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Spring Standouts Through the First Week of Games

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MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The St Louis Cardinals have played nine Spring Training games so far, posting a record of three wins, five losses, and one tie. In this first week of games, the Cardinals have given extensive playing time to many prospects, while ramping up the action for the starters. Pitchers’ outings have been extended too, as the starters were typically asked to throw two innings at the beginning of the spring, but now are throwing more than that. As an example, on Saturday, Carlos Martinez threw three innings in his start as he is looking to move back into the rotation for the upcoming season. This week has also seen extensive playing time go to many outfielders competing for the left field job, while a few of the competitors for the fourth and fifth starter roles have also begun their campaign to win the jobs. This article will bring attention to some of the standout performers of the week while also providing some observations from the games.

Standout Performers

Yairo Munoz: Munoz has been a regular in the Cardinals lineup in the first week of Spring Training action. He has received 16 at bats in 6 games, slashing .375/.375/.625/1.000. Two of his six hits have gone for extra bases, including a home run, and he has also fanned just twice. Additionally, Munoz has seen plenty of time at shortstop as he attempts to solidify a spot on the Opening Day roster. This strong start is exactly what he needed as he is competing with Edmundo Sosa and Brad Miller to be the infield backup behind Tommy Edman.

Harrison Bader: Bader is looking to show that his poor showing at the plate in the 2019 season was simply one bad season, and so far, through four games, his Spring Training is off to an encouraging start. The speedy center fielder has tallied a pair of doubles as well as a home run while slashing .357/.400/.714/1.114. His spot as the starting center fielder seems to be pretty secure, but he will need to hit better than last year if he wants to reach his ceiling. After a strong 2018, but disappointing 2019, he will look to establish some consistency this year and prove that he is at least an average hitter.

Dylan Carlson: Another young outfielder that has performed well at the start of the spring is Dylan Carlson. The 21-year-old is slashing .500/.611/.786/1.397 with a team leading six hits (3 extra base hits). The Cardinals top prospect is looking to make the opening day roster and prove that he does not need any more seasoning in the minors. It is difficult to make conclusions based on a small spring training sample size, but he is doing all that he can do to earn a spot on the roster. He has shown the excitement that he can bring to a lineup and it seems exceedingly likely that even if he does not make the opening day roster, he will be in the big leagues at some point.

Paul DeJong: The Cardinals starting shortstop has recorded just eight at-bats, but two of these at bats have ended with a home run giving him a 1.750 OPS. DeJong is a solid shortstop who has proven that he can hit the ball well. He struggled at the end of 2019 though, so he will look to prove that he can remain consistent over the course of a full season this year.

Kodi Whitley: Whitley, a dark horse candidate for the Cardinals opening day bullpen has dominated opposing hitters in his two appearances. He has recorded six outs, with five coming via the strikeout. His fastball has been a weapon for him, while his changeup has shown late life and his breaking ball has also looked god. He is trying to force the Cardinals hand this season and he looks ready to appear in the big leagues, if not during opening day, then later in the season.

Daniel Ponce de Leon: Ponce de Leon, one of the competitors for the final rotation spot has tossed five shutout innings while fanning seven and walking just one. This control is a positive sign for the right hander who finished last season with a 4.81 BB/9 at the big league level. He has shown that he can pitch at the big league level, and if he can improve his control he might be able to claim one of the open rotation spots.

Observations:

Andrew Knizner seems to be struggling to block balls in the dirt. There were at least two wild pitches this week with him behind the plate that he should have blocked. Even though they were ruled as wild pitches, he did not do nearly as well as he should have. Both of these pitches were in the dirt and instead of blocking it with his body and keeping it in front of him, he tried to pick it out of the dirt with his glove. He could have made things a lot easier, and a lot safer, by using his body as well as his glove to prevent the pitch from getting behind him.

Additionally, Justin Williams had two chances in the same game to show of his arm and try to record an outfield assist. Each of these chances would have likely been close plays, but instead of attempting the throws, he threw behind the lead runners. He needs to show more aggressiveness with arm, especially in Spring Training when the results are not as important

One of the more positive players on the defensive side of the game has been Max Schrock. He made a pair of nice plays this week, fielding a groundball that took a deflection off the first baseman, and making a lunging shoestring grab on a hard-hit sinking line drive. He has looked solid up the middle, and has shown some smooth hands and feet when turning double plays.

Kodi Whitley has thrown two dominant innings so far and he has been really impressive on the mound. One of his more impressive strikeouts came on a long full count battle. After a long string of foul balls, he ended the at bat with a diving changeup that found its way underneath the bat after some late movement. Whitley has also shown a good ability to throw offspeed/breaking pitches in hitters counts. His ability to do this allows him to minimize the damage that he gives up, especially when hitters are gearing up for a fastball.