This is the second installment of the Cardinals Opening Day roster prediction. A month ago, I looked at what the roster might look like a week before Spring Training started. The Cardinals are playing their 8th game of their Spring slate, and the roster is starting to round into shape. So here is my 26-man roster prediction with about 3 weeks until opening day on April 1st in Cincinnati.
*Denotes Projected Starter
Nolan Arenado* (How awesome is that!)
Starting Rotation (5)
Kwang Hyun Kim
Daniel Ponce de Leon/John Gant
John Gant/Daniel Ponce de Leon
Players out of Options (can’t be sent down to the minors without passing through waivers)
Justin Williams, Edmundo Sosa, John Gant, Daniel Ponce de Leon, & Tyler Webb. All of these players should be placed on the initial roster.
The biggest buzz so far in camp, other than Nolan Arenado, is about 4 players. Two of these players are showing what they’re capable of, and the other two aren’t.
Let’s start with two of the positives. Tyler O’Neil and Lane Thomas are doing the main thing the Cardinals are looking for out of this year’s outfielders; HIT! I’m not going to include Spring Training stats – as those are mostly useless – however the eye test tells me that O’Neil still has that big powerful bat, and that Lane Thomas looks more like the 2019 version than the 2020 version (which was awful, however he was coming off of COVID).
Onto the negatives; Miles Mikolas and Matt Carpenter. Mikolas isn’t a production problem, but whatever is going on with his aching shoulder will keep him off of the Opening Day roster – which means ZERO production. Every injury can be spun as an opportunity for someone else – which right now the benefactors look to be Carlos Martinez and Daniel Ponce de Leon, whom I project as two of the 5 starting pitchers. The Miles Mikolas injury also creates a spot for Tyler Webb in the bullpen, who was a casualty of a number crunch in my Opening Day roster simulation a month ago.
Matt Carpenter. Two words that now make Cardinal fans furious. However, Carpenter has so many great memories as a Cardinal. Don’t tell me you forgot about the 11 pitch at-bat versus Kershaw in the 2013 NLCS that wore down Clayton, while finishing 4th in the MVP race when he led the league in runs, hits, and doubles. Matt’s bases loaded clearing double off of Kershaw (again) in the 2014 playoffs, and the patience he had when he led the league in walks that season. His solid production in 2015 and 2016, and most recently in 2018 when he homered in 6 consecutive games, another stretch where he homered in 6 out of 7 games and generally hit better than Babe Ruth (Career OPS of 1.164) in July of 2018 (Matt’s OPS in July was equal to that of Mark McGwires for the entire 1998 season 1.222). Notice nothing about 2019, or 2020. I’ll break a rule and give you his Spring Training numbers when he woke up this morning – 0-13 with 7 K’s and 3 Walks. Carpenter, for whatever reason (THE SHIFT & the inability to go the other way), isn’t even a fraction of the player he once was. However the Cardinals have 18.5 million reasons not to release him, and hope there’s something left in the tank. If Carpenter keeps trending in the wrong direction, you may see the Cardinals eat his salary through a trade or release. However with the size of his contract and how much they’re paying Dexter to play for the Angels (almost 13 million), I don’t see the Cardinals having 30 million dollars of dead money.
You might be wondering why the Cardinals aren’t having former top MLB prospect Alex Reyes as one of their 5 starters. Reyes, who has been hampered by arm troubles, is being held to 100 innings this year. When you combine past arm problems, plus a lack of innings in 2020, the Cardinals don’t plan on overextending Alex this season. However, look for Alex Reyes to be an absolute force out of the bullpen this year – he looks strong so far this Spring.
There are still many things to be determined over the next 3 weeks, make sure you look for another roster update on Interstate 70 Sports Media. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section on the Cardinals battle for a full rotation, what to do with Matt Carpenter, or any other Cardinals related issues from Spring Training. Thanks for reading!
(Photo Credit: Laurie Skrivan)