The Cardinals may be leaving the door open for Thomas Saggese as their utility player

With shortstop depth being awfully thin at the moment, Thomas Saggese could play his way onto the Cardinals' roster sooner than we thought.
Wichita Wind Surge v Frisco RoughRiders
Wichita Wind Surge v Frisco RoughRiders / Ben Ludeman/Texas Rangers/GettyImages

One of the "perks" of the St. Louis Cardinals being sellers at the Trade Deadline last year was the fact they were able to bring in some really intriguing prospect talent. The name that has drawn the most attention from fans, and rightfully so, has been the reigning Texas League Most Valuable Player, Thomas Saggase.

Saggese was phenomenal at the plate in 2023, posting a .904 OPS in his age-21 season and finishing the year with the Memphis Redbirds. At Winter Warm-Up, Saggese was one of the players that impressed me the most during his media availability as a high-character, hard-working prospect who seems destined to make an impact in St. Louis, sooner rather than later. Saggese's bat is what gets the Cardinals and talent evaluators most excited, but it's his defensive versatility that will potentially accelerate his timeline.

Saggese's most natural position is second base, and if it wasn't for the presence of Nolan Gorman and Brendan Donovan, you'd likely see Saggese competing for that job this spring. While the Cardinals are extremely high on Saggese, it's been hard to imagine a role for him in the immediate future with both of those guys needing everyday playing time.

Saggese, to his credit, has already seen time at third base and shortstop in the minor leagues, and there's people who think he could make an impact at first base or the corner outfield spots as well. While we knew coming into the spring that Saggese would be playing all over the diamond, Brenden Schaeffer of KMOV got a nugget from manager Oli Marmol today that is especially noteworthy with the lack of shortstop depth right now.

One of the storylines so far at camp has been the health of Tommy Edman, who is still recovering from offseason wrist surgery. There is a real chance that Edman is limited for the majority of Spring Training and potentially not ready to go on Opening Day, and if that's the case, his status impacts more than just the center field job.

Masyn Winn is the guy the Cardinals expect to be their shortstop during the 2024 season, but Edman plays a crucial role as their backup shortstop for when Winn needs an off day or if an injury were to occur. If Edman is not ready to go when the season starts, there is not a clear third option on the roster at this moment.

That depth could come from someone like Donovan, but I'm sure the Cardinals would rather have him playing at second base, third base, first base, and the outfield. Saggese is someone who doesn't necessarily profile as a shortstop defensively, but it looks like the Cardinals are interested in seeing if he can hold his own there. We've already caught a glimpse of Saggese putting in extra work with legendary shortstop Ozzie Smith.

If so, Saggese may be able to accelerate his timeline compared to what we originally thought. If his bat plays this spring, and they have a real need for another shortstop option on the roster, Saggese could be with the club when they open up in Los Angeles against the Dodgers as their backup shortstop and utility option off the bench. Right now, the Cardinals' bench currently consists of Alec Burleson, Dylan Carlson, Matt Carpenter, and Ivan Herrea, none of whom can play shortstop. If Carlson slides into center field in Edman's absence, then Saggese can grab his bench spot for at least the beginning of the season.

Nootbaar can slide over to center field when needed and Burleson or Donovan can play the corner outfield, so the Cardinals would be fine center field-wise for the time being (unless Victor Scott II is able to leapfrog some people).

Even beyond Edman's health, Saggese proving he can handle shortstop could lead to some interesting roster decisions for St. Louis. Alec Burleson is a player who may have a reduced role this year, and with Matt Carpenter as a left-handed bat on the bench, the Cardinals could justify rostering Saggese over Burleson for that infield versatility, even if they have a healthy Edman.

If I had to bet right now, I still think Saggese begins the year in Triple-A, but I do think this is a really interesting storyline to watch and one that could heat up with some strong performances from Saggese and/or delays in Edman's recovery. Scott, who I referenced earlier, probably has a tougher route toward forcing his way onto the roster since the Cardinals can point to a few more names that can play center field, unlike their current shortstop conundrum.