I know we don't normally get this desperate until December, but where I am right now the only thing on my mind is whether or not the Cardinals should lure Tuffy Rhodes back to the National League for another shot if Matt Holliday doesn't work out. So let's begin: what will the following Cardinals swingmen do next year? And where will they do it?
Mitchell Boggs: He's the reason I decided to start on this weird collection of fifth starters and ostensible set-up men. Mitchell Boggs always throws really hard; he usually has bad command. The Cardinals will probably sign one more pitcher, thereby squeezing him out of the rotation, but said pitcher, if the current free agent class is any indication, will probably be made of glass.
In the bullpen—well, nothing's quite set in the bullpen. He could end up pitching Brad Thompson innings, sure, but with two good weeks he could find himself, like Hawksworth and McClellan before him, lifted from lowly swingman to vitally important set-up man before that's probably a good idea. His fastball/slider combo doesn't just play better in the bullpen, it seems to change entirely. The Cardinals need to make some decisions, and I think this should be the first one: put him in the bullpen until proven otherwise. But you can, and should, project him either way.
Blake Hawksworth: The longtime danup suspect of record (Gary Daley, come on down!) put himself on the radar of non-stalkers with an excellent turn in the McClellan role after a shaky start in middle relief. His fastball hit the mid-nineties, heretofore the province of pre-injury Hawk, top prospect in a system with one prospect, and his changeup looked as good as advertised now that it was combined with a fastball it could, you know, change up. His curveball—well, he had one of those.
He seems like a sure bet to start the season in the bullpen, but as good and self-assured as he looked, he didn't strike anybody out. That's unfair. He struck out a few more batters than Joel Pineiro did. With a 95 mph fastball. As with McClellan himself, the numbers simply didn't match the number, his 2.02 ERA. In general it's a bad idea to take a reliever with a low strikeout rate and make him a starter, but maybe his stuff simply doesn't benefit from the bullpen like it seemed to? Or maybe the strikeout rate is a fluke. This'll be a tough one to project—observation vs. the record at its most infuriating.
Jaime Garcia: It was great watching him climb back through the system last year. I have nothing else to say: I just want the Cardinals to put him in the rotation. If you project him as making fewer than ten big league starts this year—well, I hope you've also projected Smoltz and, I don't know, Lance Lynn combining for sixty impressive starts, too.
Is it a more ominous sign of a bad bullpen or a shaky back of the rotation that two players are competing for stabilizing positions in both roles at the same time?
This'll stay open for a while, because I might not be online to tabulate the results for a few days. So take your time. As always, comma-delimited; let's project...