ST. LOUIS -- Let's start off 2019 with a bit of good news: Cardinals baseball will be back next month. That means we can start using days, not weeks, in the countdown to Spring Training. (I'll save you the math: It's 41.) As report date nears, you still have questions
ST. LOUIS -- Let's start off 2019 with a bit of good news: Cardinals baseball will be back next month. That means we can start using days, not weeks, in the countdown to Spring Training. (I'll save you the math: It's 41.)
As report date nears, you still have questions related to the current roster, team outlook and individual fits. We'll explore some of those here in a series of Inboxes you'll find on Cardinals.com leading up to the start of Spring Training.
What would be your prediction for the 25-man roster on Opening Day?
-- Aaron S. (@aaron_stock)
It's never too early for predictions, right? I'll make an attempt with the caveat that this projection includes only those who are currently in the organization.
For the starting eight position players, you've got Yadier Molina, Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong, Paul DeJong, Matt Carpenter, Marcell Ozuna, Harrison Bader and William Fowler. Jedd Gyorko, Tyler O'Neill, Francisco Pena and Drew Robinson will be on the bench.
I'd assume Miles Mikolas will start for the Cardinals on Opening Day and be followed in the rotation by Carlos Martinez, Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright. With the Cards likely to carry eight relievers, that would be enough spots for Andrew Miller, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, John Brebbia, Chasen Shreve, Dominic Leone, John Gant and Brett Cecil.
You might have picked up on some notable omissions. One is Alex Reyes. While I do think he'll contribute to the Cardinals in a big way this year, I'm projecting that he'll open the season either at extended spring workouts or Triple-A Memphis to get a little more work in. Also, I don't have enough confidence in the health of Luke Gregerson to include him on this list just yet. I've also left off Austin Gomber and Daniel Poncedeleon, both of whom could start in Memphis to give the organization starting depth.
The obvious absences on the position-player side are Yairo Munoz and Jose Martinez. I gave Robinson the nod over Munoz because the Cards will want a lefty bat off the bench. As for Martinez, I still expect him to be traded before the season starts.
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What are the updates on Ozuna's shoulder? Jose Martinez's trade value? Also, I love Greg Garcia, but have they thought about upgrading at his bench spot?
-- Nathan M. (@nemworldwide)
At the Winter Meetings, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Ozuna was still in the therapy portion of his rehab following shoulder surgery in October. Mozeliak also noted that the medical staff was unconcerned about any setbacks. The more direct answer, though, is that we'll know about Ozuna's health when he reports to Spring Training.
After finishing seventh in the National League with a .305 batting average and 15th with an on-base percentage of .364, Martinez has plenty of trade value. The tricky thing about his market, though, is that it's limited because of his defensive vulnerability. I'd suspect most interest would be from American League clubs that could utilize him at DH. But there are not many of those jobs still needing to be filled. If there's not enough demand to drive up the return, the Cards may be wise to hang on to Martinez for another year.
As for Garcia, he was claimed off waivers by the Padres in November. The Cards have other utility infielders -- Gyorko, Robinson, Munoz -- to fill that void.
1. Where do the Cardinals seem to be leaning on Reyes landing -- starter or bullpen role? Will this simply have to play out over Spring Training? 2. Hudson -- Will he enter camp competing for a starter spot? 3. What's the outlook for Nolan Gorman? Is he a callup candidate?
-- Ken R. (@KenRichter1992)
The Cards truly seem to be open about Reyes' fit for 2019. Since his workload will be limited and monitored, I think it's more likely he ends up in the bullpen. If healthy, Reyes would be a terrific fit in the back end of that 'pen, complementing Miller and Hicks. Spring Training will better define Reyes' readiness and identify where the team has a need.
Hudson will enter camp competing as a starter, but it's hard to see him elbowing his way into the Opening Day rotation given the team's pitching depth. If he can't push someone out of a starting job, Hudson could slide back into a bullpen role similar to the one he held last year.
Gorman, the team's first-round Draft pick last summer, made a terrific first impression. He was the rare high school signee to advance to the Class A Midwest League, and he finished with a .949 OPS across 63 Minor League games. But at 18 years old, Gorman is going to need a few years in the Minors before he'd join the big league club. I'd expect the earliest you'd see him in St. Louis would be 2021.
Do you think the Cardinals could add another big arm in the 'pen? Also, could they trade for another proven starter?
-- Chad P. (@Cpence3)
Could they? Sure. While the Cardinals have already addressed the top items on their winter to-do list, I suspect they're likely to strike again. The Cardinals have poured resources into building a team they believe can compete for a World Series championship in 2019, and they're ready to pounce if another move makes sense. They could benefit from a slow-moving free-agent market, and the club still has tradeable assets -- most notably, Jose Martinez.
Any team would benefit from the addition of a front-line starter, but with so many relievers still available, the Cards are more likely to add to the 'pen if they do go after additional pitching.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.