It’s already been a week since the St. Louis Cardinals started spring training games. It’s way too early, but who has stood out so far?
Spring training is a great time of the year where overly optimistic fans excuse struggling veterans and condemn struggling rookies. Hasty generalizations are made and most people forget that these games don’t even count. Either way, it’s St. Louis Cardinals baseball and that is all that matters.
It’s now been just over a week since games have started, with 10 games being played (one split-squad game). Despite my best efforts to get this list out in a more timely manner, it did not happen this weekend, so now I’m late.
But, it has been great having daily games back and so far, there have been a few players that have come out of the gates blazing. When a player does poorly in spring training, it doesn’t always mean anything. When a player lights the world on fire, it can often signal progress that will carry forward to the regular season.
So far, who has been standing out for the Cardinals?
DeJong’s admission on this list was actually helped by my laziness this weekend. Coming out of the gate, DeJong has been on fire. So far, he is batting .545 with an OPS of 1.993. That is in just 11 at-bats, but he’s hit four extra-base hits and walked once with only one strikeout.
I have detailed DeJong’s steady improvements in plate approach a couple of times this winter, but the main point is, he has steadily improved his walk and strikeout numbers over the past three years. In theory, that tide should raise all ships in terms of his overall numbers at the plate and he may be showing that his 2020 will keep building on his first three years in the league.
With Marcell Ozuna gone, DeJong’s ability to hit in the middle of the order will be very important this season and so far, all signs are coming back positive. Don’t get too carried away, but he’s been fun to watch thus far.
Anytime a pitcher comes from a foreign league into the MLB, there is the worry that their skills won’t translate well. That’s why these players usually come at a hefty discount. That’s the risk the Cardinals gladly took on when they signed the 31-year-old lefty out of the Korean Baseball League for just $8M over two years.
So far, the returns on Kim have been stellar. In two appearances, Kim has five strikeouts and just one walk in 3.0 innings. He has also not allowed a hit. It’s not super surprising to see success from a pitcher who’s established in his ways come and dominate a completely new group of opponents. It’s never a bad thing to see success, but there was speculation that Kim was tipping his curveball which could bite him eventually.
The biggest thing for Kim is going to be how he adjusts his own strategy when the league undoubtedly gets a scouting report for him. That’s what always happens with imported players. It’s not how you start, it’s how you adjust. With Miles Mikolas out, Kim has the inside track for a starting role and early reports are looking good, with a few adjustments needed.
There is a very difficult decision coming for John Mozeliak. To make his job easy, Dylan Carlson should’ve come out this spring and hit .200 while looking bad at the plate. The easy answer would be to throw him back to AAA and say he clearly needed more conditioning before he is ready for the bigs. That wouldn’t fly with Carlson.
Instead, Carlson has come out and batted .500/.611/.786 with four walks and three strikeouts. He hasn’t hit any homers, but with a triple and two doubles, Carlson has looked cool, calm, and collected on both sides of the ball.
He’s shown everything that the Cardinals hoped from him and he’s making it very hard for the team to send him back down.
I’ve said again and again that it will be very unlikely that Carlson starts the season with the Cardinals just based off who else the Cardinals have. That’s not because I think Carlson isn’t ready. Dexter Fowler starting the spring just 1 for 12 is not gonna make people very happy if Carlson is sent to AAA for him to start (something we all know is extremely likely). Carlson will be very exciting to see whenever he makes his debut.
This entry is going to include four pitchers who are young and will definitely be spending some time in St. Louis either with the bullpen or in the rotation in 2020. Those four names are Genesis Cabrera, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Kodi Whitley, and Junior Fernandez. All of these pitchers have at least three innings pitched, and all have impressed.
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Genesis Cabrera has given up three hits and struck out five without walking anyone, Whitley has given up two hits while striking out six and walking one, Fernandez has given up one hit and struck out six without walking anyone, and Ponce has thrown 5.0 innings with seven strikeouts, one walk, and three hits allowed.
None of the four have given up a run.
The bullpen in 2020 will be just fine as all of these players will be ready to contribute should any of the initial eight that go North struggle. There is certainly a chance that one or more of these four make the Opening Day roster as well.
The Cardinals may be just 3-6 this spring, but the guys who are on the fringe that the team needs to contribute are doing just that and the strengths of this team are already beginning to show up.