3 Cardinals playing their way off the Opening Day roster in Spring Training
By Eric Treuden
These 3 players are punching their ticket out of St. Louis right now
When you take a look around the league, the St. Louis Cardinals are one of the few teams that have the vast majority of their Opening Day roster already lined up. This puts the club in an excellent position to start the year.
Some players are doing everything they can to force the issue and push the team to make room for them on the Opening Day roster (see: Jordan Walker). On the other side of that, there are a handful of contributors that seem to be playing themselves out of the picture - at least to start the year.
Here are three Cardinals players that are playing their way off of the Opening Day roster.
Hudson, 28, looked to be an integral part of the Cardinals' rotation picture after an impressive 2019 campaign that saw him go 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA, good for a fifth-place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting that year.
In each season since then, he has either underperformed or struggled to stay healthy (he had Tommy John at the end of the 2020 season). In 2020 and 2021, he made a combined 10 appearances. He looked sharp in these outings but his durability really started to become a question mark around this time.
Then last year came around and Hudson struggled mightily. He spent the vast majority of the season in the starting rotation and just looked like a shell of himself. He posted a 4.45 ERA in 139+ innings while seeing his walks go way up and strikeouts go way down.
FanGraphs' Roster Resource projects he will be a part of the bullpen (likely in a long-relief role), but he looks awful to start Spring Training. After Sunday's outing against the Mets, his ERA has ballooned all the way up to 6.23 and he's allowed 17 hits in 8+ innings.
After living in Yadier Molina's shadow for the first four years of his big league career, Knizner seemed to be atop the depth chart behind the plate for the very first time ... until the Cardinals signed Willson Contreras.
Now, Knizner's role seems to be "career backup", which was already what his stats were saying. In 185 games at the big league level, he has seven home runs with a .204 average and 65 OPS+. He's been worth 1.1 Defensive Wins Above Replacement, which does mean something, but he just doesn't seem to be someone who's long for the roster.
In Spring Training, he is 3-for-35, good for a .114 average. His struggles likely open the door for someone like Iván Herrera, who is the only other non-Contreras catcher on the 40-man roster.
Herrera, 22, is extremely young but would benefit immensely from some time in the majors backing up Contreras. This spring, he is 3-for-8 (.375 average) with one run driven in five games.
Burleson, one of the best power-hitting prospects in the Cardinals' organization, is locked in a competition with fellow 1B/OF Juan Yepez for the final spot on the Opening Day roster. As of right now, Yepez is winning the battle.
Burleson, 24, got into 16 games for the Cards last year, hitting his first home run in the process, but managing to hit just .188. His 20 home runs, 87 RBI, and .331 average in Triple-A Memphis are much more encouraging.
However, Burleson is having a hard time getting going in Spring Training. He has a .205 average and while he does have seven runs driven in, he hasn't produced quite as much as Yepez, who has 10 hits (including one home run) and 10 RBI with a .227 average.