I hate to say this, as a long-time Hot Stove fan, but I've never been a fan of divining future surprises from the Spring Training invites. There are simply too many variables to take into account—the need for extra catchers, the difficulty of distinguishing between prospects being given a look for the future and prospects being given a look for the near future, the tendency of teams to invite guys like Evan MacLane to the Major League camp, when he has the same chance as I do of making the team—to get a truly accurate picture of the team's needs. But let's be serious, here: Future Redbirds has in its hands a list of 55 players invited to the Major League camp. I have a desire to categorize them via a series of subjective lists. Everyone wins!
It's a good thing the Cardinals have already settled on retaining the replacement level services of Jason LaRue, because there is absolutely no data to be gleaned from a list of catchers who've been told to report to Major League camp. Nevertheless—this isn't a bad list of replacement catchers, is it? Bryan Anderson and Charles Cutler are reasonably interesting bats, Robert Stock is the Cardinals' great white high-upside/high-risk hope of 2010, and Matt Pagnozzi has worn catcher's gear before and will probably do it again, so he has that going for him.
Unfortunately for them, if you're a catcher at Major League camp and you don't have a contract in hand you're just a piece of meat to the Cardinals. So we can probably move to list two.
The plausible relievers
(I just barely managed to resist beating the Charlie Zink-as-reliever drum, here.) This is what plausible reliever means to me: I would be surprised if any one of these pitchers (save Boggs) begins the season on the active roster, but I would also be surprised if none of them does.
Of all these options I think Pete Parise and Fernando Salas are most likely to surprise; La Russa and Duncans' gloves-on treatment of Chris Perez makes me think they're less fond of fireballers with spotty command than the average Major League viewer, and Parise and Salas, who've both pitched in Memphis, have displayed excellent control at various times in the minor leagues.
Ben Jukich... I wasn't sure where the Cardinals were planning on stashing him at the time of the draft, and I'm less sure now. I like him as a Rule 5 pick, but even more than most Rule 5 prospects I think he'd be a better fit on a bad team, where he'd probably even start a few games.
The bench parts
Does it confuse anyone else to know that Nick Stavinoha is only a year older than David Freese? It seems like he was drafted ten years ago, and the way we were all convinced his debut tearing-up of the Midwest League was an illusion he must have been at least 35 at the time. Regardless, he and Shane Robinson remain the backstops for the Cardinals' backup outfield—if all else fails, they'll be there, ready to infuriate at a moment's notice and then go back to putting up nice-enough numbers in Memphis.
There are a lot of interesting parts between the Cardinals and Stavinoha, though all of them inspire a little trepidation to go with that intrigue. Jon Jay seems born to be a fourth outfielder, and could probably be a fifth outfielder in the meantime; Joe Mather probably still looks like the perfect baseball player, though it'll be interesting to see if the power's still there; Ruben Gotay drew walks in AAA like the first-half version of Joe Thurston, but his defensive reputation is even worse. I throw Donovan Solano in there only because he is a constant, living reminder (to myself and others there at the dawn of the Cardinals' blogosphere) that being 17 in baseball years and appearing in an American box score does not necessarily guarantee future success.
Hey, it's the prospects! Most of these guys wouldn't have a spot on the MLB roster even if they were ready to contribute, like Daniel Descalso, Mark Hamilton, Tyler Norrick. Tyler Henley has his AAA equivalent, Jon Jay, a level ahead of him, and Daryl Jones is too busy trying to become a top prospect again to get 150 at-bats in St. Louis. Pete Kozma... well, I just want to see him hit AA pitching. (If it's any consolation, I was expecting to say that exact thing at this moment in 2010 when he was drafted, only I expected it to be after a .750 OPS in Palm Beach, not a .600 OPS in Springfield.)