Spring Roundtable – Bench Musings

Yesterday was my turn in the spring roundtable discussions, and I decided to focus on the players that will make up the bench. We all know what the starting lineup will be on opening day (so long as nobody gets injured in spring training, knock on wood). There are going to be a couple spots on the bench that may be up for grabs. Let’s see what the other UCBers thought before I give my thoughts.

Doug Vollet – Baseball Geek in Galveston

I think Ty Kelly should make it over Dean Anna or Kozma given his OBP skills, but I’ll bet he starts out at AAA while Kozma gets the “he’s a veteran, he deserves to be up here” tag.

As a fan, I’d like to see what Piscotty could do against big league pitching. As a GM wannabe, I know it makes more sense for him to start out the season at AAA, given our pair of extra OF-ers in Grichuk and Bourjos.

Cruz is our de-facto backup catcher, but as last year proved, we don’t rrust him for long stretches, so we should look into acquiring someone we *can* trust. As last year proved, yadi isn’t invulnerable. One more awkward slide and we might be scrambling again.

That’s my two cents.

Bill Ivie – I-70 Baseball

I think the bench is fairly well set, despite what fans may hope for. This roster looks pretty settled, barring any injuries.

With that, I would anticipate a bench of – Mark Reynolds, Pete Kozma, Tony Cruz, Randal Grichuk and Peter Bourjos.

That said, if Piscotty tears the cover off the ball in spring and Grichuk or Bourjos stumbles, I could see that changing. Anna or Kelly will have to play their way on to the team out of spring and, similar to what Doug said, I’m not sure they can overcome the “veteran” tag on Kozma.

I’m excited to have baseball back but this spring may be pretty vanilla if you’re a Cards fan.

Dathan Brooks – Go Crazy, Big Boy

It seems like it always happens during these roundtables…but I agree with Bill.  (Still hard to make myself type that–LOL)

Given MLB rules prohibiting Matheny from doing it, we need a backup catcher, and Cruz is it, for better or worse.  RG & PB give OFers days off when needed, or allow Holliday to DH when the time comes, ratcheting the OF defense up a notch or five.  I think Reynolds HAS to be on the bench.  There’s been a glaring lack of power off the bench the past couple of years, and while there are obviously several holes in his bat, if a pitcher makes a mistake to a veteran guy with power like him, it could be the difference in the game.  That said, mark my words, there will be fans calling for Reynolds’ crucifix by the ASB, due to those Ks.  Kozma might be the only guy who could get bumped.  Maybe Scruggs, maybe Piscotty, who knows…I agree that it’s probably less probably for that, though.

Matt Whitener – Cheap Seats Please

I believe the bench to be fairly set as well, with some fairly defined roles.

Catcher is Cruz’s because while he certainly has some limitations at the plate, he does call a good game and has a proven rapport with the staff. And that is really all that I want from a backup catcher. Everything else is a bonus. The team is making succession plans for Molina currently, but with Cody Stanley and Carson Kelly still in the oven, Cruz fills a low-cost/relative value need.

Mark Reynolds is the shoe in, and said that he is comfortable with spelling Carp at third as well. So he kills three birds with one stone in regards to value.

Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk are the obvious fills in the outfield, and a pretty nice surplus to have. In some regards, I would like to see Grichuk get more at-bats to develop still (his progress with secondary pitches will be something I’ll be watching closely this spring/early in the year), but there’s a need for him with the big club so I see why he is here. However, I would not be surprised if there is a strong push from a Stephen Piscotty or Tommy Pham that Grichuk’s spot is not as secure as it may seem.

The infield is the interesting part, but I think by a device of both contract status and purpose that Kozma is the guy. There is still a need for a ranging middle infielder at both shortstop and second and Kozma fills that role. Also, I do not see the team simply releasing him at the end of camp either. I would like to see more of Dean Anna and Ty Kelly, but versatility is a strength for both as well and Greg Garcia has not played bad when given the opportunity either. However, I think that Kozma has the more defined and superior skill in his glove which holds more specific value here now. The only way I am against him making the club early on is if the team can get back a piece of value elsewhere in a trade.

So, I believe a bench of Reynolds, Kozma, Cruz, Bourjos and Grichuk gets the job done, for now.

However, as an addendum. I believe this will be a very busy year for guys from Memphis making their way onto the Cardinal roster as well, with Kelly, Anna, Piscotty, Pham, Scott Moore, Mike O’Neill and Xavier Scruggs all seeing some time here. And probably shaking up the scene significantly by the time its all said and done.

Mark Tomasik – RetroSimba

I expect the backups to be Tony Cruz at catcher, Mark Reynolds at first base and third base, Pete Kozma at shortstop and second base, Randal Grichuk and Peter Bourjos in the outfield.

Daniel Shoptaw – C70 at the Bat

I’ll add to the echo chamber. I really can’t see the bench being anything but what everyone else has listed, especially given the fact Kozma is out of options.  If they could send him to Memphis, that might change the equation a bit, but I don’t think they want to lose his glove.

I really can’t see where, barring injury, any of this could change.  As noted, this is a roster that’s not at all in flux right now.

Eugene Tierney – 85% Sports

I agree with everyone else. Cruz,  Reynolds, Kozma, Bourjos, and Grichuk will probably be the bench. I’d like to see Garcia over Kozma, but the option thing goes in Pete’s favor.

Scruggs, Pham, Kelly, and Anna all are bound for Memphis and will only see MLB time for an injury or some major struggling.

Dan Buffa – Cardinals Farm

The bench is the most stable thing going into the season but I think there could be some shakeups along the way.

Mark Reynolds was brought in to back up the Matt’s on the infield but he is a primary bench power threat at all times. He will strike out a lot but for a guy with seven straight 20 home run seasons like Reynolds, sometimes it hurts not to swing.

Pete Kozma is a Matheny guy, takes the de facto Descalso spot on the roster as the utility infielder/third catcher/blowout bullpen pitching option and I am fine with it. Kozma is a superb infield defender and his bat can catch fire here and there. What more do you want in a guy off the bench? Kelly and Anna will keep Kozma honest throughout the season.

Randal Grichuk has the leg up on Stephen Piscotty because of his playoff home runs, outfield defense and the fact Matheny likes what he brings to the table. Bourjos is there as well. I do expect Stephen Piscotty and Xavier Scruggs to make John Mozeliak’s job hard throughout the season especially if they both sizzle in the spring. Tommy Pham isn’t getting any younger and is a strong all around player when healthy, so expect him to knock on the door.

Due to the lack of challengers, Tony Cruz is the guy behind Yadier. Sure, he knows the staff and supplies good defense, but if Molina goes down Mo has to find a backup because Cruz simply isn’t a starter. That is the one position where I worry about but it’s tricky. Molina never sits unless he gets seriously injured, so it’s not easy to find a guy and tell him he is going to sit a lot. This will come up stronger in 2016 and 2017 when Molina’s innings and age start to factor in.

The bench is ready but spring could flip the tables a bit if certain players surprise with their performances. Piscotty, Pham and Kelly could challenge the proposed seat holders which makes it all the more fun to watch.

Daniel Solzman – Redbird Rants

I expect Tony Cruz, Mark Reynolds, and Peter Bourjos for sure to head north with the Cardinals.  These three are the no-brainers.

Either Pete Kozma or Greg Garcia will, too, seeing as how the emergency backup catcher is now with the Rockies.

Either Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty makes the club as the fifth outfielder.

My thoughts…

I agree with pretty much everyone here. I think that it will end up being Cruz, Reynolds, Kozma, Bourjos, and Grichuk on the bench to start the year.

I would prefer Grichuk to get another year at AAA, though. Last year was his first above AA, and if you add up the two years that he was at AA and AAA, 1014 PAs total, he’s hitting around .257 with an on base percentage around .308. Not exactly great numbers. He needs more seasoning, especially against breaking balls. He may be able to launch fastballs quite far when he gets ahold of them, but I he needs more time to develop, and then he may be a good 4th outfielder in the future.

I’d like to see what Ty Kelly could do, especially since he’s an on-base machine. The guy still has some pop, but with the way he’s hit the last couple of years at the high levels, I’d prefer him as a bench bat instead of Grichuk. If we’re not paying any attention to positions (and really trading a 2nd outfielder for a 3rd infielder, neither are going to see the field very often unless Matheny plays them when he shouldn’t, which is very likely), then the only thing I care about is hitting, and comparing AA and AAA numbers, Kelly is a better hitter than Grichuk, hands down.

Those are just my thoughts. If you have any, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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