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What the 26 man roster tells us

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The Cardinals decision help reflect what they think of certain players

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

We now know what the Cardinals 26 man roster will look like when the first pitch is thrown on Opening Day in a few days. No more speculating about who might or might not make the team. And while most of the roster is predictable which is always the case, some of the decisions made were interesting. And I think based on the moves, we can derive at least a little bit of information on the Cardinals opinion of some players.

Yesterday, Skyricesq posted the roster machinations and I’m probably going to be treading some similar ground here, but what else am I going to write about before actual games are played. The importance of spring training? So I’m going to read into these decisions just a little too much and share my thoughts on the moves.

Lane Thomas is done

In terms of definitely reading too much into things, Lane Thomas being demoted says everything about what the Cardinals think of Lane Thomas I think. The Cardinals have zero actual centerfielders on the roster. And while Carlson has some experience playing CF, just about nobody else does. If Lane Thomas can’t make the team under these conditions, I really don’t think he can be considered a factor going forward.

Or the only thing we learn about Lane Thomas’ demotion is that the Cardinals are reading too much into spring training stats. Like whatever you or I think about Thomas, it’s entirely possible they still “believe” in Thomas but he sucked this spring, so that’s why they sent him down. I feel like they have to not think very highly of him at the very least with this move though honestly.

They are high on Carlson’s CF defense

In all honestly, I was not impressed with Carlson in CF last year. At all. I’m no scout of course. But he seemed like a clearly below average defensive centerfielder who should definitely be in the corners. I don’t think the Cardinals agree with me, and I think it’s less about the fact that Carlson is the starter in CF and more about demoting Thomas. If they were more worried about Carlson’s defense, they might have Thomas as a possible late inning replacement.

Because there is nobody else. Tyler O’Neill has barely played CF in his professional career. I’m sure, with his speed, he might be okay there, but O’Neill would be the announced centerfielder in Bader’s absence if they wanted him to play CF, and they clearly are trying to avoid that. Justin Williams has played exclusively in the corners. And Austin Dean and John Nogowski are, uh, not here for their defense.

The Cardinals have some belief in Jake Woodford

I am aware Woodford’s presence on the team, in all likelihood, is entirely due to a concern that the starting pitchers will not throw enough innings. But if they thought he was as bad as I think he is, I don’t think he’d be in the majors at all. He is, to be perfectly fair, younger than you’d think (24). So anything’s possible. But he hasn’t had good stats since High A - he pitched poorly in both AA and AAA, plus last year.

I just don’t know how useful a pitcher like him really is on a roster, when ideally, he only pitches when the Cardinals are getting blown out. Which doesn’t really happen often enough to warrant having a roster spot for that guy. If he’s a guy who is brought in because Poncedeleon could only last 3 innings due when it’s still a close game, and the Cards are okay with that, they think higher of him than I do. By a lot. And the Cards bullpen is filled with guys who can throw multiple innings, including Kodi Whitley (who Woodford was chosen over), who threw 23.2 IP in 16 games when last seen in AAA, and has a similar usage to that in the rest of his minor league career.

The Cardinals are okay with a one dimensional bench

Does anybody else find it weird that the Cardinals have not one, not two, but three position-less players who are there only because they might be able to hit? Austin Dean seems to be a horrendous fielder, John Nogowski has so little experience in the outfield - essentially just this spring training - that he’s very likely bad out there too, and Matt Carpenter would probably be quite bad at the only position he has a chance of playing regularly. It’s just kind of odd to me that we have three players who would need to wRC+ about 115-120 to overcome their defensive limitations, and that none of them have a very good shot of doing that.

Of course, I don’t think any of the three are likely to start on a regular basis - the two bad outfielders have a shot of being platooned with Justin Williams until Harrison Bader returns - but that’s about it. So three guys are there for pinch-hitting duties really. Does nobody else find this weird? Also, in the completely opposite direction, Edmundo Sosa is also one dimensional in being glove-only player.

Will John Gant move back to the bullpen first?

So I was kind of operating under the assumption that as soon as Kwang-Hyun Kim returned, he would take Poncedeleon’s spot, until I saw the order that the rotation would pitch.

That’s the way Mike Shildt announced it. Kim is largely expected to come back fairly quickly to the point where one of those five starters is only starting 1 or 2 games (ideally), so does this mean Gant moves back to the bullpen when Kim returns? Or does Kim’s current schedule align him to take Poncedeleon’s spot? I just find the order interesting personally. And yes, both of them, presumably are currently set to return to the bullpen at some point if things progress well for both Miles Mikolas and Kim. But the “when” of that question is what I’m curious about.

Like I said at the top, I know I’m reading too much into these decisions when most of them can be explained by “he had a good or bad spring” and it could literally be as simple as that, but theoretically, the adds and cuts tell us these things. I’m excited for Opening Day and hope these decisions won’t be regretted.