With the start of the season only 8 days away, its time to look at the final Spring Training Battle for the Cardinals--the bench.
The Cards recently announced that Kolten Wong had beaten out Mark Ellis for the starting second base job, which means that the starting lineup is pretty much set, if not the batting order.
Here's how the team lines up:
Catcher - Yadier Molina
First Base - Matt Adams
Second - Kolten Wong
Shortstop - Jhonny Peralta
Third - Matt Carpenter
Leftfield - Matt Holliday
Center - Peter Bourjos
Rightfield - Allen Craig
Ellis and Jon Jay are likely guaranteed a spot on the bench along with Tony Cruz at backup catcher. That leaves just 2 spots open on the bench.
The leading contenders are Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma, Randal Grichuk and Shane Robinson. Its likely that the Cards will keep one more outfielder and one more infielder.
Here's a look at each contender:
The main advantage for Kozma is that he is the best shortstop on the team defensively. If the Cardinals feel they need a defensive replacement for Peralta late in games, then Kozma may be the man. However, with trade rumors already swirling around him, it appears that the Cards are ready to part ways with Kozma.
Descalso may have an edge in the infield battle as he can play second, short and third and is a better hitter than Kozma. However, with a career .243 average and .655 OPS, he should not feel too comfortable. Aledmys Diaz is waiting in the wings in the minors and, as soon as he proves himself ready, he could easily fill Descalso's role, but with an higher offensive upside.
Robinson was the Cardinals 5th outfielder last year and hit .250/.345/.319 in just 144 at bats. He is versatile, playing 26 games in left, 27 in center and 34 in right, but with a career .246 average and .644 OPS, his hitting leaves much to be desired. If the Cardinals value his defense and versatility, he will likely make the team. However, if they are looking for a little more pop off the bench, they may go in another direction.
Acquired from the Angels in the David Freese trade, Grichuk is also capable of playing all 3 outfield positions. In addition, he has a bit more pop than Robinson. Robinson had only 22 homers in his minor league career, while Grichuk hit 22 homers last year alone and has 61 for his career.
Again, whoever wins the job may be there only temporarily as the Cardinals will likely promote top prospect Oscar Taveras, when the deem him ready.
The Cardinals will probably go with Descalso and Grichuk to start the season. But look for Diaz and Taveras around mid-season.