As the St. Louis Cardinals finish preparing for the regular season, a number of position battles still remain. The 25-man roster and the Opening Day line-up still have some questions to be answered.
For the first time since 2011, your St. Louis Cardinals will be opening the season in St. Louis at Busch Stadium. They immediately start off the 2017 season with a series against the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. Right now, both teams are in the stage of Spring Training where they are finalizing their 25-man rosters and figuring out who will start in the major leagues.
The Cardinals, fortunately, have quite a bit of depth throughout the organization. This causes them to have position battles in the spring that could affect the Opening Day roster as well as the entire season. Just last spring we saw players like Jeremy Hazelbaker crack the MLB roster because he won a roster spot. This year is no different and Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak will have to make some decisions here soon.
Beginning with the every day fielders, this is what I predict to be the batting order on Opening Day and for the majority of the games this season.
- Dexter Fowler – Center Field
- Aledmys Diaz – Shortstop
- Matt Carpenter – First Base
- Stephen Piscotty – Right Field
- Yadier Molina – Catcher
- Jhonny Peralta – Third Base
- Randal Grichuk – Left Field
- Kolten Wong – Second Base
- Pitcher (see below)
Now, a number of fans may not prefer this to be the lineup and I am in that group. I think Grichuk should be batting 5th or 6th, Carpenter should bat second with Diaz or Piscotty at 3rd and 4th, and there are a number of arguments to be made as to whether Wong or Peralta should be benched for Jedd Gyorko who hit 30 home runs last season.
However, Matheny and Mozeliak have been extremely methodical over the past few seasons and based on their trends, Molina and Peralta will occupy the 5th and 6th spots at least until Grichuk proves he can produce consistently and Matheny loves the traditional 3-hole hitter ideology (see: Matt Holliday all of last year) so Carpenter will be cemented there.
With regards to Gyorko being on the bench, he should see plenty of at-bats and serves an important utility role. While the St. Louis Cardinals love Diaz, we don’t know for sure if he’s capable of repeating. We also don’t know if Peralta can stay healthy and if Wong can be a major league player. With those questions, Gyorko can be a solution in multiple areas.
Gyorko will join Matt Adams, Greg Garcia, Tommy Pham, and Eric Fryer on the bench. Garcia is out of minor league options so if the Cardinals want to keep him he has to remain on the MLB roster (more on this coming up tomorrow). This puts them in an odd situation though because Pham would be the only back-up outfielder. I chose him over Jose Martinez strictly because of experience. If an OF injury does occur, Martinez would be the first guy called up.
As far as pitchers go, I think Carlos Martinez should be the opening day starter. However, if we go with the Matheny trends, Adam Wainwright will be the man on the mound come April 2nd. Regardless, both will join a staff that also consists of Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, and Michael Wacha. Many would have penciled in Alex Reyes but with his Tommy John surgery he will be unavailable until next season.
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The St. Louis Cardinals will need a swing-man type in the bullpen and there are two real options in my opinion: Luke Weaver and John Gant. Personally, I think Gant should start the the 2017 season in the major leagues. Weaver is a top prospect in the organization and could really use consistent play time and development. Having him in the majors as a long reliever and depth starter would do him no good. Plus, Gant has MLB experience and has pitched as a starter and reliever.
Joining Gant will be Seung-hwan Oh (closer), Kevin Siegrist (setup), Brett Cecil (setup), Trevor Rosenthal (hybrid), Jonathan Broxton (middle), and Matthew Bowman (middle). Cecil and Siegrist will also double as left-handed specialist types but both seem to have no issues against righties. In some cases, they’ve even been better against their right-handed counterparts.
Rosenthal will be interesting to watch considering he is being “stretched out” but he could also return to closing if Oh either struggles or is traded before leaving for free agency. Bowman and Broxton will be innings eaters but Bowman will fill that double-play ground ball role that Seth Maness held for multiple years.
Overall, that is what I believe the Opening Day roster will look like for the St. Louis Cardinals. They have good depth as usual but hopefully the team isn’t tested by injuries like they were last year. Matheny has a number of tools but he needs to remain consistent and methodical for this lineup and team to succeed. Mozeliak has put the pieces in place now it is on them to perform.