St. Louis Cardinals: Standouts and flops after one week of Spring Training

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Randy Arozarena #83 of the St Louis Cardinals is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run against the Washington Nationals during a spring training game at The Fitteam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 26, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Randy Arozarena #83 of the St Louis Cardinals is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run against the Washington Nationals during a spring training game at The Fitteam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 26, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

The first week of Spring Training baseball is complete for the St. Louis Cardinals. What have the performances been like thus far?

Here in bird land, we love to overreact to things. Everything is immediately taken at face level. Every result means an MVP award or last place in the NL Central for everyone. Capturing this spirit, let’s take a look at how the first week of Spring Training games have gone for your St. Louis Cardinals and see if we can’t find a few players to gas up the panic bus or to hand an MVP award to.

Of course, I am only making fun of people who take to the virtual streets to scream about how bad the pitching staff and offense is. In all fairness this small sample size is all we have to judge the 2019 Cardinals on, so with a huge grain of salt, let’s look at the top performances and flops so far.

The Spring Training games have not been great so far, as, at the time of writing, the Cardinals have a record of 3-4-2. I understand why Spring games stop after the 9th inning, but it just bugs me to see ties next to the record. Moving on, the first standout I want to highlight is someone I am betting on having a huge year.

Standout: Tyler O’Neill

Let me first say that I am a huge Tyler O’Neill fan. If you read my five predictions for the 2019 Cardinals piece that I will link below, I bet that O’Neill was going to lead the team in homers in the coming year. As much as people disagreed with me that this will happen, O’Neill is really showing off that big power potential so far.

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Through 18 plate appearances, O’Neill has swatted three homers that were all laser beams. The interesting thing about O’Neill thus far is not the homers but the walks he has taken. In his 18 at-bats, he has taken four walks and struck out five times. The result is a measly .214 BA that is paired with a stellar .389 OBP and 1.246 OPS.

While people just love to see a good batting average, if this trend of a new Tyler O’Neill that walks and hits homers continues to the season, he will be so much more dangerous. I have to think that this change in approach, evident even after a week of games, has to do with the impact of new hitting coach, Jeff Albert. Many have said that Albert should have the most effect on O’Neill and Harrison Bader as a coach that stresses contact. Hopefully, it continues.

Flop: Marcell Ozuna

Another piece of my predictions for the 2019 Cardinals was that Ozuna would not finish the year with the team. I guessed that this would be the result of increasing tension between him and management surrounding his lack of performance due to his nagging shoulder injury. While there was a report that Ozuna no longer feels pain while throwing earlier this Spring, I would want to see what his throwing motion and arm strength looks like before I would call him all the way back.

Ozuna is yet to play a game in the field this year, and his output at the plate hasn’t assuaged anyone’s fears about his shoulder. Ozuna does only have 10 at-bats so far, but has no hits and has struck out three times. Adding two walks is great to see, and it may just take some time for Ozuna’s bat to come around, but he hasn’t necessarily looked great at the plate.

I want Ozuna to figure it out, hit well and then move on at the end of the year, but that may not happen just the way we all want. It is too soon to judge Ozuna as he is coming off that same shoulder injury, but initial returns aren’t great. Keep a wary eye on him when he finally begins to throw in the field.

Standout: Ryan Helsley

Ryan Helsley is one of the last prospects in the most recent wave of stud starters to come up through the minors that fans in St. Louis have not been able to see yet. I would not be going out on a limb by saying that will change in 2019. Coming off a year where he pitched in both AA Springfield and AAA Memphis, Helsley is just about ready to produce in the majors.

Yet another fireballer, he will most likely see time in the bullpen for the Cardinals in 2019 as the starting rotation depth is so deep that he may not be the first pick if an arm goes down. Thus far in the Spring, Helsley has pitched in three games going four innings overall. He has yet to be touched. No batter has gotten a hit off of Helsley and he has only let people get on base by walking people.

Helsley is going to play in St. Louis in 2019. It is still early, but if he continues to produce at this level, he could force the hand of Mike Shildt and make the team out of Spring Training.

Flop: Andrew Miller

This flop is not a fair one at all. It is one that some fans freaked out about and I find that entertaining so I’m going to include him in this list. Miller, of course, was the second biggest name the Cardinals acquired over the offseason and if he is healthy, should be a stellar addition to a bullpen that was extremely weak last year. He’s only one addition, but as a former two-time All-Star who has proven to be a force anywhere he is put, fans are rightly excited to see him pitch.

Miller’s first appearance was comically bad, unfortunately. Only able to get two outs, he gave up three runs on two hits and a walk and now has a 40.50 ERA on the year. Talk about a flop.

It is more unfair of me to include Miller on this list because it is so early in Spring and Spring Training is truly for pitchers. Batters don’t take a month to get in shape hitting. Pitching takes more time and their performances should be discounted, especially for a player like Miller who is coming off an injury. He will pitch better this Spring and will not be that bad in the regular season.

Next. Five bold predictions for the 2019 Cardinals. dark

I want to reiterate again that it is way too soon for these conclusions to stick about these players and this team. There is no reason to panic on these players yet (can’t say the same about Carlos Martinez) as performances in spring, especially from veterans and teams as a whole, rarely correlate to regular season performance. Put down your pitchforks and enjoy watching baseball again.