ST. LOUIS -- The work of whittling down to a roster of 25 is about to begin for the Cardinals, who officially open Spring Training with a workout Wednesday morning in Florida.That process will take several weeks and will undoubtedly feature some unexpected obstacles along the way. Injuries could come
ST. LOUIS -- The work of whittling down to a roster of 25 is about to begin for the Cardinals, who officially open Spring Training with a workout Wednesday morning in Florida.
That process will take several weeks and will undoubtedly feature some unexpected obstacles along the way. Injuries could come into play, and surprise emergences will make for harder decisions.
• Spring Training information
It's not too soon, however, to start projecting how competitions and roles might shake out. So, with Opening Day six weeks away, here is an early projection of who will depart Jupiter, Fla., with a spot on the big league roster:
Catcher (2): Yadier Molina will be behind the plate for a 15th season in St. Louis, and Carson Kelly, one of the game's top catching prospects, is expected to be his backup. The biggest bit of intrigue at this position is likely to be related to playing time and whether this is the year the Cardinals decide to pull back on Molina's workload.
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First base (3):Matt Carpenter is likely to get exposure at three infield positions, but first base seems to be where he'll initially settle in. Jose Martinez will provide coverage behind him and could push for playing time if he can build upon his rookie-season success. And if the Cardinals open with 13 position players, look for Luke Voit to make a case for that final bench spot.
Second base (1): Though injuries kept him off the field more than he would have liked last year, Kolten Wong did show growth on the offensive side by taking more walks and sacrificing power for contact. He'll return as the starting second baseman.
Third base (1): For the first time in his three seasons with the Cardinals, Jedd Gyorko enters spring atop the depth chart at a position. He will likely share some time at third with Carpenter, but Gyorko did enough on the offensive and defensive sides last year to convince the Cards he was a better third-base option than anyone on the market.
Shortstop (1): A second-place finisher in the National League Rookie of the Year Award balloting, Paul DeJong will be on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster for the first time. Now viewed as the shortstop of the future, DeJong will seek to avoid the sophomore slide that hit Aledmys Diaz a year ago.
Utility (1):Greg Garcia can provide backup coverage at every infield spot, and his status as an out-of-options player gives him the inside track for this role again. His .806 OPS since 2012 ranks eighth among all pinch-hitters with a minimum of 100 plate appearances.
Outfield (4): The team's big offseason acquisition, Marcell Ozuna will take over in left field, and Tommy Pham will slide to center. That pushes William Fowler to right field, a new spot for the veteran outfielder, but one that he said he'll embrace. With Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty gone, Harrison Bader has a clearer path to make a push for a roster spot as a backup outfielder.
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Starting pitching (5): Carlos Martinez will again anchor a rotation that is returning Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals found a replacement for Lance Lynn with their December signing of Miles Mikolas, who returns to the Majors after a three-year stint playing in Japan. Luke Weaver is a favorite to win the final rotation spot given the success he had in a run of late-season starts last year.
Bullpen (7): Though the Cardinals might eventually go with an eight-man bullpen, the number of days off early in the schedule make it likely they open the year with seven relievers. Luke Gregerson will get an opportunity to secure the job as closer after signing a two-year deal with the club this offseason. Brett Cecil and Tyler Lyons will give the club two lefties in the bullpen. Matt Bowman and John Brebbia are likely to fill key roles, as will newcomer Dominic Leone, who was acquired in the Grichuk trade. Sam Tuivailala, who is out of options, should nab that final spot.
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.