St. Louis Cardinals: Predicting The Position Battle At Third Base
The St. Louis Cardinals seem to have found all of the pieces they need to put together a lineup come Opening Day. All the parts seem to be set, except for third base.
With the St. Louis Cardinals announcing that Matt Carpenter will be the everyday first baseman, they left the third base job open but have a few options to fill it. Who will be penciled in for Opening Day will be a question answered during Spring Training.
Even though many believe Jhonny Peralta will have the starting job, General Manager John Mozeliak has said that Jedd Gyorko is going to get a chance to start. It is a long season and anything can happen as it progresses, but as far as the lineup goes for game one, third base will be a position battle to pay attention to.
Peralta’s age has to be brought up considering he will be 35 this upcoming season. That number looks worse when coupled with the injury last year that limited him to only 82 games. His skill with a bat in his hands, however, seems to still be in tact as fellow contributor Zach has analyzed. However, he only hit .260 during the shortened 2016 season.
Gyorko was no slouch at the plate though. He launched 30 home runs in 128 games and his hitting tendencies show him as a predominately pull hitter who gets into trouble by trying to lift the ball too much. He has a 45.2 percent pull rate from a year ago that resulted in a .243 batting average. What Gyorko does possess, however, is a good knowledge of the strike zone: 70.4 percent of his swings were on balls in the zone.
In the field, Gyorko’s history at the hot corner shows him as the top glove. That being said, his 364 innings as a third baseman is miniscule compared to Peralta’s 2363.1 innings of experience. In general throughout his long career, Peralta would have a UZR that hovers around minus-1. But last season, it dipped way down to be a minus-8.8. For Gyorko, his two seasons of experience were a minus-3.0 and a plus-1.7.
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Don’t be fooled by the massive UZR drop from Peralta, last season was the first time he had played third since 2010. While a decline in his reaction time or fielding ability could have contributed, it was more likely that his six year hiatus from the position is mostly to blame for the drop-off.
More than likely, the guy who gets the start will be the one who fits the offensive approach the best. Last year, there was a huge reliance on the long ball from power hitters like Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss, and Gyorko. This year with Holliday and Moss gone, and the addition of Dexter Fowler, the team can’t rely on that. This could cause the fly ball style of Gyorko to fall short, and the 40.7 percent ground ball rate of Peralta to be more useful.
I think there are two ways this situation works out. One of them relies specifically on the performance of Kolten Wong. The shaky history of the everyday second baseman could mean he has a short leash this year, much like last year when he was sent to Triple-A Memphis. If that happens again, either Peralta or Gyorko will take over at second, with the other being at third.
In the mean time, and if Wong performs well, the starter may depend entirely on the opposing teams starting pitcher. Peralta hits best against righties, but with a lefty on the mound he hit a mere .182 last year. Gyorko batted .245 and was at his best against lefties. It would make sense to let the two players balance out the weaker points of the other.
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The injury situation of Peralta will be something to keep an eye on and if Gyorko can adjust his swing to hit more line drives, he would fit the offensive scheme better. Options are never a bad thing and the St. Louis Cardinals infield seems to have an abundance. Greg Garcia is another utility player that could also see some time. Needless to say, there will be a close eye on third base starting at Spring Training.