Thursday, May 29, 2014

How can the Cardinals upgrade their bench?

The Cardinals bench leaves a lot to be desired.  As a team, the Cardinals subs are hitting just .198 with a .555 OPS. 

Other than backup catcher Tony Cruz, who is hitting .292, and Jon Jay, who is hitting .279 while splitting time in center with Peter Bourjos (.210), the Cardinals have gotten little or no production from their bench.

Other than those two, the Cards do not have anyone on their bench hitting over the Mendoza line.  Utility infielder, Daniel Descalso, is not known as a great hitter, but his .172 average is far below his normal level.  Backup second baseman Mark Ellis is hitting .181 and the 5th outfielder shuttle of Shane Robinson (.156), Randal Grichuk (.143) and Joey Butler (0 for 5) haven't fared much better.

So, how can the Cardinals improve their bench?

Well, for one, they can promote Oscar Taveras or Stephen Piscotty.  Taveras is hitting .325/.373/.524 and Piscotty is hitting .292/.330/.426 for AAA Memphis.  Either one could be an upgrade over Robinson and could rotate in the outfield spots to give the team's veterans a rest.

Another potential upgrade would be Aledmys Diaz as a utility infielder.  Unfortunately, he has been sidelined since April 26th due to a shoulder injury.  However, once healthy, he would be a upgrade over Deslcaso and is capable of playing second, third and short.

As for Ellis, the Cards are probably stuck with him, as he is looking like this year's version of Ty Wigginton.  Hopefully the team has learned their lesson and will stop signing 35+ year old veteran infielders to fill out their bench. 

Finally, although Tony Cruz has hit well in his limited role as Yadier Molina's backup, the team needs to find someone that Mike Matheny can rely on more so that he doesn't overwork Molina.  Yadi played in 136 games last year and it showed in his second half numbers.

In the first half of the season, Molina hit .341/.386/.489, but he finished the year hitting just .280/.309/.456.  Some extra rest here and there would do a lot to ensure that drop off does not happen again. 

Unfortunately, the Cardinals best catching prospects, Steve Bean and converted third baseman Carson Kelly, are both splitting catching duties for low A Peoria and are not an option, so any catching help will have to come from the outside. 

There are some internal options to improve the bench.  We could see one of those options (most likely Taveras) as early as June 4th and, once he's healthy, Diaz should be able to replace Descalso.  Those two could go a long way to improving the overall performance of the bench.

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