JUPITER, Fla. -- There are a lot of questions for this Cards team, including what the roster will look like when it opens the season on March 26 in Cincinnati.
• Forecasting all 30 teams: Lineups, rotations, closers
A lot could still happen over these next few weeks of Spring Training. The Cardinals are looking for ways to answer all those unknowns heading into the season, here is a first prediction of what the 2020 squad might look like. Don’t forget that rosters will expand to 26 players this season.
Lock: Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters
Possibilities: Andrew Knizner
Although there have been reports that Molina will want to play past 2020, this will be the final year of his three-year, $60 million contract. The 37-year-old is a lock to continue his stellar work behind the plate. His backup will be Matt Wieters, who re-signed with the Cardinals in January. It will most likely be Molina and Wieters on the 26-man roster to allow Knizner, St. Louis' No. 4 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, the time in Triple-A Memphis to play every day. But if there’s an injury, Knizner will be the callup. His bat could also force the Cards to make a decision on whether to carry three catchers.
Lock: Paul Goldschmidt
Possibility: Rangel Ravelo
Goldschmidt has this one locked down, so it would be more likely for the Cardinals to rely on a player at another position (like Molina, Knizner or third baseman Matt Carpenter) to be Goldschmidt’s backup. But don’t be surprised if Ravelo makes a case in the spring to be on the roster. The 27-year-old rookie played in 29 Major League games in 2019 and impressed St. Louis with his power off the bench. He can also play outfield, which gives him a little more opportunity to find playing time if he does come off the bench. The Cards can strategize the extra position player this year a number of ways, and Ravelo is one option.
Lock: Kolten Wong
Possibilities: Edmundo Sosa
Wong has second base covered and figures to build on his career-best year, both defensively and offensively. His backup will depend on what the Cardinals decide to do with Tommy Edman and Brad Miller -- the utility player they signed to a one-year deal last week -- this season, which is explained more below. Sosa, the Cards’ No. 14 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, got only eight at-bats this year (two hits), but he can play second base and shortstop. He will need to have a good spring for St. Louis to consider him for help off the bench in 2020, but his Dominican Winter League production might be helping him already. After a hot start for the Aguilas, Sosa hit .274/.332/.366 over the winter.
Lock: Paul DeJong
Possibilities: Edmundo Sosa
DeJong hit 30 home runs and made his first All-Star Game in 2019. He’ll look to build on that in '20. The Cardinals must figure out who will be his backup, though. In a twist to the utility infielder competition this spring, Yairo Muñoz was released after leaving camp and flying home to the Dominican Republic. His release opens up a roster spot and avenues for utility infielders Tommy Edman and Brad Miller to earn roster spots. Sosa has also emerged as a viable backup shortstop after impressing in winter ball and early this spring. Whether it’s Miller, Sosa or Edman, St. Louis needs a viable backup shortstop to emerge over the next two weeks.
Lock: Matt Carpenter
Possibilities: Edmundo Sosa
Despite a year that featured career lows in batting average (.226), on-base percentage (.334) and slugging (.392), Carpenter has a contract that runs through 2021 with an option for '22, so he’ll look to have a bounce-back year and has the backing of the organization in his effort to do that. A reworked swing and focus on driving the ball to left field have Carpenter and the Cardinals confident he’ll return to form. Edman, Miller or Sosa could also fill in here.
Lock: Tommy Edman, Brad Miller
Possibilities: Free agent or trade
After his callup in June, Edman asserted himself as a regular and played five positions last year: second base (29 games), third base (55 games), left field (one game), center field (one game) and right field (12 games). His .304/.350/.500 slash line and versatility in the field, in the lineup and as a switch-hitter are likely to earn him a spot on the Opening Day roster. The Cardinals will use Edman as a true utility man, playing a different position every day or becoming the starter if another falters. Miller can also play all around the field, and as a left-handed hitter, he can give the Cards a good look off the bench. Despite Miller being sidelined with lower back tightness the past week, the Cardinals are optimistic that he can play all over the infield when he returns. Both Edman and Miller can also play in the outfield and will get some time there this season.
Locks: Dexter Fowler, Harrison Bader
Possibilities: Lane Thomas, Dylan Carlson, Tyler O'Neill, Justin Williams, Austin Dean, free agent or trade
Regarding offense, the outfield is a spot for improvement in 2020. And because Marcell Ozuna signed with the Braves instead of returning to the Cardinals, the path is open for young outfielders to seize a starting spot. Despite performing below his career average this year, Fowler has a no-trade clause in his contract and will likely be on the Opening Day roster. The rest of the outfield will depend on who has a good spring. Center field will likely be the most competitive during Spring Training. Bader is viewed as the incumbent, but Thomas and Carlson -- the Cards’ No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline -- are just one productive spring away from taking over the starting spot. O’Neill and Williams, who hit .296 combined in Double-A and Triple-A this year despite missing time with injuries, could also emerge in corner-outfield spots.
The Cardinals acquired Dean from the Marlins on Jan. 14, and the left fielder is expected to compete for an outfield spot in the spring, too. Dean has spent the last two years shuffling in and out of the Majors, where he hit .225 over 64 games in 2019. In 73 games for Triple-A New Orleans, though, Dean slashed .337/.401/.635 with a 1.036 OPS. Dean has the power; he might just need the playing time to unlock it.
Locks: Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Adam Wainwright
Possibilities: Kwang-Hyun Kim, Carlos Martínez, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Austin Gomber, Ryan Helsley, Génesis Cabrera, free agent or trade
Flaherty, Hudson and Wainwright, who signed a one-year deal early in the offseason, seem to be locked into the rotation, barring injury. One of those has already affected St. Louis' plans, as Miles Mikolas will miss the start of the season with a sore right forearm. The Cardinals signed left-hander Kim to a two-year deal in December, and the Korean pitcher will compete for a rotation spot. But he’s also not opposed to going to the bullpen, which gives St. Louis some flexibility. Martínez, who had 24 saves as the Cards' closer last year, is working toward a return to the rotation, but whether his shoulder will stay healthy won’t be known until later this month or closer to spring. Gomber, a lefty who made 11 starts in 2018, was sidelined in '19 with a left biceps injury. Ponce de Leon made eight starts last season, along with five relief appearances. Helsley, Gant, Cabrera and Alex Reyes could also be short-term fills for Mikolas’ rotation spot to open the season.”
Locks: Andrew Miller, Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley, John Brebbia, Tyler Webb, Jordan Hicks, John Gant
Possibilities: Génesis Cabrera, Brett Cecil, Junior Fernandez, Alex Reyes, free agent or trade
The Cardinals’ bullpen was the team's biggest constant throughout the year, and most of the relievers who made that happen will be back. The Cards have long sought a left-handed arm to add to the bullpen, but that might not be the biggest priority this year. Miller and Webb will be back, and Cecil, who spent the entire year on the 60-day injured list with carpal tunnel syndrome, could return, too. Cabrera was a starter for most of 2019, but he is also a left-handed relief option after impressing in September and the postseason. Reyes lost most of this year to a string of injuries, so his power will likely be prepped for relief work. If Martínez does return to the rotation, St. Louis will have to find a first-half closer, as Hicks is not expected back from elbow surgery until the All-Star break. Both Helsley and Gant could start or relieve in '20, either perhaps emerging either as a closing option. Gallegos also had a breakout year and was excellent in setup situations, so the Cardinals could move him to closer, too. Miller has the experience in that role as well.
Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.