Previous Preview: Shortstop
Just as shortstop was a revolving door of players last season for the Cardinals, and will be manned by a steady starter this year, third base is actually the polar opposite. Troy Glaus played in a dependable 151 games last season but will miss the first portion of 2009 with shoulder surgery.
And his replacements are not exactly proven.
The leading candidate to replace him his Tony La Russa favorite Joe Mather. La Russa has been quoted as saying that when he heard of Glaus' surgery, he "immediately thought of Joe Mather."
Why TLR thought of the 26-year-old outfielder instead of prized prospect Brett Wallace or impressive minor league sluggers Allen Craig and David Freese is still beyond me.
Mather actually played pretty well in his brief stint in the majors last season, hitting only .241 but hitting eight homers in very limited duty, including a couple big shots late in games. But hold will he handle third?
He actually has a similar body type to Glaus, so hopefully position coach Jose Oquendo will be able to work some magic until Troy can return to the field.
As for Freese and Craig? If I was a gambling man, I'd bet on Craig to make the roster, while Freese will return to Memphis to gain some momentum. Freese never got a chance to perform this spring training because of lingering effects to his Achilles tendon, which was injured in a car crash in January.
Craig on the other hand, has been very good. He has hit well this spring and fielded his position decently well for a young player. Although TLR is adamant about "getting the best players onto the field" by any means necessary, Craig has certainly impressed.
And what about Wallace? Rated by some services as the top third base prospect in the majors, he'll probably start the season at Double-A Springfield in order to get every day playing time and continue to improve his fielding.
But don't rule out a September call-up.
This position should be in decent, albeit unproven, hands before Glaus' return in May or June.