When was the last time the Cardinals came to camp with as many questions as they have this year? With pitchers and catchers reporting to camp today, I wanted to list my top 5 stories to watch and also provide my predictions for these 2009 stories to watch. Leave comments and let me know your predictions.
With Adam Kennedy kicked to the curb, there is a job to win at second base. This battle is wide open with possibilities being outfielder Skip Schumaker, former highly touted prospect Joe Thurston, Brendan Ryan, Brian Barden, Jarrett Hoffpauir, and Tyler Greene. I’m going to say that Greene and Hoffpauir are not going to get a good look. Barden and Ryan just don’t have the bat that Tony wants to see, which leaves me seeing a competition between Schumaker and Thurston. Can the outfielder convert to a second baseman or can the productive minor leaguer finally convert that talent in the big leagues. I know some are picking Thurston as the Cards ’09 second baseman to watch for, but I think Schumaker is going to win the job. On April 6th the Cardinals leadoff hitter and starting second baseman will be Skip Schumaker.
The injury to Troy Glaus leaves another hole in the starting infield for opening day. The Cards are going to need someone to man third base until Glaus is able to return. Your key options look like David Freese, Brett Wallace, and Joe Mather. There are many other options, but I think these are the key players. I think the Cardinals are going to keep Wallace in the minors this year for more seasoning. Mather is going to make the team, but he will be a super sub who will possibly be getting time at second, third, and of course in the outfield. That leaves Freese as your starting third baseman on opening day. I don’t know if Freese is going to win the job, but I think the Cardinals need him to be their opening day third baseman. Wallace is the superstar in the waiting and Glaus is a free agent after this year. The Cardinals need to see what they have in Freese to see what they have. Freese could be a valuable trading chip if he performs well to start the season. David Freese will be the starting third baseman at Busch Stadium on opening day.
Who is going to be the Cardinals 2009 closer? There are a few different options going into spring training. Chris Perez, Jason Motte, and Ryan Franklin are looking like the most likely candidates. I think we experienced Franklin closing too much last season and the bullpen is going to be in trouble if this is the final outcome. Jason Motte just doesn’t have the second pitch needed to succeed. Major league hitters are going to catch up to Motte’s heat, so if he doesn’t develop a second pitch, he’s not going to be a productive major league pitcher. That leaves Perez, who is my choice for winning the job. Perez has been doing the job since pitching at Miami. Perez has two quality pitches to work with and gained valuable experience partially closing out games in 2008. The big club will break for St. Louis with Chris Perez as their closer.
Chris Carpenter. What are the Redbirds going to get from Chris Carpenter? This story will affect so much. The Cardinals entire rotation depends on the health of Carpenter. We don’t even know if the bullpen could be changed due to Carpenter’s condition. A rotation of Carpenter, Wainwright, Lohse, Wellemeyer, and Pineiro doesn’t look half bad, but remove Carpenter and push everyone up and add whoever into the 5th starter spot and things look scary. If Carpenter is healthy, this team can be successful. If not, then they will need to look for another starter over the next couple of weeks. I think they will bring in another arm in the next couple of weeks, but who that will be is anybody’s guess.
Needs, needs, needs. The Cardinals definitely have needs. Just in the above 4 stories there are possible needs at second, third, closer, and in the starting rotation. What will the Cardinals do? The free agent market still has many options available. I don’t really see the Cardinals going after a free agent options to fill their needs at second, third or in the pen. I do think we’ll see a new pitcher coming to Jupiter pretty soon to help solidify the rotation. There is just too much uncertainty with Carpenter to leave the rotation as is.
Let me know your thoughts on spring training by leaving comments on this post. I love reading others opinions and trying to keep up with the spring training happenings, so let me know.