Spring Training is a time of trial and error.
What happens when we use this double-play combination? Does this pitcher have the stuff to last at least six innings? Is this outfielder's age catching up with him? These are all questions managers and fans try to assess before the regular season.
Like all teams, the St. Louis Cardinals have some decisions to make when it comes to their lineup on opening day. Second base has been a point of debate for a couple years. And with Kyle Lohse playing the free agent market and Chris Carpenter out of the rotation, there are now two positions to fill.
So who will win each position battle? Let's take a look.
Contenders: Daniel Descalso, Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong.
With Skip Schumaker and Tyler Greene both in the West, this battle has taken a new shape in 2013.
Descalso was the primary second baseman in 2012, starting 66 games due largely to his work on the field rather than at the plate. That being said, his bat played a big part in the Cardinals' NLDS success. Not to mention the fact that good fielding can take a team far.
But this year it seems the organization may lean towards a more promising offensive option. The young Carpenter burst onto the scene last year with an impressive .294/.365/.463 slash line. And although Carpenter came up through the system a third baseman, he has been tasked with learning second base as a means of getting his bat in the lineup.
And then there's Wong, the Cardinals' second baseman of the future, who could make his major league debut. Wong had a decent offensive year in AA Springfield with a .287 batting average, but he was credited with 17 errors.
Winner: Matt Carpenter.
It had been implied that Carpenter will get the first shot at becoming the regular starter at second, and Matheny seems pleased with the work he's put in so far. "He's making all the plays he's been asked to make. He's done a nice job," the skipper has stated.
Descalso's experience will become valuable in late innings and off the bench, and Wong will likely start again in the minors.
Contenders: Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal.
As it stands, the Cardinals rotation looks like this:
- Adam Wainwright, RHP
- Jaime Garcia, LHP
- Jake Westbrook, RHP
- Lance Lynn, RHP
I'm going to go ahead and give the fourth spot to Lynn, who won 18 games for the Cards in 2012 and seems to have proven himself, showing up to Spring Training confident and 40 pounds lighter.
That leaves Kelly, Miller, and Rosenthal to duke it out for the fifth and final position.
Kelly stepped in for the injured Garcia in 2012 and was reliable in an emergency situation with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. Out of the three options, he has the most major league experience and may be the safe choice.
Miller is sure to be a fixture in the Cardinals rotation for years to come, and had an impressive debut in 2012, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning. That being said, he's had only a couple years in the minors to develop and may not be ready quite yet.
Rosenthal dazzled with his 100-mile-per-hour fastball out of the bullpen in late 2012. He has the qualities of a starter. But he, too, is young, and the Cardinals don't seem to have made a decision as to whether or not he's ready for the transition. Plus, he might be too valuable in the later innings.
Due to his experience, or rather the other contenders' lack thereof, I would imagine Kelly will begin the season as the Cardinals' fifth starter. But this role will continue to grow and change with the season, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see some 2013 starts from Miller and/or Rosenthal as well.
The Cardinals have many great options in their search for a second baseman and a starter. But as Spring Training games begin, fans can begin to see their roster take shape with Carpenter and Kelly at the forefront of the positions in question.