4 non-roster invitees who could steal Opening Day roster spots for the Cardinals

With the offseason finally coming to a close, all eyes shift to Jupiter, where sunshine and positional battles await.
Springfield Cardinals v Amarillo Sod Poodles
Springfield Cardinals v Amarillo Sod Poodles / John E. Moore III/GettyImages
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As one of the slower off-seasons in recent memory finally approaches February, we can all find solace in the arrival of Spring Training.

While Spring Training is always an exciting time of year, this year’s camp figures to carry a little extra scrutiny. Coming off of a forgettable 2023, Cardinals fans will be itching to see John Mozeliak's 2024 roster at work. While new faces like Sonny Gray, Andrew Kittredge, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson will feature prominently, much of the spring training intrigue will revolve around positional battles for the final spots on the Cardinals' Opening Day 26-man roster.

While players already on the 40-man roster like Nick Robertson, Riley O’Brien, and Buddy Kennedy may have an inside edge, there are plenty of intriguing options on the outside looking in that will be hoping to raise some eyebrows in Jupiter.

Of the 27 non-roster invitees listed above, here are 4 players that have a real shot to steal a 26-man spot with a strong spring.

#1 - Andre Granillo

Andre Granillo is someone to keep an eye on this spring. A 2021 14th-round draft pick out of UC-Riverside, Granillo throws a mid-90s fastball and a low-80s slider per FanGraph's 2023 scouting report. Granillo uses that arsenal to elicit a ton of swing and misses, posting a 30.1 K% across AA Springfield and AAA Memphis in 2023.

Like so many strikeout-heavy pitchers before him, however, Granillo has struggled to find the zone times. His 12.8 BB% would’ve ranked as the 2nd highest mark in Major League Baseball, right behind NL Cy Young Blake Snell’s 13.3%. These walks got Granillo in trouble regularly, as evidenced by his 4.74 ERA across 68.1 minor league innings in 2023.

So why did I include Granillo on this list? Simply put, his stuff is nasty enough to play in an MLB bullpen. Granillo was able to highlight this at MLB’s prospect showcase, the Arizona Fall League this past October. In 10 innings pitched across 8 appearances, Granillo posted a minuscule 1.80 ERA. He continued to miss bats, posting a 31.1 K%, but the main driver of success was limiting his walks as he cut his BB% down to a very palatable 6.7%. With less traffic on the bases, we were able to get a glimpse into what Granillo can be at his best. Granillo certainly noticed that as well, as evidenced by his offseason workouts with Brandon James, a private pitching coach based out of San Diego.

Now hold your horses here! I’m certainly not saying that we should expect Granillo to repeat his Arizona Fall League stats and become a high-leverage reliever for the major league club, but bringing his BB% to 10% or lower this spring could easily win him a spot in the Cardinals opening day bullpen.

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