Question: Who will be the team’s starting third baseman?
The Cardinals essentially have two options here: Jhonny Peralta or Jedd Gyorko. Neither was the team’s primary third baseman a season ago. Peralta missed more than half of 2016 with an injured thumb, while Gyorko played a super-utility role and ultimately paced the club with 30 home runs.
Peralta is in the final year of his four-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. The emergence of Aledmys Diaz has pushed him to compete for time at the hot corner, something the team envisioned when they signed Peralta as a free-agent prior to the 2014 season.
When healthy, Peralta has been a steady producer for St. Louis. He led the team with 21 home runs in 2014 and earned an All-Star nod the next season. He’s now fully recovered from his thumb injury a year ago, something that compromised him last season even when he was active.
Gyorko, on the other hand, was arguably the most pleasant surprise in 2016 for the Cardinals. He entered the season without a defined role, and ended up getting time when Peralta went down in the Spring, and also when Diaz landed on the disabled list with a fractured thumb in August.
30 of his 97 hits cleared the boards last year. Whether he can replicate that power this season will play a factor in his amount of time on the field in 2017. Following an offseason in which the Cardinals emphasized athleticism over raw power, Gyorko’s potential for home runs is enticing on a team that boasts less home-run potential.
The debate over who should start at third might not be resolved by Opening Day. Peralta and Gyorko could end up splitting time fairly evenly into the summer. But for what it’s worth, Gyorko’s greater ability to hit the ball out of the park might give him the early-season edge.