St. Louis Cardinals: Predicting the 26-man roster one month out
Outfielders, in order of seniority, will be Dexter Fowler, Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, newcomer Austin Dean and prize rookie Dylan Carlson making his major-league debut.
Carlson has been too good at spring training, to hold down on the farm any longer. Meanwhile Bader and O’Neill both started the spring season with bangs, literally, and are among the leading batsmen on the team. Bader and O’Neill seem to have benefited from off-season adjustments of batting stroke and weight-loss respectively.
I know that taking Carlson north will involve the cutting of a player from the 40-man roster. But projections like ZiPS project which predict Carlson to be the team’s second-most productive outfielder in 2020, will prove too intriguing to Mozeliak.
The front office is desperate to be found correct in attempting to replace Marcell Ozuna‘s offensive numbers with the famous “internal options” and not going after him too hard in the free-agent market. They will not want to leave Carlson’s ability to do offensive damage laying on the table.
What about Lane Thomas you ask? Thomas was seemingly higher on the depth chart than both Dean and Carlson. Austin Dean will get the nod, at least to begin with, because Dean is two years older and more experienced than Thomas. Dean will be mostly sitting on the bench anyway as the number five man on the OF depth chart.
The Cardinals probably don’t see sitting on the bench as a good place for Thomas at the moment. They will want him to get plenty of reps in AAA as he attempts to get back in the swing after a season-ending wrist injury. Wrists have little blood circulation and are notoriously hard to heal.
Thomas committed a gaffe in diving toward the infield on a line drive hit directly in front of him in centerfield by Myles Straw on Wednesday, which turned into an inside-the-park home run. Was Thomas diving tentatively because he was conscious of protecting that wrist? Thomas has been mainly a center fielder and where the Cardinals need the most help is in left, the spot vacated by Ozuna. Dean has been primarily a left-fielder in his career.
Dean’s contract is highly fungible however and depending on how quickly Thomas can get his sea-legs at Memphis he will be back up soon, even at the expense of Dean. But don’t forget that Tommy Edman will need to fund some of his at-bats from outfield starts as well.
P.S. This roster construction, you may note, leaves out Rangel Ravelo. This is sad, but he is effectively blocked by Paul Goldschmidt. Being 27 years old, not being fully-trusted in the outfield and not hitting enough (.717 OPS) to really pop anyone’s eyes out as just a pinch hitter, makes Ravelo, who has a look not unlike Albert Pujols, expendable from a roster standpoint.