As fun as spring training can be, the utility of the results leaves something to be desired. As we covered here (we, meaning stlcardsfan4) earlier this week, spring performances can occasionally matter, but it’s more on the extremes. Sometimes, it’s not about the results. The process frequently means more in baseball, particularly in short samples. That goes double for exhibition contests like spring training. Thankfully, we have a window into process by looking at Statcast results. Baseball Savant has statcast data for home games played by eleven teams this spring, including the Cardinals. Which players are standing out thus far?
Before proceeding, it’s important to clarify what’s included in the Statcast package this spring. As I mentioned, it only includes games played in one of 11 ballparks, including Roger Dean Stadium. The Cardinals are only playing four opponents this spring- the Astros, Marlins, Mets, and Nationals. Ballparks with Statcast data includes the Cardinals, the Marlins by proxy, and the Mets. In other words, the Cardinals have Statcast data available for all games except when they play on the road against the Astros and Nats, who share the same facility. To date, that means there’s data for six of their ten games. Even our limited sample is limited. Fortunately, at least some stats are useful pretty quickly. We’ll start with maximum exit velocity (MaxEV). Here are MaxEV’s for all Cardinal hitters this spring, along with their 2020 MaxEV. Players with asterisks had extremely small sample sizes for 2020.
Maximum Exit Velocity, STL Hitters, Through 3/17
The top of that last is interesting. First of all, Delvin Perez arrived at camp having packed on muscle and it showed up almost instantly in his MaxEV. That’s a very encouraging sign that he can convert his hard work into substantial gains. A version of Delvin Perez that can consistently make loud contact suddenly re-enters the prospect conversation in a big way. Two other low-level pickups for the Cardinals this off-season, José Rondon and Ali Sanchez, have each displayed an ability to make loud contact early on. Sanchez only has five plate appearances thus far, but he could be a very viable backup catching option. As for Rondon, he’s in a competition for the utility role with Max Moroff and Edmundo Sosa. Smoking 109.9 mph balls off the bat and OPS’ing 1.067 (to date) is surely a good way to stand out.
After that, two prized youngsters show up in Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson. It’s good to see Carlson surpass his 2020 MaxEV, and it’s impressive to see both Carlson and Gorman reaching the magical 108 threshold. For Gorman to do it at age 20 is all the more impressive.
Justin Williams is one player I want to highlight the most, ergo his image in the article header. In addition to that 110.8 mph rocket, he also has a batted ball at 107.6. He’s cracked 100 mph EV on 10 of his 15 batted balls, and his average EV (93.4) is being dragged down mightily by two nubbers at 45 and 52 mph EV. Here’s the list of Cardinals with the most barrels and solid contact:
Barrel + Solid Contact Leaders, Cardinal Hitters (through 3/17)
|Player||Barrels + Solid Contact|
|Player||Barrels + Solid Contact|
His 24 plate appearances are tenth on the team, but Williams has the most positive contact, even if his .182/.250/.318 slash line doesn’t reflect it. He is the King of Process Over Results right now. That’s a huge development for the Cardinals for a few reasons. First, he may or may not be out of options. If the arbiter rules that he’s out of options, it would behoove the Cardinals to start extracting value out of him now. Second, the roster is screaming out for a left-handed hitting outfielder like Williams.
There’s Gorman again in that table. I have no idea what his timeline is for reaching the majors, but... goodness, this kid is exciting. Everyone is down on Matt Carpenter right now, and I understand why, but he’s leading the team in barrels with four. In six tracked spring games, he has nearly half of the number of barrels as he had all last regular season (nine). He also has six walks. His four barrels have gone for three flyball outs and/or line drive outs, and a double. If you want to know why he’s slashing .045/.250/.091 this spring, that’s the reason. Over the last two seasons, barrels go for extra bases 77% of the time. For Carpenter this spring, it’s happened 25%. Change two of those three outs to doubles (as would happen to an average hitter), and suddenly he’s slashing .136/.321/.545 and people are seeing encouraging signs instead of burying his career. It’s obviously too early to read anything into it, but Carpenter is right there with Justin Williams as someone whose results aren’t aligned with his process.
In the meantime, Rondon is on there again, strengthening the notion that he should be the utility infielder on the roster. John Nogowski’s three barrel/solid contact at-bats combine with his six walks to suggest he’s earning a roster spot.
A lot of ink has been spilled on Tyler O’Neill at VEB. That’s because O’Neill flashes the form that makes folks dream of an above average defender with cartoonish power, much needed in the outfield, but has yet to fully develop at the big league leve.. Overall, you’d like to see him with a better MaxEV- he has yet to hit a ball this spring as hard as he hit last year in a disappointing year- but the fact that he’s getting plenty of barrels and solid contact is encouraging. We know that he’s trying to get back to more of the power-laden approach that got him to the majors in the first place. Translate some more of that into more eye-popping MaxEV and O’Neill could finally fulfill his promise.