The Cardinals will play their first game of the Grapefruit League season on Saturday, February 22nd, with Opening Day in Cincinnati less than six weeks away. Pitchers and catchers reported to camp a few days ago and position players are to report by this Sunday, but the majority of the club is already in Jupiter.
Over the four-week exhibition season, there are several questions for this Cardinals team to answer. Perhaps the leading question: Who will take that fifth rotation spot? Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas highlight the St. Louis starting staff that also features Dakota Hudson and Adam Wainwright, leaving one vacancy to fill. Carlos Martinez, who has expressed his desires to start, seems like the likely candidate. Martinez played a big role in the bullpen last year, stepping up as the team’s closer following Jordan Hicks’ surgery, but a switch of him to the rotation would allow Kwang-hyun Kim to get a chance in ninth innings.
With the trade of Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to the Rays and the loss of Marcell Ozuna in free agency, the Cardinals are in camp with an outfield spot up for grabs. Dexter Fowler has right field, with Harrison Bader in center, leaving left field with a few possibilities. Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas seem like the front candidates, but a hot camp from Dylan Carlson could make things interesting. St. Louis probably wants Carlson to get a little more time under his belt at the Triple-A level, where he played fewer than 20 games in 2019. Nonetheless, Carlson might not stay in Memphis for long — especially if the top prospect continues to live up to his hype.
I think it will be interesting to see how situation shapes out at third base, with Matt Carpenter and Tommy Edman as options. The 34-year-old Carpenter is coming off the worst offensive season of his career, and it was Edman who shined when Carpenter was benched due to lack of performance. Edman led the team with .850 OPS after his promotion in June, while Carpenter finished the year with a .226/.334/.392 slash-line. It has been reported that Edman will take a utility role this spring (and possibly beyond), and if Carpenter appears to have turn things around, then there won’t be a question at all. However, if Carpenter still has some struggles and Edman’s bat is still hot, the Cardinals might have to change their plans to find the answer.