St. Louis Cardinals: Updating the utility infielder competition

Jose Rondon (64) looks on after striking out in the fifth inning during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Clover Park. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
Jose Rondon (64) looks on after striking out in the fifth inning during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Clover Park. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports /
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The St. Louis Cardinals have both Edmundo Sosa and Jose Rondon competing for bench roles in 2021. Who’s leading the competition down the stretch?

The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot of options for the bench in 2021. Presumably, the team will go with 13 pitchers and 13 batters, meaning the bench will be comprised of five players.

Who makes up that five is still up for debate though. Harrison Bader’s recent injury will thrust another young outfielder into the starting lineup, opening another spot on the bench.

Despite his awful spring stats, Matt Carpenter will be on the bench, as will either Andrew Knizner or one of the other backup catcher options. Lane Thomas or Justin Williams (whoever isn’t starting with Bader out) will be there, and John Nogowski deserves the fourth spot.

With these first four players on the bench, the team has second base, corner infield, outfield, and catcher backups in place. The biggest debate then comes down to the utility infielder who can play shortstop. That competition is between Edmundo Sosa and Jose Rondon.

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Sosa began spring ahead of Rondon in the depth chart given his spot on the 40-man and the fact that he doesn’t have any minor league options left. Rondon was a minor league free agent signee who has MLB experience, but just not with the Cardinals. Both are the same archetype of player: defensive-minded shortstops who are light-hitting but can play short, third, or second.

With less than a week before Opening Day, Rondon has easily been the better player so far.

Though Sosa missed some time traveling for the birth of his child, Rondon and Sosa have nearly the same sample size, with Rondon sitting at 23 at-bats and Sosa at 20. However, their results have been drastically different.

Rondon is batting over .300 and has two triples and a homer, driving in eight. Sosa has just two hits in his 20 at-bats with one being a double. Both have performed fine in the field, but that is expected.

Jose Rondon won’t be a player who slugs .609 at the MLB level, but his power production this spring at least proves that he is capable of it. Sosa has shown sneaky power before in the Minors but hasn’t done anything to entice the team to put him on the roster other than the circumstances that made him the favorite from the beginning of spring.

Here is where the tough choice has to be made. Do the Cardinals tell Jose Rondon he hasn’t done enough this spring and send him to AAA to come back later, or do they risk losing Sosa on waivers to another team.

There is an option C where one of the previously mentioned bench bats don’t make the team and both Sosa and Rondon make the 26-man roster, but it’s impossible to argue that including them both fields the best team possible on Opening Day.

If the choice were up to me, Sosa would be exposed to waivers. He’s a really really good shortstop, but he hasn’t earned the spot especially when Rondon is playing at a high level and fills the same role.

Next. Why Justin Williams deserves to be the starting right fielder. dark

Sosa vs. Rondon is going to be a tough decision for the St. Louis Cardinals to make, but that is what they get paid for. I’d give the edge to Rondon but if the team doesn’t want to risk losing him to another team.

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