3 early Spring Training observations for the Cardinals

Spring Training has just gotten underway for the St. Louis Cardinals, and there are already a few things to glean from the teams first few games.

St. Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers
St. Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers / John Fisher/GettyImages
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Spring Training has finally begun for the St. Louis Cardinals, and it's far too early to make any sweeping projections or long-term judgments on players. But after three televised games, there are already a few nuggets to take away from what we've seen so far.

Impressive early performances

A few Cardinals have already made some strong impressions. Masyn Winn was held out of the Cardinals' first Spring Training game, but he looked no worse for wear in his spring debut, going 3-for-3 with a double and a steal and uncorking one of his signature laser throws from shortstop.

Another eye-opener was Victor Scott II, who displayed an incredible jump on a steal of second base and caused mayhem with the New York Mets on a trip around the bases after beating a throw to second base, advancing to third on a balk as the pitcher attempted to pick him off, and scoring on a grounder to third after the catcher mishandled the throw.

Riley O'Brien, who showcased devastating stuff in camp, was all around the plate in his first game, throwing 11 of 13 pitches for strikes. The one remaining knock on O'Brien is his control, so if he can continue to throw strikes, the Cardinals may have a beast on their hands.

Although not considered a prospect, outfielder Matt Koperniak also had a stellar debut, hitting the ball hard while going 3-for-3 with three RBIs.

Noticeable physical adjustments

The first few games of Spring Training are where fans finally see the tweaks players made off the field, whether it's with their mechanics or with their bodies. Alec Burleson fit the latter category, as he was noticeably thinner. Shedding the excess weight could improve Burleson's speed and his defense in the outfield, where he was playable but subpar last season.

On the mechanical side, Lars Nootbaar demonstrated a slightly modified batting stance, standing with his feet more aligned after using an open stance in previous seasons. His bat was also farther off of his shoulder than it was before.

Willson Contreras is continuing with the one-knee-down catching approach that he took to in the latter half of last season. This could help his ability to frame pitches low in the zone, a statistic at which Baseball Savant noted he was the worst in the league last season.

Injury and positional concerns

Tommy Edman remains sidelined while recovering from surgery on his right wrist, and there is no timetable for when he will return to action. According to John Denton, the switch-hitting Edman is currently more comfortable hitting from the right side than the left and is hitting off of a tee and soft tosses from coaches.

The Cardinals appear to believe that Edman might not be ready for the regular season after the signing of Brandon Crawford on Feb. 26. After Winn, the Cardinals' Spring Training roster consisted of three full-time shortstops: Jose Fermin, Jeremy Rivas and Arquimedes Gamboa. Crawford will back up Winn, although his .194 average last season and declining defense provides almost no upside for the 37-year-old. Shortstop remains a shallow position, and Crawford is likely a "break glass in case of emergency" option.

It's an incredibly small sample size, but there have already been some developments around the Cardinals regarding how players are performing and what they've done in the offseason to ramp up for 2024. Get ready to settle in for another 162-game marathon — one that hopefully ends with the Cardinals in a better spot than last season.

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