Projecting the Cardinals 2011 Opening Day Roster


In the final February 2011 UCB Roundtable question, Daniel from C70 at the Bat, asked the group which player they thought would be recalled from Memphis first.  It is actually a brilliant question because not only does it imply a second question (who will be the first player to go on the disabled list), it makes you take a look at the current roster and understand it’s implications.   You can read the various answers here.

Before replying, I did take at the Cardinals current 40 man roster and found a curious thing – it clearly tells us who will be wearing the big league uniform on March 31.  Well, mostly.

Let me explain.

The Current 40 Man Roster

To begin, let’s take a look at the 40 man roster as of today, courtesy of Cardinals.com.

Pitchers (19) – Bryan Augenstein, Mitchell Boggs, Chris Carpenter, Maikel Cleto, Ryan Franklin, Jaime Garcia, Blake King, David Kopp, Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan, Trever Miller, Jason Motte, Adam Reifer, Fernando Salas, Francisco Samuel, Eduardo Sanchez, Brian Tallet, Adam Wainwright *, PJ Walters, Jake Westbrook

* Adam Wainwright will be placed on the 60 day disabled list which will open up a roster spot for his replacement.

Catchers (4) – Bryan Anderson, Tony Cruz, Gerald Laird, Yadier Molina

Infielders (10) – Zack Cox, Daniel Descalso, David Freese, Tyler Greene, Mark Hamilton, Peter Kozma, Albert Pujols, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot

Outfielders (6) – Lance Berkman, Adron Chambers, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Colby Rasmus

Non-roster Spring Training Invitees

In addition to the 40 man roster, there are 25 non-roster spring training invitees.  These are either free agent signings, hoping to make the big club, or prospects getting a chance to play with and learn from the veterans.   As you look at the list, don’t be shocked by the alarming number of catchers – there is an enormous amount of work for the pitching staff, and they have to throw to somebody.

The 2011 Spring Training invitees include:

Miguel Batista(p),  Brandon Dickson(p),  Joe Kelly(p),  Lance Lynn(p),  Shelby Miller(p),  Adam Ottavino(p), Ian Snell(p), Kevin Thomas (p), Raul Valdes (p), John Gast(p), Nick Derba (c), Steven Hill (c), Audry Perez (c), Robert Stock (c), Ryan Jackson (ss), Luis Mateo (2b), Matt Carpenter(3b), Ramon Vazquez (3b), Donovan Solano (ss), Amaury Cazana (linebacker – ok, make that of), Shane Robinson (of), Nick Stavinoha (c-of), Aaron Luna(of), Oscar Taveras(of), Thomas Pham(of)

If any of these players make the big club, they will have to be added to the 40 man roster.   So how many open spots are there ?  19 + 4 + 10 + 6 = 39.   Just one.

Wow, just one ?

That will limit John Mozeliak’s choices significantly.  Only one non-roster player can be added without exposing a prospect to waivers, and their likely possible loss.  If you want to understand why, read this excellent article about how the 40 man roster works,  courtesy of our friends from Brew Crew Ball.

The Known

As we start building our opening day roster, let’s begin with the starting eight (plus backup catcher) and the obvious pitchers.

Infield (4) – David Freese, Ryan Theriot, Skip Schumaker, Albert Pujols

Outfield (3) -Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Colby Rasmus

Catchers (2) – Yadier Molina, Gerald Laird

Pitchers (10) – Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Franklin, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, Kyle McClellan

10 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 19.   That leaves 6 open roster spots.   Since Tony La Russa likes to have a 12 man pitching staff, we should go ahead and account for them now, even if we don’t know who they will be (yet).   6 – 2 = 4.

[Edit 3/28 – no surprises here, all are on the opening day roster]

The Bench

When he returns from the disabled list, Nick Punto will take one of the spots on the bench.  He can play both left side infield positions, plus second base – and he’s a plus defender at all three.   Since he is expected to return some time in May (where have we heard that before), his replacement will come from somebody already on the 40 man roster so that a minor leaguer is not exposed to waivers.   The infielder mostly likely on the bubble right now is Daniel Descalso, so let’s pencil him in as Punto’s replacement.

It seems like we hear this every year, but Tyler Greene is the top bench player.  We like his versatility (3b, 2b, ss, all three outfield spots) plus he adds a right handed bat off the bench.  He hits and is an established catalyst at the AAA level, but has a serious case of the Major League yips.   Unless he has a horrific spring, or does something stupid like kicking a dog*, Tyler Greene will take bench spot number 2.

* Tyler Greene appears to be a nice young man, and that comment was intended to be a humorous reference to manager Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF).

That leaves two open spots.   With his impressive play last year as a second half replacement for Ryan Ludwick, Jon Jay has to be a lock for one of the remaining bench spots.  Since he is a left handed hitter, the last spot should go to a right hander who can also play third base, if needed.   That, plus Craig already being on the 40 man roster,  gives The Wrench an edge over Nick Stavinoha, subject to Craig not completely falling apart in March.

[Edit 3/28 – Allen Craig, Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene are on the opening day roster]

The Final Pitching Spots

As mentioned earlier, there are currently two open pitching positions, as long as Tony La Russa stays with his customary 12 man staff.   One will take Wainright’s spot on the 40 man roster, the other will most likely already be there.  Figuring this out will require a little bit of handicapping the fifth starter, because that will determine who is available for the 25th and final active roster spot.

If Kyle McClellan is chosen as the fifth starter, then there are still two open roster spots.  These will go to Fernando Salas and Miguel Batista, with Batista being added to the 40 man.  At age 40, Batista seems like a Tony La Russa kind of player.  He’s a veteran, and has experience as both a reliever and starter.  He’s also the only pitcher not currently on the roster that has logged anywhere near the number of innings that Blake Hawksworth did last year.   That makes him very valuable as a long reliever.   This is the most likely scenario – again, assuming that Batista’s arm doesn’t fall off while pitching in exhibition games.

My preferred choice would be to look towards 2012 and give one of the youngsters in Memphis a shot at the fifth starter role.   PJ Walters could take the spot and still leave roster room available to add Batista.  In this scenario, Salas would be the odd man out, and as a result he would be the closer for the Memphis Redbirds.

The more interesting scenario would be if Brandon Dickson or Lance Lynn pulls a Jaime Garcia and forces Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan’s hand.   This is not a remote possibility at all – both are capable of making La Russa and Duncan’s decision agonizingly painful.   They further complicate things because neither are on the 40 man roster.  The winner would would be added to the 40 man, which would mean Salas gets the final active roster spot.  Batista would then be on the outside looking in.

The realist in me says that Kyle McClellan will get the final starter spot with Salas and Batista rounding out the bullpen.   The emotional Cardinals fan screams Lance Lynn and Fernando Salas, and we wish Miguel Batista good luck with his next team.

[Edit 3/28 – I did not get this one right.   Miguel Batista and Bryan Augenstein are the final two players on the opening day roster.  Augenstein got the edge over Salas because of his experience as a starter, which may come in handy if the bullpen gets taxed early in the season.   The same is true for Batista, who pitched well enough to make the club and take the 40th roster spot]

Opening Day Lineup

This one is not a prediction, but is the actual opening day lineup for the 2011 season.

Ryan Theriot – SS

Colby Rasmus – CF

Albert Pujols – 1B

Matt Holliday – LF

Lance Berkman – RF

David Freese – 3B

Yadier Molina – C

Skip Schumaker – 2B

Chris Carpenter – P

A couple of comments on the lineup.

I like the pitcher back in the ninth spot, but if Skip Schumaker continues hitting like he did in spring, the pitcher will be back to hitting 8th, making Schumaker a second leadoff hitter.  This could actually be a good move as it breaks up the two lefties (Schumaker, Rasmus) with a right handed bat which will help neutralize the LOOGY factor a bit.

I like Colby Rasmus even more as the second place hitting in front of Albert Pujols.  Even though he strikes out a lot (so did Lou Brock), his speed and good on base percentage should provide ample RBI opportunities to the heart of the order.

Prediction: If Lance Berkman doesn’t start hitting with authority soon, don’t be surprised to find David Freese hitting 5th, behind Matt Holliday.   Freese has shown George Hendrick type batting skills (consistent gap to gap, willing to go opposite field when pitched away), and he may prove to be a better choice following Holliday’s high batting average.

A Question for You

This entire scenario is the result of a 40 man roster that doesn’t leave a lot of room for player moves.   That’s not necessarily a problem as this signifies, to a large degree, what the front office is thinking about the future of the franchise.   So, if you would like to play UCB Roundtable with me, which player on the 40 man today, if any, would you designate for assignment in order to gain some roster flexibility heading into opening day ?

I look forward to your answers.

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4 Responses to Projecting the Cardinals 2011 Opening Day Roster

  1. Bob Hudgins says:

    Too difficult. You’ve covered it well. I would like to get away from 12 pitchers, and was hoping on a guy like Solano to give us more flexibility, but a cursory glance tells me he is likely not good enough. I see the quandary, and you’ve done a good job of highlighting it. You know what the upshot is? The farm system still isn’t up to snuff.

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment Bob.

      It’s funny about the farm system. They play well as a team, but you are right, there are no obvious MLB stars at the high levels yet. There are a couple that could play though: Mark Hamilton, Adron Chambers, Daniel Descalso. Solano is an interesting one. A total sleeper. Reminds me a little of Dal Maxvill, but maybe not quite the cannon that Maxie had. What I love about the kid is that every time you count him out, he comes through big. Didn’t he hit a ton in the playoffs last year when Tyler Greene was called up in September ?

      Maybe there is some talent coming up. Matt Carpenter, Zack Cox and Adron Chambers look like big leaguers in waiting. And a couple of fine arms down on the farm too.

      Like

  2. William says:

    I don’t like Punto or Greene in the back up slots. Neither has shown they can hit major league pitching, especially Punto. They are dead weight. But you have to have a back up infielder with flexibility so there you go.

    In a perfect world, Lynn makes the rotation, but he won’t. That’s just not LaRussa’s style. McClellen would be better long term in the bullpen, but that won’t happen either. You’ve covered things extremely well, so there isn’t much of a difference I can come up with here.

    Like

    • Thanks William.

      I am so afraid that we’re going to get Batista in the pen and McClellan in the rotation because that’s Tony’s calling card. Let’s give Lynn a chance, or heck, even PJ Walters.

      As for Punto and Greene, are they that much different from Phil Gagliano and Ed Spiezio, or Tom Lawless and Ivan de Jesus ? I understand and nod to your point, but if we can keep Jay with enough at bats to stay fresh, and the same for Craig, maybe we can live with Punto and Greene. I’m hoping that Greene can shed the MLB yips.

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