Three St. Louis Cardinals on the current roster will need to bounce back in 2020. If not, their career with the Cardinals, and possibly in baseball will become uncertain.
As we wait to see if there will be really any baseball in 2020, there are three Cardinals who, I believe, will be entering 2020 with their careers on the line. It may not just be their careers with the St. Louis Cardinals, it could be their entire baseball career.
One has been considered one of the cornerstones of the St. Louis Cardinals for the last several years, and the other two are young players whose potential hasn’t yet been full filled. Two had disappointing years in 2020 and the other seems to have been derailed in his career by injuries.
All three could play an important role in the upcoming season, and if they did, it would no doubt be helpful to the Cardinals lineup and roster depth. However, if any of the three falters, the Cardinals seem prepared to move on.
I don’t want to overdramatize the importance of 2020 to the 25-year old’s future, especially with the St. Louis Cardinals. Nevertheless, after a sophomore slump in 2019, Harrison Bader must find himself looking over his should at the other outfield options the Cardinals have on their roster.
After a rookie year in which he hit a slash line of .264/.334/.442 with an OPS+ of 106 in 138 games playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field, Bader became the darling of many Cardinal fans. Also, his 15 stolen bases seem to point to someone who could be a possible top of the lineup type bat for the Cardinals.
But in 2019, Bader’s offensive performance fell off dramatically to a slash line of .205/.314/.366 with an OPS+ of 78 in 128 games. Due to his struggles at the plate, Bader was demoted to AAA Memphis on July 30 for a 16 game stint. He was recalled on August 20th and played primarily as a defensive replacement for the rest of the year.
Now in 2020, the Cardinals have other intriguing options in center field. Lane Thomas and Tyler O’Neill are looking to receive significantly more playing time. O’Neill will likely be the starting in left field, while Thomas will see time at center and right.
Of course, Dylan Carlson, while not on the current roster, is lurking close by and will likely be on the roster by the start of the season. Then throw in other prospects on the roster, such as Austin Dean and Justin Williams, Bader could be pushed out of the outfield mix if he has another 2019.
If Harrison Bader can be a consistent .260-.270 hitter for the Cardinals with his defense, he will become a viable long term option in center field. However, if not, his time in St. Louis could be near an end.
The 34-year old Carpenter finds his role for 2020, somewhat uncertain. With the breakout performance of Tommy Edman in 2019, and the signing of Brad Miller, Carpenter may find himself struggling for playing time.
Carpenter’s subpar year in 2019, has put him in this position. Even though he signed through 2021, a career worse slash line of .226/.334/.392, along with his first year to have an OPS+ below 100 (91), Carpenter’s career may be hanging in the balance.
With Edman and Miller able to play third and Rangel Ravelo to back up Paul Goldschmidt at first base, what do you do with Matt Carpenter? A possible answer to this question came to light with the likely addition of the universal Designated Hitter to baseball for the 2020 season.
Carpenter, who plays average defense, makes the designated hitter’s role a possible career extender for him, maybe even in St. Louis. We know he can hit, he’s shown it in the past. If the left-handed bat could come back closer to his career .269 average and on-base percentage and slug 20-25 homers, then he could contribute a great deal in 2020.
On social media, and podcasts, such as Two Birds on a Bat, many are debating about putting Carpenter in the DH role. Our Site Expert, Matt Graves, makes his case for Carpenter in the DH role earlier in the week. As Matt points out in his piece, focusing every day on just his hitting could make him more productive at the plate.
But if the DH role doesn’t work out for Matt Carpenter, then not only will his career for the Cardinals be imperiled, his baseball career may also be jeopardized.
It’s incredible when you remember that Alex Reyes was one of the top prospects in baseball as late as 2018. But injuries, not really performance, have been Reyes’ boogeyman during his short MLB career. Tommy John Surgery caused him to miss the entire 2017 season and a torn tendon in this lat muscle ended his comeback in 2018.
Before the first injury, Reyes pitched 46 innings in 2016 and had a 4-1 record with a 1.57 ERA. In 2018, he rolled through four rehab starts, threw 23 scoreless innings and struck out 44. On May 30th, he was called up for a start against the Milwaukee Brewers and pitched four scoreless innings before his injury.
However, when Reyes was put in the Cardinals bullpen in 2019 to start the season, he wasn’t the same pitcher we saw in 2016 and 2018. He pitched four innings in three games and gave up five runs, walking six, before being optioned to AAA.
His outings in AAA Memphis weren’t encouraging either. In 28 innings he had a 7.71 ERA, before finding himself in High-A ball at Palm Beach.
So, it’s no exaggeration, that 25-year old Alex Reyes’ career is on the line in 2020. Will we ever see the pitcher we saw in the second half of 2016, or briefly in one game in 2018? Only playing baseball will we find out.
To wrap up
Harrison Bader, Matt Carpenter, and Alex Reyes are the three players I will be watching to see if they can have comebacks in 2020. If they can, the St. Louis Cardinals will be a much better team.
Bader is a no doubt Gold Glove defensive player. If he returns his offense closer to what we saw in 2018, he will get the most playing time in center field. Matt Carpenter will not win any Gold Gloves, his contribution has to be with his bat. If he can return to his career numbers in 2020, the Cardinals offense will be that much deeper.
Alex Reyes. What can you say? If only we can see the promise of 2016 and 2018, then, whether in the rotation or the bullpen, the Cardinals will be stronger in 2020.
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We all want to see these guys succeed, nevertheless, their future with St Louis Cardinals are on the line in 2020.