One of the main focuses for the St. Louis Cardinals this past off season was to make an upgrade in center field. Although I am one of the few people who liked seeing Randal Grichuk play center field, the Cardinals did succeed in signing Dexter Fowler, a player who will add both defense and offensive stability to this Cardinals team, to fill the hole in center field. Looking ahead to the upcoming regular season, it seems very likely that the Mike Matheny will rely on Randal Grichuk, Dexter Fowler, and Stephen Piscotty to take up the greater majority of playing time in the outfield. But as spring training progresses, a few more questions concerning the outfield for this club rise.
1 . Which other outfielders will be on the Opening Day Roster?
If the Cardinals wish to open the regular season with 5 outfielders on the roster, then this leaves room for two more players after Grichuk, Fowler, and Piscotty take up the first 3 outfielder spots on the roster. And as spring training gets into full swing, Cardinals fans are getting some good looks at young and upcoming outfield prospects, as well as improvements from players that have already reached the Majors. Among the most notable thus far are Jose Martinez, Tommy Pham, and Magneuris Sierra.
We were able to see a little bit of Jose Martinez at the Major League level last season, and he did play effectively in his limited appearances. Tommy Pham has also reached the Majors, his earliest Major League roster appearance being in 2014, and proved to be a weapon off the bench in the 2016 season. Although Pham has shown a nice skill set, ongoing injuries have set him back from displaying all that he may be able to contribute to this St. Louis Cardinals team. On the other hand, Magneuris Sierra has yet to play at the Major League level and, at 20 years old, is one of the youngest players to participate in the Cardinals' spring training. So far, he has performed rather well, going 6 for 12 in 5 games and showing good coverage in center field, where he has spent most of his playing time. But this is much too small of a sample size to determine how effectively Sierra will be able to play in the long-term, and being as young as he is, the Cardinals are most likely going to want to keep him in the Minors in order to allow him to develop more as a player. For this reason, I'd predict that Jose Martinez and Tommy Pham will start the season on the 25-man roster. Their more developed skills and their previous Major League experience better equips them to be a part of this Major League Team.
2. How will the Cardinals look to use Jordan Schafer?
As many fans may know, Jordan Schafer is an outfielder-turned-pitcher that could bring elusive flexibility to this club. So far, Mike Matheny has had him play as an outfielder and as a pitcher in order to get a good look at all that he has to offer. Personally, I believe that he will be primarily used as a pitcher, but also used in the outfield in situations that make sense. Some of these situations may include switching him to the outfield for one or two batters that another pitcher will face before using him as a pitcher again and playing him in the outfield if other outfielders are injured. Now, this is only an opinion, as it is too soon to tell where Schafer will display more skill and where the Cardinals need a player in the future. In addition, there is no guarantee that Schafer will make the Opening Day roster. In fact, the Cardinals Organization as well as baseball analysts have commented that if he were to make the roster for the start of the regular season, it would most likely be as the 24th or 25th man.
Comment below! Which outfielders do you think will open regular season on the 25-man roster? How do you want to see Jordan Schafer used?