The St. Louis Cardinals have benefited from expanded September rosters, but the playoff roster will have to get cut back down to 25 players. Who makes the cut?
After an absolutely stellar second half, the St. Louis Cardinals are back in the postseason for the first time since their 100-win 2015 campaign in which they fell to the Cubs in the NLDS. They clinched their playoff birth in enemy territory at Wrigley Field this past weekend, which may be the best feeling for Cardinals fans after watching the Cubs celebrate after a win at Busch last season.
The roster construction has been fairly consistent throughout the season, they haven’t run into nearly any major injuries all season. One might think it’s pretty cut and dry for who will be sporting the birds on the bat come October, but it may not be that easy.
There are some “locks” but there are some bubble players both in position players and pitchers. Let’s take a look:
Position Player “Locks”:
C – Yadier Molina – As the most experienced player on the roster, Yadi will look to anchor a fairly young team into the unknown of October baseball.
1B – Paul Goldschmidt – Goldy only has 36 career postseason plate appearances, but as a grizzled vet, he will still provide a steady hand for the lineup. It’s a shame Arizona wasted all the years of his peak.
2B – Kolten Wong – Despite suffering hamstring injury over the weekend in Chicago, Wong looks to be on track to play come playoff time.
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3B – Tommy Edman – As the proverbial spark plug of the team, Edman will need to keep hot for this offense to keep rolling and rallying around him.
SS – Paul DeJong – Despite a brutal second half so far, DeJong has shown life as of late and will hopefully be rested and ready to go for when it matters.
LF – Marcell Ozuna – Despite debuting all the way back in 2013, Ozuna still doesn’t have a postseason plate appearance. He will be an x-factor in any playoff series.
CF – Harrison Bader – “Tots” has been respectable at the plate since his late August call up, but that’s all he needs to be with his elite defense in center field.
RF – Dexter Fowler – Dexter was the catalyst for the Cubs 2016 World Series victory and he’ll look to be the same for this Cardinals postseason run.
C – Matt Wieters – The team needs a backup catcher and Wieters is about as reliable as they come.
IF – Matt Carpenter – Following his extra-inning bomb in Chicago, hopefully he can come up with some key hits in the postseason whether it be off the bench or in the starting lineup.
Position Players “on the bubble”:
OF – Jose Martinez – “JMart” wasn’t his regular self at the plate this year, but with his extensive track record as a pinch hitter (career .916 OPS), I do expect him to make the roster.
OF – Tyler O’Neill – “Bro’Neill” hasn’t had the season many expected from him, but he’s healthy and fighting for a playoff spot. He offers the huge power off the bench but also very good defense and elite wheels on the bases.
UTIL – Yairo Munoz – Munoz isn’t great at anything, but boy, can he do everything. He plays about every defensive spot on the diamond and that versatility could come in handy when it matters.
1B – Rangel Ravelo – A long shot to make the roster, Ravelo does have a 1.143 OPS since his September call-up so he could be an interesting add as potential firepower for an at-bat per game.
OF – Randy Arozarena – Another long shot, Randy’s athleticism could be an intriguing asset off the bench for the NL’s leaders in stolen bases.
When it comes down to it, I would bet on Jose Martinez and Yairo Munoz to make the roster. I would be surprised if anyone other than O’Neill even got real consideration. JMart has just been so dominant as a pinch hitter, I don’t see O’Neill taking his spot.
Josh Magee wrote a piece on his take for the bullpen here and I mostly agree with his take on the bullpen with Carlos Martinez, Andrew Miller, Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant, John Brebbia, Jose Fernandez, and Genesis Cabrera. I would personally add Daniel Ponce de Leon instead of Genesis Cabrera. He’s got a longer track record of success and I’m sure would add more comfort on the mound compared to Cabrera.
As far as starters go, we are going to hold off on discussing them until the Cardinals postseason picture is more fleshed out. They are obviously heading towards a division win but it’s too early at this point to speculate too much.
There is still work to be done and divisions to clinch, but the Cardinals are sitting pretty after their big weekend. The best way forward is to clinch on Wednesday at Arizona and have the final series against the Cubs as rest for starters. Regardless of how the postseason roster shakes out, it’s great having that feeling of knowing the team has made it back.