The Cardinals are a week away from their home opener on March 30th. With the WBC over, they are getting back a lot of their potential starters, however there is one that they’ll have to open the season without. Adam Wainwright will start the season on the IL with an injured groin. There’s always going to be guys that are up and down on the roster, however the loss of Wainwright seems to hurt a bit more, as he would have been the starter for Opening Day, and is “the last veteran left” with the retirements of Molina & Pujols. Here is who Cardinals Off the Cuff thinks will be on the 26 man Opening Day roster.
*Denotes Projected Starter
Italics denotes Injured
Starting Rotation (5)
Players out of Options (can’t be sent down to the minors without passing through waivers)
The biggest names left off of my 26-man roster are Tres Barrera, Matthew Liberatore, Taylor Motter, Packy Naughton, JoJo Romero, Kodi Whitley and Guillermo Zuniga. Two position players who AREN’T on the 40 man roster, and 5 pitchers who will probably be called up when someone is hurt/ineffective. I know some people think VerHagen or Cabrera are liabilities in the bullpen, and a case could be made for one of the other guys to take their spot. However with VerHagen out of options he almost guarantees a spot on the roster. I think Cabrera has the best “stuff” out of the other arms, but any struggles and he’ll be back in Memphis. The biggest wildcard here is Guillermo Zuniga who was dominant in the WBC, throwing 3 innings over 2 games while striking out 6. He struck out both Arenado & Goldschmidt so he should definitely be on the radar as a potential “lights out” guy in the pen.
Typically the Cardinals like to carry another infielder, however with the injury to Dejong and no real replacement on the 40 man roster – I know everyone is clamoring for Masyn Winn – I think the Cardinals will go heavy on OF, and it should give plenty of AB’s to the trio of Donovan, Edman, and Gorman. Look for guys to get rest by not playing the field and taking AB’s at DH. It’s very hard to make a best lineup without Arenado, Contreras, and Goldschmidt, so when they’re not in the field they’ll be at DH and that will let manager Oli Marmol get to showcase the versatility of some of his players (Donovan & Edman) while getting Burleson, and Yepez potential time in the field.
It would be safe to assume that once Wainwright is back, Woodford would be shifted to the bullpen as a “long arm”. However if Woodford struggles, they could send him down to Memphis if they want to keep their bullpen intact, or have Jake ready as a potential starter – although I’d think Liberatore should be able to do that.
The biggest piece of excitement for the 2023 Cardinals Spring Training is that Jordan Walker has arrived, and isn’t going anywhere. His strong spring has taken away any consideration to get him AAA at bats. He has cooled off since his shoulder injury when he got hurt sliding into 2nd base (.167 with 8 k’s), unless he also starts the season on the IL, he should be part of the Cardinals plan at OF/DH. I think there’s so much hype around Walker, that the BFIB would lose it, if he wasn’t on the Opening Day roster.
Most people would think losing icons like Molina and Pujols would make for a less interesting baseball season. However as I see it, 2023 might just measure up to 2022 in regards to all of the young talent the Cardinals have. I feel like a trade for pitching is inevitable, so if the Cardinals can have most/all of their young outfielders hitting; they should be able to get a decent return for one of those guys. Either way, the excitement is high as another season of Cardinals baseball is upon us!
I think it will be more interesting without Molina and Pujols only because people will want to see how the team does now that they are retired.