Cardinals Opening Day Roster Prediction 2.0: How Brandon Crawford shakes things up

With a new signing, updated injury statuses, and pitching competitions underway, it's time to take a fresh look at the Opening Day roster.
Sep 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Tommy Edman (19) makes a
Sep 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Tommy Edman (19) makes a / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
4 of 6

Rotation (5) - Sonny Gray, Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson

Just missed: Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson

No changes in the starting rotation compared to previous predictions, but the six-man rotation idea is new since we last discussed this.

As a quick reminder, the idea of a six-man rotation is not something the Cardinals have come close to landing the plan on and they want to see what the health and production from their rotation looks like throughout camp before they lean one way or the other.

The reason they would do this is because they have fewer off days than normal to begin the season, and with arms still being stretched out a bit in early April, having a six-man rotation for one or two weeks could help ease the transition. This is not something the club would want to do for very long.

Zack Thompson and Matthew Liberatore are the top two candidates to jump into that mix if the club went that direction. Both guys are also candidates to be a part of the bullpen mix, so we'll have to see what the club ends up doing there.

For a long time, I've felt very confident that one or both of those young starters would make the roster, but I actually have them both starting the year in Memphis in this scenario. That would mean the Cardinals did not utilize a six-man rotation, but I also think it would say a lot about how they feel about their bullpen mix.

You'll see in a moment, but it's really hard to narrow down the bullpen arms right now, especially when you add Thompson and Liberatore to that mix as well. While it's still very possible and probably more likely than not that one of them is in St. Louis, I do think there is incentive to hold off on that for both of them.

If the pair of lefties are truly the Cardinals' next best options for their rotation, they'll want them stretched out and ready to go whenever an injury happens. Having both of them stretched out in Memphis means the Cardinals are not putting all of their eggs in one of their baskets as the next guy up, even though they do have other options like Gordon Graceffo, Michael McGreevy, Adam Kloffenstein, and Sem Robberse.

Something to watch is that both Liberatore and Thompson just have one option remaining this year, so if either is sent down to Memphis in 2024, the Cardinals cannot do that again in 2025 without passing them through waivers. I'm very interested to see how the Cardinals handle both of them.