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St. Louis Cardinals spring training tracker: Playing time and the bench competition

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Does the amount of playing time manager Mike Matheny has given the players competing for the St. Louis Cardinals bench give us an indication of who has a leg up on making the opening-day roster?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I wrote a post on one of the reasons to take spring-training stats with a grain of salt: quality of competition. On the 20th episode of the Viva El Birdos podcast, RB and I discussed the pratfalls of spring-training stats a bit more in depth. So why am I writing a post that contains lots and lots of St. Louis Cardinals spring-training stats?

Playing time.

The Cardinals are set at the eight positions. Barring injury, there is no spring-training competition in Jupiter that will result in a player winning a starting job on the club. The only question is which players will win a spot on the opening-day bench. Playing time provides some tea leaves worth reading in this regard.

When the Cardinals signed Dean Anna, I thought the utility infielder was a surefire member of the St. Louis bench. In point of fact, I thought the Cardinals had gone out an signed a player who could actually handle shortstop defensively to displace Daniel Descalso. I got the displacement of Descalso correct, but Anna does not appear to be anywhere close to a sure thing to open the season with the Cardinals. Manager Mike Matheny has given Anna just 15 springtime plate appearances and, for what it's worth, Anna hasn't done much to impress in his limited opportunities.

Elsewhere in the bench competition, Ty Kelly appears to be shining. Matheny has given the switch-hitting infielder/outfielder (and friend of the VEB podcast) the most spring-training PA of all. And Kelly hasn't disappointed. In his tiny spring sample of PAs, Kelly has hit like the batter we thought he was: patient with solid contact kills and decent power.

Pete Kozma also appears to be playing himself onto the opening-day bench. After the Cardinals relegated Kozma to Triple-A last season in favor of Descalso even though the righthanded outmaking hitting gloveman was a better fit for the bench, Kozma eventually wormed his way onto the October bench, thanks in no small part to the manager's belief in head-to-head, batter-versus-pitcher splits over eight at-bats. Matheny is playing him all over the field—he even said on Monday that he had no qualms about playing Kozma in center field—and we're seeing a bit of the warlock's small-sample-size magic in the form of his .400/.409/.400 batting line over 22 PA.

It might very well be time to disabuse ourselves of the notion that Matheny favorite Randal Grichuk might start the season in Triple-A, no matter how much development he may have left to do. Grichuk got off to a hot start for Memphis last season and parlayed that into a couple of big-league cups of coffee. After his second demotion to Triple-A, Grichuk hit .224/.279/.433 between June 15 and his third and final promotion to St. Louis at the end of August.

It doesn't think Matheny, who started Grichuk in every postseason game last year, views him as anything other than a big-leaguer who plays the game The Right Way. Matheny is playing Grichuk almost daily and the free-swinging outfielder has responded with some walks, decent contact, and lots of power over his 26 PA worth of opportunity.

Spring Training Batting Stats

Player

PA

G

H

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

T. Kelly

28

11

6

.286

.464

.429

.893

R. Grichuk

26

10

6

.273

.385

.727

1.112

J. Wilson

25

12

9

.375

.400

.667

1.067

S. Piscotty

24

12

7

.333

.375

.381

.756

M. Adams

23

9

5

.238

.261

.286

.547

P. Bourjos

22

6

1

.050

.136

.050

.186

P. Kozma

22

10

8

.400

.409

.400

.809

S. Moore

21

8

3

.150

.190

.200

.390

X. Scruggs

21

11

4

.211

.286

.263

.549

M. Carpenter

19

9

4

.250

.368

.250

.618

K. Wong

19

8

2

.111

.158

.111

.269

T. Pham

18

8

7

.412

.389

.588

.977

M. Reynolds

18

7

3

.200

.333

.600

.933

Y. Molina

17

7

6

.375

.412

.375

.787

J. Heyward

16

7

6

.400

.438

.400

.838

M. Holliday

16

7

6

.462

.563

.615

1.178

R. Ortega

16

12

2

.125

.125

.188

.313

J. Peralta

16

7

1

.071

.188

.071

.259

D. Anna

15

9

1

.083

.133

.083

.217

G. Garcia

15

10

4

.308

.400

.385

.785

T. Cruz

13

7

6

.545

.615

.727

1.343

C. Stanley

12

6

4

.444

.583

1.000

1.583

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