St. Louis Cardinals: Early 2017 Spring Training Reactions

Feb 17, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Wilfredo Tovar (66) heads out to the practice field during spring training drills at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 17, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Wilfredo Tovar (66) heads out to the practice field during spring training drills at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals have finally returned to broadcast television and I have some immediate reactions.

The St. Louis Cardinals kicked off their Spring Training competitions facing the Marlins of Miami in the shared Spring Training facility in Jupiter, Florida on Saturday and Sunday of this past weekend. It was beyond great to have the birds on the bat back on television and back into action.

While I am thrilled with the return, I have some immediate reactions– some good, some not so good. In general, let me share that I am glad to see Mike Matheny trotting out a slew of names allowing many exposures.

To this tune, I was glad to see Dexter Fowler and Aledmys Diaz and Matt Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty kicking things off on Saturday. In likewise fashion, I was glad to see Yadier Molina DH on Sunday to get reps at the plate while resting his knees. I wasn’t entirely in agreement with him squatting on Saturday.

Then came Sunday… I was glad to see different names like Tommy Pham patrolling center field, and Todd Cunningham taking over in right field. Likewise, I am thrilled that Matt Adams had plenty of opportunities to show off his new physique and new batting stance. More on this later.

On the mound, I was pleased with what we are seeing even if the results aren’t exactly as we would all have liked. True, Seung-hwan Oh seemed to give up some fat pitches that were immediately shellacked over the wall, but- as we are often told about spring- he is surely knocking off the dust and surely working on several things.

Thinking still of the mound, Luke Weaver looked good as did Mike Meyers. If comparing the two, I would have to cast a vote toward Meyers who looked really solid in his outing– something he desperately needed following the embarrassment he endured in 2016. To this end, then, Meyers reminded me a great deal of Matt Morris and even looked a lot like him on the mound (in both appearance and material).

Of great interest to me (and the rest of Cardinals Nation) was the appearance of Sandy Alcantara. This 6’4″ right-hander is one heck of a hurler. He is lauded as one of the great up-and-comer pitchers in the St. Louis Cardinals system and he certainly showed that during his outings.

Yes, he did surrender seven hits, five earned runs, and three walks in his 2.1 innings of appearances this weekend but his stuff shows great promise.

Continuing my reaction to Alcantara (clearly I was excited and impressed with this young arm), let me share with you that while his spring ERA is bloated thanks to his limited innings, Alcantara has a very high ceiling. I do not anticipate seeing him in St. Louis this season thanks to his need to work on control, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in Memphis.

Some other praise: I love me some Eric Fryer and was first overjoyed to have him back with the St. Louis Cardinals this season. It was a major mistake to let this backup catcher get away from us in 2016 and I’m glad to see that Mozeliak has corrected this mistake here for 2017. Dear, Mo, don’t do it again this season.

Continuing to shower praise on Fryer, did you see his hustle out of the box on Sunday? I sure did. This is the type of play that Fryer brings all while managing a pitching staff. No, he is no Yadi but he is an amazing backup and is one scrappy player (a type of player we St. Louis Cardinals fans have come to love).

Please allow me a moment to react to Matt Adams. One of our great writers here at Redbird Rants, Zach, covered his new stance after Saturday’s game. You can read it here. This morning Bernie Miklasz reacted as well (and even cited Zach’s article). Both of these writers shared opposing opinions with Zach arguing that nothing has really changed and Bernie begging for additional time before reacting.

Let me react here: I find myself exhausted with and by Matt Adams. I am not an Adams fan and have barked throughout the offseason hoping he would find a new home. I realize he has no value and would like to add that what we have seen thus far (and 0-for-6 start to spring) is and has done nothing for his value.

Furthermore, I am a fan of Zach’s article. I watched Adams more closely on Sunday and I am in agreement with Zach that the changes made are more additions to the start of Adams at the plate than they are actual changes to his swing.

I do agree with Bernie too that perhaps we are too early in spring to make overall judgements but can’t we agree that we aren’t seeing a changed Adams yet save his appearance and start of plate motion, etc.? Can’t we agree that we will need to see an awakened Adams with greater results to detail his change a success?

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This exposure will certainly come over the next few weeks as a good deal of Cardinals depart camp to play in the World Baseball Classic. With Carpenter departing to represent the United States, Adams should see a great deal of playing time in Carpenter’s absence. This should, indeed, allow Adams time to show whether his changes are pros, cons, or status quo.

Let me take a moment to eat a solid plate full of crow as it relates to Cunningham. I have written about him recently (read it here) and have shared my hopes that he could spell a solution over Pham. From what I have seen this spring so far (limited exposure in his four at-bats), I am retracting my earlier hopes.

Cunningham sits at a miserable .000/.200/.000 slash through his four at-bats having struck out twice in these. Yes, I know it is early, but unless there is some major dramatic turn around in the coming weeks, I see this name falling off and not receiving even a minor league assignment. Please don’t burn effigies of me for my early hopes.

One final reaction: the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals will be a completely different team than we witnessed in 2016. How can I so confidently say that? We know that the team is trying new things in spring from reports that have been released and from the energy infused through adding Fowler, but anyone who watched the two games this weekend witnessed a changed team.

Let me explore this a bit more. The team who appeared on Saturday and Sunday were both more aggressive at the plate early in the counts as well as being highly selective at the plate. Another massive change that we witnessed was the speed on the bags. Fowler stole second early on Saturday and other players such as Pham, etc., showed speed as well. This is a very welcomed change.

Next: Five Pressing Questions

It is true that Spring Training is where teams experiment with many things and that what is witnessed isn’t always what will stick when the season starts. Having admitted that, however, I predict that we will see the St. Louis Cardinals’ experiments sticking more and more as spring progresses. If this continues, then I predict a fun team to watch in 2017.