Cooney will serve 2016 at the top of Memphis’ rotation.
Dean Kiekhefer– LHP
As I admitted in my pre-spring countdown, I was not a fan of Kiekhefer when I watched him pitch in Memphis in 2015, but this spring has been kind to him and is changing my opinion of him. In 2016, Kiekhefer has appeared in six games pitching 5.1 innings. In these innings, he owns a 0.00 ERA having surrendered only six hits while recording four strikeouts.
As I noted in my countdown and as was noted in Steven’s prospect article, Kiekhefer could well be the LOOGY pitcher slated to replace Randy Choate. I wish this was true, but the spring stats do not confirm this theory. In 2016, left-handed batters earned a batting average of .333 while right-handed batters were limited to an average of only .250.
Prediction: Kiekhefer will develop through the season and will make his MLB debut this season.
David Washington– 1B/OF
Washington, largely unknown to me prior to spring, tried valiantly to make a name for himself outside of his large physical presence– many of the games in which he appeared had announcers commenting on his physique. While he tried, this AA-level player just couldn’t hold everything together this season.
Appearing in twenty games this spring, Washington produced a respectable slash line of .292/.433/.417 smacking two doubles. These numbers, while impressive, should be tempered by the fact that the opponents faced were at the AA-level equivalent.
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On defense, Washington struggled. In his twenty games, Washington appeared at first base in eight games, left field in one game, right field in six games, and in multiple outfield spots in seven games.
At first base, he posted a fielding percentage of .967 and recording one error. At left field, he posted a fielding percentage of 1.000 (his best), while at right field he posted his worst percentage of .750 while recording one error here too. When appearing at multiple outfield spots, he posted a fielding percentage of .800 and posted an error.
Prediction: Washington will start the season at AA then promote mid-season to AAA if he can reign in the errors and percentages.
Mike Ohlman– C
The assignment to the minors of Ohlman came as no surprise to me but not because of his performance. Before spring even began, I predicted that Ohlman would be Memphis’ starting catcher thanks to the logjam of catchers in the organization.
In spring this year, Ohlman appeared in nine games and posted a slash line of .364/.462/.455. Like Washington before him, while these numbers are impressive, these were gained against AA-level equivalent pitchers. Defensively, Ohlman owns a 1.000 fielding percentage catching two would-be stealers while allowing three stolen bases.
Prediction: Ohlman will spend 2016 with Memphis.
Miguel Socolovich– RHP
In my pre-spring roster prediction, I slated that Socolovich would serve as setup man in Memphis in 2016. Today’s reassignment seems very much in line with this thinking. Socolovich could be a really good pitcher but there seems to be something standing in his way.
In six games this spring, Socolovich was brought in to face just sub-AAA-level players. In his seven innings of pitching, he surrendered five hits and two earned runs while striking out six batters. His spring ERA is 2.57 with a 0.857 WHIP.
These numbers would be really impressive if even at the AAA-level so the reassignment, in addition to a full St. Louis pen, illustrates Socolovich’s need to show consistency in Memphis to climb the MLB ladder.
Prediction: Socolovich will contribute many times this season in St. Louis while primarily calling Memphis home.
Sam Tuivailala– RHP
Another of my pre-spring predictions for Memphis, Tuivailala was my selection for the Memphis closer and who I feel has the stuff to one day be an MLB closer.
A fast caveat about spring must be admitted here: spring is tough on closers on the climb since these players often don’t have the chance to face MLB-equivalent players if/when they enter games late in the contests due to roster swap-outs. This is true for this spring and Tuivailala.
Prior to today’s Easter game, spring 2016 had Tuivailala appearing in six games and recording an ERA of 1.69. After today’s blow-up game (poor performance for Tui), Sam’s ERA swelled to 4.26– 4.26!!
He pitched this spring in 6.1 innings surrendering seven hits and three earned runs. Worse, especially for a closer-in-the-making, is his walk total of eight. 8 in 6.1 innings… not good. Much of this can be due to the early part of season, but Tui must work on his command to compliment his killer-quick fastball.
Prediction: Tuivailala works in Memphis for consistency and if by June this hasn’t been found, he is designated for assignment or traded as there are other arms in the pipeline that could supplant him quickly.
I really wish I was surprised by any of these reassignments but I just didn’t see any of these players breaking camp with the Cardinals in 2016. Having said that, I see many opportunities for growth in these players whether this growth leads to St. Louis or whether the growth leads to value through trade. What do you think? Follow me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts.