To be honest, I think I ended up with a pretty good week to be severed from the Cardinals—which isn't to say I didn't spend far too much time over the last several days scrolling down a 2.4 inch screen for news and score updates. Since I've been incognito, beginning on the sixth, they've gone 3-6. The hitters have been awful at every possible facet of hitting, save for their shiny SB%, and they've been partnered with a pitching staff that remains stuck on uninspiring.
But I'm not quite back in the saddle—I'm catching up in big, iconic chunks, like a movie shut-in. So let's take those, in no particular order—
I'm not sure what Shelby Miller would have to do for me to be disappointed with this draft before he takes the mound [fictional-conceit ed.: not sign], but in the early going this draft seems like the one the Cardinals have earned after several years of putting pennies into the polished-role-player jar. The Cardinals have taken enough responsible Nick Stavinohas and Lance Lynns and Shane Robinsons to put themselves in a position to bet the farm on a high schooler they'll have to pay above slot, or use their second rounder—in a draft without a supplemental pick to their name—on Robert Stock, a guy whose value, on either side of the battery, is tied up to an un-Cardinals-like degree in his future projectability.
As the red baron noted after draft day,
They've built up some real depth at several positions, and the impact of a single miss at this point isn't going to make or break the system.
That's good to see on its own; it's even better to see that the Cardinals have acted upon it.
P.S.: Can you even remember the last time the Cardinals had a guy whose future-ace credentials weren't shrouded in mid-rotation hedging? Anthony Reyes came out of nowhere and was dogged by arm injuries that had creeped up on him in school; Dan Haren, who turned out to be a future ace, didn't have the knockout pitch that the people who bestow future-acedom on pitching prospects like to see. Most of the early-draft pitching prospects of recent years—Mortensen, Ottavino, Lambert—were either born to be third starters or struggled with command from day one. The last future ace, in the swaggering, strikeout-throwing tradition, was...
Seriously? They finally bring up my pet prospect of five years and his major league debut occurs while I am in a car in the middle of Ohio? I don't even know what to think about that.
After I got back I watched a little of his debut on MLB.TV; he seems particularly ill-suited for the bullpen, but he had good command aside from the Worst Curveball Ever to Clint Barmes and his changeup was as swing-and-missable as advertised. Above all I'm just glad that a name as good as Blake Hawksworth is forever immortalized in the baseball encyclopedia, ready to be pressed into service as a rich but dangerously irresponsible old-money heir in a detective novel at a moment's notice.
The Cardinals haven't been doing it, and at this point I think it's probably too much to ask for them to bounce back very far in the direction of the lofty expectations we had after a fine offseason and an excellent April. But at the same time there's a very faint optimism to be derived from a look at the position players. It's all locked up in the buts that follow all the worst-case scenarios the Cardinals are currently plumbing: Chris Duncan might not be right after all, but certainly at least one of the Cardinals' fearsome foursome of outfielders will manage a final OPS over .800; Skip Schumaker's had an awful month but he's better than his year-to-date, and if he isn't his UZR-busting defense—now up from its early-season -30 runs per 150 games to -25!—will spend less time haunting Cardinals pitching.
Colby Rasmus has become the Cardinals' second best hitter far too soon, to say the least. But the team's current hitting is still not representative of the team's true talent so much as its worst possible self.
KHALIL GREENE SUPPLANTS I DON'T KNOW AT THIRD
I expected a lot more out of Greene than the younger brother's half of a third base platoon, but at this point in the season this would count as a ringing success. This is a tough move to analyze; first you have to assume that Khalil's psychological issues, serious enough to land him on the DL, have a significant bearing on the way he'll perform as a third baseman and a hitter when he comes back. Second you have to assume that, given the surprisingly quick way Greene was turned over to a rehab assignment, and the scant information available about his DL stint and the underlying problem, we don't know enough about his psychological issues to use them to evaluate his chances as a major league baseball player. To think about Greene you have to accept that his anxiety is an important issue, and the ignore it.
With that in mind, this seems like an efficient, if uninspiring, use of the Cardinals' resources. Right now they have three shortstops with uncertain hitting prospects, and two of them are by all accounts outstanding defensive shortstops. Right now they have zero third basemen, and the guy who's standing there in the meantime is a left-handed hitter. Greene is by no means definitely a better hitter than Brian Barden, and his time at third base is limited to this rehab assignment and some time there in college. But to paraphrase an early episode of Family Guy, Brian Barden is Brian Barden, a substandard hitter with a good glove, but Khalil Greene could be anything—he could even be Brian Barden!
The off chance that the Khalil Greene who shows up at third is the one who hit the cover off the ball in college, or even the one who left the cover on the ball but hit pretty well, thank you, in San Diego, is worth more to this team than a known quantity. This isn't a lineup in need of a patch like Barden, who won't make mistakes and might even get on base every so often. It's a lineup desperate enough that a guy who hasn't been a difference-making hitter since 2004 makes sense as a last-chance replacement for Troy Glaus.
Thanks to Larry and the front page staff, who more than made up for my absence. More catching up in time for the game thread, at which point I will be very happily stepping back into present tense.