Redbird Droppings 03/08/2023: Wainwright, Prospects, DeJong


Adam Wainwright’s Velocity Issues, Prospects on the Roster, and Paul DeJong on today’s Redbird Droppings

After a little Cardinal hiatus, I’m back with some random Cardinal thoughts. I’ll be looking at the early struggles of Adam Wainwright, can Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn make the roster, and what to do with Paul DeJong.

Adam Wainwright and 80s Fastball
Let’s rundown the last few months of Wainwright’s season: he was hit with a comebacker late August against the Braves, which led to altered mechanics; the results were a 5.00+ ERA over September. Oli Marmol tabbed Wainwright as the Game 3 starter, if the team made it that far in the playoffs; they didn’t, but it was a questionable decision (which I didn’t agree with). Wainwright re-signed with the team in late October. He also announces he’ll pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

Redbird Droppings Pillar: Adam Wainwright
Redbird Pillar: Adam Wainwright

Spring starts and Wainwright starts early, anticipating he’s 2 weeks ahead of the game due to his WBC commitments. His pitches look good…until we see his fastball sitting in the mid-80s; he’s never been a flame-thrower, but the velocity has been on a steady decline for a few years. To make it worse, all of his other pitches this spring have been down too compared to last year:

  • Four-seam fastball – 83.7 mph, down 4.3 mph
  • Sinker – 84.9 mph, down 3.7 mph
  • Cutter – 80.8 mph, down 3.5 mph
  • Curveball – 70.2 mph, down 2.7 mph
  • Changeup – 77.9 mph, down 4.3 mph

If his fastball is down and his curve is too, he’s going to really struggle. As Bernie Miklasz mentioned on the last Seeing Red Podcast, Milwaukee hitters had already started to layoff the curve, which has been his best pitch over the span of his career. We’re going to see more teams start waiting for the fastball (both 4-seam and sinker) and making him nail his curve location.

Wainwright has said the velocity dip has been because of multiple issues: leg/glute tightness due to back spasms and a torn blister. He’s not worried. The thing is he wasn’t worried last September when his velocity dip allowed his pitches to be crushed.

Miklasz also brought up the manager; Marmol has stuck with Wainwright last season and was prepared to in the post-season. Will he stick with him again if he’s not pitching well? I’m worried he will.

Side note: Wainwright’s impact to the team is huge still. He’s a clubhouse presences, but he’s also a recruiter for the team; Lorenzo Cain said Waino had reached out to him to see if he was going to play this season (not that the Cardinals needed outfield depth).

Too Early For Decisions
I’m like every other fan in town right now: I want Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn in St. Louis; is that the right decision right now?

Both hitters are 20 years old and haven’t seen time above Double A Springfield. Both looked good in the Arizona Fall League. But both also have some issues to work out.

Walker had some pitch recognition issues in the AFL and has only played half a season in the outfield. He’s going to strike out, but he’ll need a decent walk rate to off-set that; he improved upon both in Springfield last year compared to the previous season. Winn is considered by some to be the more athletic of the 2, and it shows; he’s probably the better overall hitter in the long run, but questions about Winns power are not going away. Winn is also a little raw at shortstop, but has gotten better each year.

I could see the Cardinals citing these reasons to start both at Memphis this year; the untold reason will be their service clocks. As of right now, there is no reason to send them down; Walker is slashing .417/.417/.917 in 24 plate appearances while Winn is at .400/.471/.600 in 17 PA. Now, it’s early in camp, so they aren’t facing a lot of aces yet (Walker’s opponent quality via Baseball Reference is 8.4, a AAA player; Winn’s is 7.3, a AA player). They’ll get more playing time this spring due to players leaving for the WBC, so we should see where they are in another week or 2 as more opponents are making cuts and allow the better players to play.

The big cavet for both will be roster spots and early season playing time. Paul DeJong is the obvious guy everyone would like to see gone; he’s struggled and I’ll get to that. Who else goes down? Juan Yepez is pencilled in as a 5th OF/part-time DH. Nolan Gorman will see time at second and DH. Alec Burleson is the 4th OF. It’s got to be down to one of these 3. Personally, I wouldn’t be against Burleson going down to get regular playing time, but I also want Yepez in the outfield as little as possible.

If neither are getting playing time, demote them. If either struggle, don’t allow them to just sit on the bench. If the team is worried about either of these issues, they need to start in Memphis, where they will play (and probably play well).

What To Do With Paul DeJong
As of this writting, DeJong has a slash line of .333/.556/1.000 in 9 plate appearances against opponent quality of 8.3 (after Tuesday’s game, it dropped to .222/.417/.667 in 3 additional plate appearances against 8.1 OQ); small sample size alert against somewhat inferior pitching. DeJong has spent the winter re-working his swing and very limited results are positive. The problem is going to be trying to get him and Winn time at short; while DeJong can probably skip the reps in the field for now, he needs to get some time in the field.

If the team feels they are better with Winn on the roster over DeJong, and DeJong has a decent spring, they could try to off-load him; I don’t think there is really a market for him though. The Dodgers need a shortstop and could hide a weak bat in their lineup.

Funny thing is I wrote about his career being a 5-year window due to his rookie season comps; that 5 years was up last season and it looks about right. Hopefully he’ll prove me wrong and will be able to bounce back this year, but I’m skeptical.

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