Friday, March 1, 2013

Early look at Cardinals Spring Training battles

Heading into this spring, there were two key spots that were up for grabs for the Cardinals, second base and 5th starter.  After one week of games, here's how those battles are shaping up:

Second Base

This is a 3 horse race between incumbent Daniel Descalso, convert Matt Carpenter and rising prospect Kolten Wong. 

After a down season offensively last year, Descalso is fighting to hold onto his job this spring.  He plays solid defense, but his lack of offense hurts him.  He is hitting .250 (3 for 12) so far this spring.

Carpenter, on the other hand, has shown the ability to hit in the majors, but it remains to be seen if he can handle the position defensively.  He is hitting .273 (3 for 11) so far.

Wong, who is excellent defensively, is expected to develop into a solid hitter.  However, he probably needs more time to develop.  He is hitting .333 (3 for 9) this spring.

Overall, I expect Descalso to hold onto the job.  Carpenter will end up as a super utility player and Wong will likely start the season in AAA.  However, if Wong gets off to a fast start in the minors, a mid-season callup is not out of the question.

5th Starter

Here's where things get really interesting.  The Cardinals have 3 pitchers vying for the 5th starter job, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly. 

Miller is considered the favorite, but early shoulder discomfort set him back a week or so and he has yet to pitch in a spring game.

Rosenthal has made two appearances so far this spring.  His first outing, in which he admittedly was pressing, was a bit of a disaster, allowing 4 runs in 2 IP.  He bounced back nicely yesterday, allowing just 1 run in 3 IP. 

Despite his stellar efforts filling in for injured starter Jaime Garcia last season, Kelly is kind of the forgotten man in this year's battle.  He is making his first appearance this spring today and we'll see if he can impress the Cardinals enough to edge out the higher upside competition.

It should be noted that, after two stellar outings, Michael Wacha has entered into the conversation for the 5th starter spot.  However, I think it is in his (and the Cardinals) best interest for him to start the season in the minors.

Overall, I still can see Miller winning this battle, with Kelly being the long man in the Cards bullpen and Rosenthal starting the season at AAA as the Cardinals "6th" starter.  However, at this point the race is still wide open.

I will continue to keep an eye on these battles each week, so stop by each Friday for updates.

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