It’s official folks. Pitchers and catchers report to Jupiter, Florida in exactly a week. The waiting is nearly over with and the anticipation is going to start boiling over. Sometimes fans forget about the 45 days that happen before the real 162 game stretch begins. This is where rosters start large and full of promise and end up shredded and cut to size. With no disrespect to the Blues, the Super Bowl is over and that means one thing in St. Louis. Baseball is near.
With that goal in mind, I am going to take a look at five things that strike me as interesting about this 2013 Cardinals team. There are a lot of things worth talking about but here I will give you five for now.
5.) Daniel Descalso has one very good agent. One thing that struck me about John Mozeliak’s media session at the Winter Warmup was his icy feelings towards the Descalso camp. Dirty Dan wanted 1.6 million and the Cards were offering 900,000 and sticking to it. Yesterday, Descalso signed for 1.2 million, a price met by the Cards due to the fear of the first arbitration trial for the Cards in like….forever. Was this a good deal? For Descalso, it sure is. He gets financial security but I am not sure where the Cards are going to justify him with the at bats and playing time.
Descalso isn’t fighting Pete Kozma for starts anymore. He is fighting the future in Kolten Wong and the seasoned veteran edge of Mark Ellis. He may have won at the bank but in the field not so much. Ellis didn’t come here to play behind two younger players. Descalso’s OPS(on base percentage plus slugging percentage) was downright horrible last year and his batting average(.238) wasn’t much better. In a dog fight there isn’t much he offers to the team in reality over a defensive wizard like Kozma or a younger buck like Greg Garcia.
I like Descalso and appreciate his fine contributions over the years, but his defense has gotten worse and his bat doesn’t do enough to justify a spot. His 1.2 million isn’t as bad as Ty Wiggington’s 2.5 last year but it still leaves me scratching my head.
4.) Hey Joe. I am talking about California Wildfire fighting Joe Kelly. The jack of all trades who happens to work out with pizza in his mouth(at least according to twitter) is coming into spring with his role undetermined. It’s a good thing Kelly doesn’t let those kind of shenanigans affect his preparation.
In 2013, Kelly served as part time Porsche parked in the garage and part time excellent fill in starter. He went from missing in action to taking Shelby Miller’s rotation spot in the playoffs(yeah that’s just happened). Unlike 2 of his fellow rotation dogfight participants, Kelly has a strong mental makeup and doesn’t let his spring training status stop him from working hard. If it were up to me, I would carve out a spot for Kelly in the rotation right away but since he is so versatile, I can’t be too sure.
3.) Jason Motte’s beard. Okay, I mean his right arm but I couldn’t resist a poke at the best wave of facial hair in baseball(sorry Brian Wilson). Motte is only starting to throw this month but his spot is an interesting one come May and June. Where does he fit into this packed bullpen? Trevor Rosenthal is the closer and Carlos Martinez could be a likely bullpen long arm.
Making matters more interesting is this is Motte’s final year of a 2 year deal, which begs the question. If he pitches very well when he returns, what happens in 2015? Rosenthal and Motte going head to head doesn’t bode well for the Bearded One even though his 2011-12 performance was stellar. Motte could be a victim of pure bad luck but I personally hope he develops into a killer setup man later this year while building his recapture of the 9th inning role.
2.) A tale of two troubled minds. Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia. Lynn spoke at the Winter Warmup as if the world hung on his shoulders and he emphasized that come this season, he was a starter. Never mind the 8 arm competition in camp, Lynn is confident he can notch a rotation spot. He has the stats to back it up and a lively arm. He has 33 wins in 2 seasons as a starter with an ERA right around 3.70. He reached 200 innings pitched in 2013 but encountered real trouble as a starter. His mental makeup is suspect. He can often let a hit or walk roll over into a huge inning due to a lack of concentration. Now that Papa Carpenter isn’t in the dugout to cool him down, Lynn has to find a way to put that wicked arm(378 K past 2 seasons)to great use without letting his head get in the way. Lynn’s confidence and insistence on starting could be a good thing for the team or a potential problem. Remember, in September, without making it public, Mike Matheny saved Lynn’s job(Mo wanted him replaced) and got good returns. What goes it in 2014?
Garcia is coming off major shoulder surgery, and has yet to throw 200 innings in a season. After winning 13 games in 2010 and 2011, Garcia regressed into injury in 2012 and 2013. His biggest issue is also his head. There are rumors that if he gets up in a bad mood, you can kiss a quality start goodbye that very night. He has a wicked changeup and great overall arm. Like Lynn, he needs to overcome the mental aspect of starting 30 + games a season. That kind of pressure can’t be taught in spring training. You have it or you don’t.
Both these guys possess great arms. Can they overcome their mental roadblocks and finally provide the team with a complete season in 2014?
1.) It’s Oscar! The one player who has the biggest potential impact on the coming season is phenom/recovering ankle surgery big bat Oscar Taveras. He comes into camp holding the most favor with the organization and the most promise of any prospect.
They say he hits like Pujols but can he stay healthy like Jose Alberto Pujols? That is the real question in relation to his wicked ankle injury that sidelined his flight in 2013. He has a big effect because he comes up soon and shows he can hit, this pushes Allen Craig back to first base and Matt Adams to the bench and a foot closer to the trade block in July.
I would rather see Oscar come up, learn the game as he sucks in advice from fellow teammates and plays a 4th outfielder role and prime bench bat. He is so young and raw that there is no need to rush Oscar unless he hits like Yasiel Puig. The longer he gets tutored under the Cardinal way, the better. I will say 2 months at the most in Memphis before he makes it to St. Louis with some job in mind.
That’s it for this round of Spring Training Topics. Come back in two weeks for more! This season I will be writing a majority of my STL Cards posts on http://www.sportsrants.com/mlb so bookmark that spot or keep coming here for other material and links to my Sports Rants features. More opportunity for coming up here in the future.