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The Cardinals Depth Is Getting Tested Early

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MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at St. Louis Cardinals Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals have played just 11 Spring Training games, yet they have suffered a myriad of injuries already. This is unfortunate for a team that is looking to repeat as division champions in the competitive NL Central. It is especially unfortunate that the Cardinals are dealing with so many injuries so early in the spring. This is a situation that will test the team’s depth and will also give some of the young minor leaguers a chance to make an impression in competitive games at the big league level.

The first important player to get injured for an extended period of time was Miles Mikolas. The Cardinals 2019 Opening Day starter is dealing with a forearm injury that is likely going to cause him to miss the beginning of the season. He is currently schedule to begin playing catch on March 11, but it will take him some time to build himself up to competitive game speed. This leaves a void in the Cardinals rotation that will need to be filled. The fifth starter position was already open, but this now leaves two spots open in the rotation to begin the season. The two likeliest candidates are currently Kwang-hyun Kim and Carlos Martinez, but there is a chance that players such as Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon could slide into the rotation as well. However, it appears more likely for this duo to head to the bullpen or the AAA rotation to begin the 2020 season.

Recently, Yairo Munoz suffered a hamstring injury that is likely going to keep him out past Opening Day. His spot on the major league roster was already questionable, but he was having a very good spring training before the injury. This injury further emphasizes the prudence of signing Brad Miller at the beginning of Spring Training as he and Tommy Edman should be able to provide reliable infield depth. This injury also gives players such as Edmundo Sosa or a young outfielder and increased chanceof making the team as there is now one less competitor for the Opening Day roster.

In more recent news, Andrew Miller was scheduled to pitch on Monday, but he was unable to warm up because he could not get a feel for the ball. This is worrisome for the Cardinals as Miller is likely going to be the primary lefty in the bullpen and play a big role throughout the season. This is an injury that does not sound good. The Cardinals have been running tests on him, but it would not be shocking if he misses Opening Day as he could have a nerve issue. It will be interesting to see what the diagnosis is, but Miller is another key piece that could be absent for Opening Day. With Jordan Hicks already sidelined for at least the first half of the season, there is plenty of opportunity in the Cardinals bullpen for someone to claim a key role in the place of Miller and Hicks. Candidates for this include John Brebbia, Junior Fernandez, John Gant, and Ryan Helsley. Additionally, depending on the length of Milller’s injury, if the Cardinals look to add another southpaw to the roster, Genesis Cabrera could make the team as he has looked impressive in the spring so far.

Additionally, several members of the team have experienced some minor injuries that are not a cause for concern, but perhaps something to keep an eye on. Some examples of this are groin soreness for Kim that pushed back his scheduled start and back stiffness for Matt Carpenter and Brad Miller. However these are likey just soreness caused from getting back into game shape.

Despite these injuries, it is difficult to say that the Cardinals have gotten worse. The pair of signings that the Cardinals made this offseason - signing Brad Miller and Kwang-Hyun Kim - were made primarily to add depth to the major league roster. With the injuries that the team has already experienced, these moves have proven to be smart. By replacing Mikolas with either Kim or Martinez, the Cardinals should be able to get comparable production. Additionally, the signing of Kim allowed the Cardinals to push one potential starter into the bullpen, which should help the team cover for the potential absence of Andrew Miller. Austin Gomber and Genesis Cabrera have the potential to be solid MLB contributors this season and should be able to provide similar production to Miller. Even though Miller is a big name, he struggled last season to the tune of a 4.45 ERA and 5.19 FIP. This kind of production is replaceable, and by giving an opportunity to one of these two young left-handers the Cardinals are giving them a chance to make an impression and earn their spot for both this season and the future. For a team that has not had much success with left-handed pitchers, this pair of homegrown options could change that in the future.

Additionally, Edmundo Sosa has shown some promise in the Spring and it would be interesting to see what he can do if he makes the Opening Day roster. He has a big league glove, and if he can prove that he can hit, then the Cardinals could have another good young infielder. This injury to Munoz, while not significant, might have made him the favorite for a bench spot.

The Cardinals have more than enough depth to cover for the current injuries. While these injuries are never good for the team, they will provide opportunity for the young guys, and it will be interesting to see if anyone steps up in Spring Training to fully stake their claim on a job in the regular season.