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Grapefruit League Week 3: Ups & Downs

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Let’s overreact to largely meaningless Spring Training performances, lineups, and usage. In the third week of Spring Training games, who is trending up and down? What do the roster and lineup look like right now?

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Houston Astros Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There have been three full weeks of Grapefruit League games. That’s just enough time to get some good overreactions going! I’m here to feed those, looking deep into the insignificant and crystal-ball some future lineup and roster decisions. Really, this article format is just a fun way to talk about what happened this week and show some of my favorite highlights.

Who is trending up and down after Grapefruit League week 3?

WHO IS ON THEIR WAY UP

Adam Wainwright

The Cardinals veteran starter has had an incredible spring. In four starts, he has thrown 13.2 innings with just 2 walks and 13 K’s. He’s been so good that he makes this list this week despite having his worst start of the spring. On Wednesday, Waino went 4 and 2/3’s innings giving up 5 hits and 2 runs. He K’ed 4 batters and walked one. (Who wouldn’t have taken that from Carlos Martinez on Friday?) This is where I would normally put some kind of warning about 39-40 year-old pitchers. I won’t though. After a better-than-solid 2019 campaign, followed by a fantastic 2020 season, and now a lights-out spring, it’s best just to say, “ok, he’s special.” Let’s just hope he avoids injury.

Nolan Gorman

Has anyone had a more interesting spring than Nolan Gorman? His future position was stolen by some guy from Colorado. He was feeling cute and decided to go ahead and learn how to play second base. He’s received an early stamp of approval from Jose Oquendo and even made his way onto the field at the position. It’s impossible not to get excited about the idea of Gorman – with his 60/70 rated power tool – on the right side of the infield. This swing wasn’t Gorman’s best of spring. He’s hit balls harder. But it showcases what I love about his approach at the plate. A simple swing produced a 98.7 mph drive to the gap off a player with a really good slider.

He’s closer to the majors than you might think. He needs some time in the high minors to refine his overall approach at the plate and probably learn a couple new positions. If Carpenter can’t figure things out or there is a gap in the corner outfield, don’t be shocked if the Cards go ahead and turn to their other Nolan late in the season.

Also trending up: Kodi Whitely has been working his way up this list every week. He just needed chances. Now he’s showing what he can do in a bullpen. He’s allowed just one hit in 4.1 innings and struck out 6. I’ve said it all winter – just watch and see if he doesn’t find his way into high leverage innings in the bullpen.

WHO IS ON THEIR WAY DOWN

Matt Carpenter

Was it just two weeks ago that Mozeliak said the club’s “best case scenario” was Carpenter winning the second base job and leading off? Well, forget about it. Reports on Carpenter’s defense are positive, but his offense has been non-existent. While VEB’s John LaRue makes a case to look beyond the boxscore, he still has just one hit on the season. Tommy Edman was awarded the leadoff and second base spot by Mike Shildt earlier this week. You have to think that Carpenter is fighting for his roster spot at this point. Gorman is impressive. Jon Nogowski has had a great spring. Justin Williams might need a spot if MLB rules that he does not get awarded a 4th-year option. Jose Rondon and Max Moroff won’t go away. I’m not saying that Carpenter is going to be cut. I am saying that he’s going to have to perform at some point or he will lose his spot to someone who will.

Carlos Martinez

Martinez made his fourth start of the spring on Friday and the results were not pretty. First a caveat: I did not get to watch and a pitcher can look much better than their line indicates. That said, good results would have been very encouraging. Martinez came into camp with the opportunity to compete for the rotation spot that he once locked down. Mikolas’ injury and the Gomber trade pretty much guaranteed that competition never happened. The club is relying on Martinez to be something close to the starting pitcher he once was. Since I’m stuck today with box score analysis, let’s just own it and dig in. In four spring starts, Martinez has an ERA over 10. He has allowed 13 runs and 16 hits with more walks than strikeouts. He did have a 3 innings outing on Mar. 9 where he didn’t allow a run, despite walking two and giving up two hits. The next start – on the 14th – Martinez only allowed two runs in 4 innings. So, it’s not all bad. It’s just not very good. The Cardinals can’t do much about him, for now, but if this kind of up-and-mostly-down performance continues, Martinez could be on his way out of the rotation once KK and Mikolas return or if one of the young arms shines early season.

Junior Fernandez & Johan Quezada

This is the third reference to these two in three weeks. None of them have been positive. Fernandez and Quezada were both optioned to minor league camp earlier this week, effectively ending any chance they had at making the major league roster. This is very surprising for Fernandez, who seemed to be a lock for the bullpen as recently as 2019. Fernandez, who rose quickly that season, will have to prove himself in the minors to get back into the good graces of the coaching staff. Quezada, on the other hand, was probably always destined for AAA, but it didn’t take long for the coaches to decide that’s where he belongs. He remains an option in the future but it doesn’t look like he impressed in person as much as he might have on tape.

Also trending down: Johan Oviedo still hasn’t seen much action. Last year’s “talk of spring” and the go-to emergency starter for the COVID ravaged club has only appeared in one official Grapefruit League game, where he threw 2 innings. He’s likely seen more action in the backfields. That only means he’s been passed by Liberatore and Thompson, who continue to see competitive action.

My 26-Man Lineup/Roster Predictions as of today:

(changes from last week in italics)

Offense (13)

1. Tommy Edman (2b)
2. Paul Goldschmidt (1b)
3. Nolan Arenado (3b)
4. Paul DeJong (SS)
5. Tyler O’Neill (LF)
6. Yadi Molina (C)
7. Dylan Carlson (RF)
8. Harrison Bader (CF)
Bench: Andrew Knizner, Matt Carpenter, Lane Thomas, Justin Williams, Jose Rondon

Pitching (13):

1. Jack Flaherty
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Carlos Martinez
4. Daniel Ponce de Leon
5. John Gant
Bullpen: Hicks, Gallegos, Reyes, Miller, Cabrera, Webb, Helsley, Whitely

Just Missed:

Offense: Max Moroff, Edmundo Sosa
Pitching: Miles Mikolas (IL), Kwang-Hyun Kim (IL), Jake Woodford, Tommy Parsons

What changed?

As of now both Miles Mikolas and Kwang-Hyun Kim appear to be heading to the IL. News was pretty good for both players this week. KK was more aggressive than expected in his throwing session; he might be able to move quickly. Mikolas also threw and received a good report but is still very behind. Likely both players will land on the IL and Gant and Ponce will take their place, with Whitely coming onto the roster. The rest of the roster stays the same. I still have Rondon on and Edmundo Sosa off. For now. I’m less confident that will happen the closer the team gets to breaking camp. The Justin Williams option situation is still unresolved as of now. The club won’t cut him if they don’t have to, so he’s on unless MLB decides he gets an extra option year.