With just 22 spring games and fewer than four weeks remaining until the regular season commences in early April, the Cardinals will have some complex roster decisions to enforce as exhibition play dwindles to a close toward the the end of the month.
The club’s 25-man roster is pretty well structured with only a few joints left exposed, one of them being the bench, more specifically how many people will be on it and who those people will be. And as he continues to add to an attractive spring campaign, Jose Martinez is leading the group of big-league hopefuls who are making the Cardinals’ decision process the most difficult to map out.
Acquired from the Royals for cash back in May, Martinez made some noise at the Triple-A level and forced a long-overdue promotion in the final month of the season that was 887 Minor League games in the making: the 28-year-old Martinez, with experience in four different farm systems, made his debut Major League debut with the Cardinals on September 6, 2016, after garnering over 3,600 plate appearances in the minors.
Though a very small sample, Martinez went 7-for-16 across twelve games for St. Louis in the last month of the year and played a clean outfield and some first base. A .438 batting average can’t be maintained, but consistent hitting defensive versatility should have a place on the roster.
This spring, Martinez has been the Cardinals’ top offensive performer. Batting champion of the Pacific Coast League in 2015, Martinez has seven hits in eighteen at-bats this spring, with two doubles, three home runs, and a team-high seven runs batted in.
The spring is still very young, with plenty of time for tides to shift. Nevertheless, Martinez is pounding the ball all over (and out of) the field thus far, and it’s difficult to disregard his performance after witnessing Jeremy Hazelbaker do what he did last March to land a roster spot out of camp.
In addition to Martinez, a few other Cardinals are providing light this exhibition season, including Harrison Bader and Patrick Wisdom. Bader came up big with three hits and a three-run triple in the Cardinals’ fourteen-run effort on Sunday, and Wisdom’s first of two home runs over the weekend helped the Cardinals finish in a tie on Saturday.