Even though the 2020 MLB season will be just 60 games long, it will be a key season for a number of players on the Cardinals. There are a group of players on the fringes of the roster who are running out of option years and will be looking to stake their claim on a long term roster spot. So even though the season is abbreviated, it will still be especially important for a number of players.
With the designated hitter coming to the National League there may be more opportunities at the plate for the 28-year-old Ravelo. However, he is out of option years, meaning that he will need to impress in order to have a long term role in St. Louis. He may be able to impress, but he will have to earn his role with Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, and other young players all being potential options to DH for the team. A solid year could see Ravelo stay in St. Louis in the future, but if he does not break out then the Cardinals may not see a place for him in 2021. Ravelo may be able to at least begin the season in a platoon with the left handed hitting Matt Carpenter in the DH spot. Additionally, if Carpenter hits similarly to last season, then Ravelo could earn himself more at-bats. However, at this stage he is a relative unknown at the big league level and he will need to perform if he wants to stay in a Cardinals uniform for longer than this season.
Gomber appears to be another player who will benefit from the expanded rosters in 2020. The southpaw spent half of 2018 in St. Louis before missing most of 2019 with an injury. However, when he was healthy last year, Gomber was dominant and that could be a positive sign for the 2020 season. Additionally, he may be able to earn a stable role in the Cardinals bullpen now that John Brebbia will miss the entire season due to Tommy John surgery. However, Gomber is 26 years old and has just one option year left. He needs to impress in St. Louis and earn a regular role, whether as a starter or a reliever, if he wants to stick around for a while. It seems that he will be given his chance in 2020 and he must seize it unless he wants to enter 2021 without a minor league option or a solid history of MLB success. The southpaw still seems to have plenty of promise though, so it would not be too surprising to see him break out a bit this year.
Daniel Ponce de Leon
Similarly to Gomber, Ponce de Leon has just one option year left and may be a beneficiary of an increased role due to the John Brebbia injury. However, at 28, Ponce de Leon is two years older than Gomber and will be looking to jump start his career. He has performed well at the MLB level over the last two seasons but he is never someone who has been able to stick in the MLB over the course of a full season. This could be the year that he does that and if he is able to pitch well, then he could do it again next year, when the season (hopefully) returns to a full 162 game schedule. Gomber or Ponce de Leon would likely be among the top options to enter the rotation if any starter gets hurt and both of them will be looking to impress in order to secure their roster spots in the future.
Sosa has been in the Cardinals system since 2013 and with Paul DeJong, Kolten Wong, and Tommy Edman seemingly entrenched in the middle of the Cardinals infield there is not much more room for Sosa. Additionally, Sosa has just one option year left and has not recorded a wRC+ over 100 at any level above rookie ball since 2016. Due to this, as well as his strong fielding ability, Sosa may be best suited for a utility infield role behind Tommy Edman. However, the role of fourth middle infielder and second utility man in not one that provides a lot of job security. Therefore, Sosa will be looking to impress this year, in order to show that he can fill a bigger role. He may find this tough to do, however, as his 3.4% walk rate with Triple-A Memphis does not inspire much confidence. On a brighter note, he is the youngest player on this list at 24 years old, so the Cardinals may be willing to give him more time to develop if he can show some strong ability during the season.
Of the players on this list, Ravelo seems to need a strong 2020 season the most as he could find himself as a victim of a roster crunch next year if he does not break out this season. Additionally, Ponce de Leon and his strong fastball and Gomber and his signature curveball will likely be given chances to show that they belong in St. Louis. Both of these players have done well in the past and also have a history of minor league success, so it would not be surprising to see them entrench themselves in the Cardinals bullpen. Additionally, with Brett Cecil and Andrew Miller’s contracts ending after this season, there is plenty of opportunity for the left-handed Gomber to claim the top lefty role in the bullpen.
Finally, of all the players on this list, Edmundo Sosa seems the least likely to stake a long term claim to a role. With the universal DH looking like a permanent rule change there may be a role for Ravelo in the future if he impresses. Additionally, it looks likely that Ponce de Leon and Gomber will have good chances to earn full time bullpen roles. However, Sosa’s overall offensive ability is questionable and there simply may not be a role for him with the emergence of Tommy Edman, especially if Sosa does not improve at the plate. However, all of these players will need to impress during the 2020 season if they want to carve out roles for the future, and they will be some interesting names to watch on the fringes of the Cardinals roster.