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Spring Training Bits and Pieces

A handful of random things going on right now in training camp.

St Louis Cardinals v Houston Astros Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

I hate daylight savings time.

Anyhow, let’s talk about a few odds and ends, shall we?

  • I would say at this point that Mike Mayers is making himself a very strong case to win the official VEB spring surprise award, at least on the pitching side. After making an appearance on Friday in which he struck out three straight Astros, Mayers has now thrown seven innings in spring training. His ERA over those seven innings is 0.00. He has allowed two hits. He has walked zero batters. He has struck out nine. It’s hard to be much better even over a very limited number of innings, even in March, than Mayers has been so far this spring. It is, of course, largely a positive that Mike Mayers is doing his best Tommy Kahnle impersonation all of a sudden. The downside, though, is that Mayers wasn’t really in consideration for a bullpen spot coming into spring training, which potentially puts someone else out of a job. Which wouldn’t be bad, if we weren’t already concerned about the guy making those decisions....
  • Speaking of Mike Mayers’s numbers as a reliever, it’s maybe worth looking at what he did last season after moving over to the other side of the ledger. He moved out of the starting rotation last season at Memphis in the middle of July, and from that point on until the end of the season Mayers threw 28.2 innings. In those slightly less than 30 innings, he allowed seven runs, all earned. He was still somewhat hittable, as he allowed 26 hits, but he made hitters earn it, handing out just four free passes. He also struck out 27 batters. Those are not completely dominant numbers, but they are very good. Shorter stints alone seemed to be benefiting Mayers, and that was before the Cardinals began employing Mike Maddux.
  • The sample size is microscopic, and we are, of course, talking about spring training results, but one of the points of emphasis for Maddux this spring has been getting his charges to work the top of the zone as diligently as they have the bottom for years. And I have to say, Mayers’s fastball looks vastly superior working the ladder up than when he was pitching at the knees. He is also, it looks to me, more aggressive with his mechanics now than in the past. He’s throwing with much more conviction, and with much more energy. Again, tiny samples, but at not point in time before this spring have we ever seen Mike Mayers look so overpowering as this:
  • John Sickels recently published his list of Cardinals top prospects, and as always John is worth paying attention to. He’s as good as you’re going to find in this business. Compared to my list, Sickels is higher on Yairo Munoz than I was, though considering what we’ve seen from Munoz in spring training I would probably bump him up a few spots on my list as well. I covered the tweaks he’s made to his swing not too long ago, and I like him more now than I did at the start of the year. The other player John has significantly higher than I did is Adolis Garcia, who came in at number eleven on the big board here, but checks in at seven on Sickels’s list. To be honest, there’s not really much actual disagreement in our assessments of Garcia, just a big group of about eight prospects (half pitchers, half outfielders), who could fall in just about any order from roughly 5-12. But even saying that, Garcia was probably the player I most felt even as I was writing him up I was too conservative on, but I had rational arguments for every player I placed above him. Having seen Garcia in spring training against more or less big league competition, I think it’s fair to say he’s very impressive, and while I still expect Harrison Bader to grab the last outfield spot, it’s not going to be an easy decision for the club.
  • Hey, speaking of guys who have looked good in spring training (at least recently), Miles Mikolas was very impressive in his last start, no? At least stuff-wise he was. The interesting part, of course, was that he was throwing so hard, when much of the narrative had been that he went to Japan and learned to pitch, rather than just throw, and that he was really a pretty modest stuff sort of guy. There’s been some skepticism that Mikolas was throwing anywhere near as hard as advertised in that start against Houston, but if we go back to when he was coming up with the Rangers, he did in fact have the ability to push the fastball up to 97. The gun in Jupiter might have been a little hot, but I don’t think we need to be all that suspicious.
  • And speaking of radar readings and associated pitching metrics, please MLB, give us trackman data in spring training. It would be so much fun to be able to break out the speed and movement of Mike Mayers’s letter-high fastballs compared to the knee-high meatballs we saw from him in the past, and see if something really is different there. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until the season starts for that.
  • If Mayers continues to look awesome, whose spot in the ‘pen does he take? Matt Bowman would seem to be sacrosanct, as the designated getter of grounders. Sam Tuivailala is out of options. Josh Lucas and John Gant have both looked really good this spring as well, and it was hard seeing either of them breaking camp with the big club even before Mayers forced his way into the picture. I’m guessing John Brebbia may end up on the short end of the I-55 shuttle to start the year, but I can’t pretend to have any real good feel for how the bullpen is going to shake out at this point. At the very least, having a bunch of these arms looking good makes Luke Gregerson’s oblique issue less frustrating in the short term.
  • One of the questions in the comments on Sickels’s prospect list was about the absence of Ramon Urias, the infielder the Cardinals signed not too very long ago out of the Mexican League. He’s the older brother of Padres top prospect Luis Urias, and a former prospect in the Rangers’ system himself. It reminded me I promised to look into Urias at the time of the signing and write, and haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll try to have something on him done for next Sunday, if nothing else pressing come up.
  • You know what I kind of wish would happen? Luke Voit getting traded. Not because I don’t like him; I do. I just don’t see any good route to much playing time for him. If the Cardinals were to swing some trade with a noncontending Tampa team for Chris Archer or pick up an extra reliever from Baltimore at midseason or something, I would hope to see Voit in the package and hopefully get a shot on a bad team to prove he deserves a spot. Maybe he’s just a Quad A player, but I would really like to see him get a chance to earn a job somewhere.

I’m going to end this here. Game against the Nationals is getting ready to start. Take care, and I’ll see you all again Wednesday for a draft thing.