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Inbox: How will Cards look to improve offense?

Beat reporter Anne Rogers answers fans' questions ahead of Spring Training
@anne__rogers
February 10, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- Greetings from Cardinals Spring Training, where more than a few players, including around 20 pitchers and most of the starting infield, have already arrived ahead of Wednesday’s first official workout for pitchers and catchers and the full-squad workout on Feb. 17. There’s plenty to discuss in the

JUPITER, Fla. -- Greetings from Cardinals Spring Training, where more than a few players, including around 20 pitchers and most of the starting infield, have already arrived ahead of Wednesday’s first official workout for pitchers and catchers and the full-squad workout on Feb. 17.

There’s plenty to discuss in the last Cardinals Inbox before camp officially starts Tuesday, so let’s get to your questions.

Is the fix to the offense inside or outside the organization?
-- Mike, Key West, Fla.

Right now, the answer is time will tell. By not adding a hitter to fix the offense that sputtered last season, the Cardinals have bet big on their internal options. And they’re going to use this spring to find the answer to your question.

The front office has stressed all winter that there’s no deadline -- not at the end of the Winter Meetings, not in January, not before Spring Training -- until the July 31 Trade Deadline. So the Cardinals really have these Spring Training games to find out if the in-house talent, both veteran hitters improving and young hitters emerging, can provide a necessary jolt to the offense.

If that doesn’t happen, the question will then center around the Cardinals’ ability to find a hitter come that July 31 deadline.

Who are the young players, prospects and emerging talents to watch this spring?
-- Sam, Peoria, Ill.

The Cardinals are bringing almost 75 players to big league camp, which is an unusually large number. While it might test the organization of camp -- the coaches will have to be creative with the schedule to make sure everyone is getting the time and looks they need to get ready -- it offers a clear benefit for the top prospects and young players who are vying for a roster spot this year.

Tyler O'Neill and Lane Thomas are among the group of young outfielders competing for a starting spot, and top prospect Dylan Carlson is in that group, too. But keep an eye on Justin Williams, who might be overlooked by fans because he’s had only one at-bat in the Majors. The 24-year-old had a strong finish in 36 games for Triple-A Memphis last season (.353/.437/.608) after he came back from a hand injury. He hits left-handed, which helps his chances, and a strong spring could allow him to hit his way onto the Cardinals' bench. Austin Dean, the right-handed-hitting outfielder who was acquired from the Marlins, showcased power in Triple-A and could be a useful hitter off the bench, too. Infielder Evan Mendoza had an injury-shortened 2019, but he could position himself as another versatile defender used for depth this season.

Cardinals Top 30 Prospects

On the pitching side, Junior Fernandez made his debut in the bullpen last summer and could make another impact with his fastball and changeup this year. It will be interesting to see where Daniel Ponce de Leon fits this year; he’s had successful outings in the Majors before, but the Cardinals haven’t seemed to give him a clear path to take over a spot in the rotation or bullpen. He could force that discussion this spring.

Can Alex Reyes contribute this year? What about Brett Cecil?
-- Nick, St. Louis

The Cardinals are hoping both can, but there are no expectations for either this spring. Reyes, the former top prospect who has had the past three seasons derailed by elbow and shoulder injuries, will likely get his shot as a reliever. The Cardinals are hoping that his power can turn him into a force out of the bullpen.

Cecil, 33, is entering his final year of his four-year $30.5-million contract and missed all of ’19 with carpal tunnel syndrome. While he’s healthy now, there are a few lefties in front of him on the roster -- Andrew Miller, Tyler Webb, Kwang-Hyun Kim and Génesis Cabrera.

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.