Following his apparent hamstring strain last night vs the Pirates, it looks like our 2nd best hitter is going to be out for a while. Not only do we lose our 2nd starting outfielder of the year to injury, and our #4 hitter, but it also further weakens our already pretty poor lineup vs LHP. Teams will likely be trying to throw every southpaw they've got against us for the next few weeks. So who do we call up?
The options as far as I can see are:
1) Joe Mather. Perhaps the most obvious like-for-like option, as a power-hitting corner OF. However, he's been in a serious slump since ST and hasn't really emerged from it yet in AAA (.394 OPS (!) in nearly 100 PAs). Has probably lost a lot of his stock as a result.
2) John Jay. Hit well in ST but he lacks power and is yet ANOTHER LH, which probably makes him a Rasmus fill-in at best. Also stinking up the joint in AAA this year. Good fielder.
3) Allen Craig. Likely only useful in LF (moving Dunc to right and weakening our OF defence quite badly), but could also soak up time at 3B vs LHP (with Robinson starting in the OF). Another who's struggling in memphis (.670 OPS) but with a low BABIP. Hit well in ST and has some power. Considered a -ve defender in LF or 3B, although some comments I've seen don't actually reckon he's THAT bad.
4) David Freese. Not an OF, so he'd probably be our starting 3B and we'd have to find some ABs for Thurston/Schu in the OF. Not hitting well this year (combined .650 OPS in MLB/AAA). Good glove at the hot corner.
5) Brett Wallace. Not an OF again, probably can only fit in at 3B. I'd like to see him tried in LF but realistically he'd probably be a train-wreck as he's not played there and is far too large. So it's hard to see how he'd fit into the team. Also, we're giving up an arb year on our top prospect for (most likely) a month or so in MLB. Undoubtedly the best hitter of the lot, however, and is walking at a higher rate in AA this year.
So, surprisingly few options, really. If Ankiel's not ready to return, it's hard to find anyone who can step in and give us anything near Ludwick-like production, and we really need to find a RHB anyhow. My pick would probably be Craig, but I'm yet to be convinced he's going to come straight up and rake, and I'd much rather see him at 3rd than out of position in the OF (and the Dunc/Craig/Rasmus OF arrangement is, defensively, rather ugly). This isn't a good situation for the cardinals to be in at all.