Redbird Droppings: Spring Position Battles


Spring positions battles are the focus of this edition of Redbird Droppings

Redbird Droppings

The Cardinals have a lot of options with their current roster construction, but a lot of how the opening day lineup will look will be based off how the dominos fall. Let’s start with the first domino.

Favorite: Masyn Winn
Option: Tommy Edman, Brendan Donovan
Long-shot: Buddy Kennedy, Jose Fermin, Thomas Saggese

Shortstop is Winn’s position to lose; he did struggle when he was promoted to end 2023, but the defense was there. How long will they wait if the bat doesn’t come alive? They have both Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan who can handle the position if Winn’s not ready; my gut says Edman will be the guy. They also have utility guys like Kennedy and Fermin who can fill in as needed, but they shouldn’t be considered options unless they have amazing springs and Winn struggles.

The wild card is Saggese; he’s one of the better prospects in the system and he’s close to being ready. If he has a huge spring, he could force his way onto the roster, at the expense of a Kennedy or Fermin.

Favorite: Tommy Edman
Option: Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbaar
Long-Shot: Michael Siani, Victor Scott II

Here’s where it gets interesting. If Winn starts the season in Memphis and Edman is the guy at short, you now have an open competition for centerfield. Carlson is the best option, with Nootbaar penciled in at left. If Carlson can’t get the spot and Alec Burleson has a great spring, I could see Noot in center and Burleson starting in left. Siani is the 5th outfielder, and probably won’t be in serious competition.

The wild card is Scott; the speedster could hit is way onto the roster. If fact, the Cardinals anticipate him being up before the end of the season. He could take Siani’s 40-man spot if he hits out the gate and establishes himself as ready.

Second Base
Favorite: Nolan Gorman
Option: Brendan Donovan
Long-Shot: Jared Young, Buddy Kennedy, Jose Fermin, Thomas Saggese

I believe that Gorman will see most of the time at second this season, allowing Donovan to move around a little more. I also see both getting some significant time as the DH (see the next battle). Both of their bats should be playing every day.

Young, Kennedy, and Fermin will be fighting for late inning replacement duty and the occasional spot start. Like shortstop, Saggese is a wild card, but has a lesser chance here with Gorman and Donovan more established than Winn is.

Favorite: Brendan Donovan
Option: Nolan Gorman, Matt Carpenter, Willson Contreras
Long-Shot: Luken Baker, Alec Burleson

I touched on the Donovan/Gorman dynamic a little above, but they’ll be the primary options for DH at bats. You’ll see Carpenter with the spot start here and there. Contreras will also see some time, as I don’t think the front office will trust him any more than they did this past season (although they’ll probably handle it better).

Baker and Burleson are the long shots, with Burleson getting more at bats than Baker. I’ve pretty much written them off as a DH this season.

Favorite: Ryan Helsley
Option: Andrew Kittredge, Giovanny Gallegos, JoJo Romero
Long-Shot: Keynan Middleton, Riley O’Brien

In a perfect world, a closer by committee would work; the Cardinals have multiple guys that could be situational closers. Unfortunately, the game has not evolved to the point where this idea works. Helsley has the most experience and comes into camp as the incumbent; we all know he’s struggled to make it through a full season and has had some fits of inconsistency. I can see a situation where Kittredge is a challenges for the role in camp; he’s got the experience, but needs to prove he’s fully healthy as well.

Gallegos and Romero will see their opportunities for saves, but they won’t be the main guys. I also think Middleton could grab a handful. O’Brien is the guy to watch; if he can get his command to an acceptable level, he could be the guy by the end of year.

Bench Roles
Favorite: Ivan Herrera, Matt Carpenter, Alec Burleson, Dylan Carlson
Option: Luken Baker, Buddy Kennedy, Michael Siani, Jared Young, Jose Fermin
Long-Shot: Thomas Saggese, Victor Scott II

There are some givens with the bench: you know Herrera is your backup catcher; Carpenter will be your clubhouse guy who gets the occasional start at DH; Carlson and Burleson are your extra outfielders.

After that, it gets murky. Baker has a great bat, but he’s limited to first and DH; those positions are set though, so his value is minimal to this team. Kennedy, Young, and Fermin are pretty much interchangeable positionally, so it would be redundant to carry 2 of them, let alone all 3. Siani is a defensive replacement in the outfield, but if you have Carlson on your bench, he’s expendable.

You need 2 of the last 4 to really set themselves apart in camp, unless you one of your utility guys can get a little outfield work on top of their infield versatility.

Rotation Order
Favorite: Sonny Gray #1
Option: Miles Mikolas #2, Steven Matz #3, Lance Lynn #4, Kyle Gibson #5
Long-Shot: Zack Thompson, Matthew Liberatore, Drew Rom

I think the rotation is a given, unless one of the 2-5 guys completely falters and/or someone like Thompson or Liberatore are completely lights out this spring. Both could very well happen. The real question is how you order them after Gray; Mikolas was a #2 caliber pitcher a few years ago, but not last season. Matz showed flashes of a mid-rotation guy before his season ended early. If they can lock in their spots, everyone would be more comfortable with Lynn and Gibson as a true #4 and #5 starter; if they can’t lock their spots, you’ll have Gray and 4 back of the rotation pitchers which isn’t good.

The other option, which is too far out for the Cardinals, would be a six-man rotation; maybe do a piggy back system with Thompson and Liberatore and get 3-4 innings from each in a given day. If Gray is looking like a Cy Young candidate again, you could have him on normal rest and adjust the other 5 around his schedule.

Next up…
I’ll be back tomorrow with my top 50 Cardinals prospects.

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