Hopes are high for young St. Louis Cardinals going into spring training, but how many of them will make the big step to the major league team?
Bubble players throughout MLB have prepped all winter in an effort to be ready to put on a good showing when they arrive at spring training.
A bubble player is a player who is on the verge of either making the team or getting cut. They can be young or old, but most often people think of young players.
While everyone on this list is young, there is at least one on the list whose job could be in jeopardy.
Following are six players who have a good shot at making the squad out of spring training.
Joe Kelly, Jr. showed his worth to the Cardinals in 2012. He filled in as both a starter and a long reliever.
His NLDS run against the Washington Nationals had a large part to do with the Cardinals advancing. In three games, Kelly pitched 3.2 innings giving up no runs with three strikeouts. He struggled a bit more in the NLCS, but the NLDS performance showed that he is capable of pitching under real pressure.
While he’s not necessarily in danger of losing his job, Kelly is facing a strong crop of young relievers who will all be gunning for his job.
Without a miracle though, they won’t be taking that job any time soon. Kelly showed a level head and good attitude with impressive skills in 2012 and you can expect to see him again in 2013. With a year under his belt, we should get a better idea of where he belongs on the pitching staff.
Many believe Shelby Miller to be a shoo-in for the roster coming out of spring training, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
He performed well in 2012, including throwing six hitless innings in his debut as a starter against the Cincinnati Reds in the final game of the season. He also showed he can handle pressure in when he came back from a rough one-inning bullpen appearance in the NLCS to throw two scoreless innings with two Ks and one hit.
One of the two open starter jobs is his to lose. If he doesn’t make the starter spot, that could change things.
Miller projects as a starter, and given his problems at Memphis in 2012 it is doubtful the organization would see a bullpen stint as a positive development for his career.
I have little doubt that Miller will begin the season in St. Louis.
Prior to 2012, Trevor Rosenthal was one of the best-kept secrets in the organization. By the end of 2012 he was one of the most exciting pitching prospects in baseball.
Rosenthal's power, control and composure are far beyond his age, and he showed that repeatedly in his short stint with the Cardinals last year.
He pitched well in the regular season, but came alive during the postseason. In 8.2 innings over seven games, Rosenthal surrendered only two hits and strung together 15 strikeouts. His WHIP over the NLDS and NLCS was a stellar 0.462.
If he brings even a portion of that with him to spring training, he will no doubt be returning to St. Louis to start the season.
While some will think a 2012 top draft pick making the Opening Day roster is a stretch, with Michael Wacha it just might happen.
Wacha, 21, comes to the Cardinals via Texas A&M University on a mission.
Many may not know the name yet, but that’s not going to be the case for much longer.
In 2012 over three minor league levels, Wacha kept a 0.86 ERA through 21 IP. He gave up only eight hits, two runs and compiled 40 Ks with only four BBs.
If he shows that same ability throwing against major league batters in Florida, there’s a good chance he will be with the Cardinals on Opening Day.
When Lance Lynn made the move in 2012 to fill Chris Carpenter’s rotation spot, no one expected an 18-win season.
He had his hiccups throughout the season and even made a shift to the bullpen. Despite that, Lynn showed that he is capable of being a quality starting pitcher.
Much like Miller, he is not a pitcher who needs to be bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen. Lynn, who many times in 2012 struggled through a first inning, is more of a marathon pitcher than a bottle rocket.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week that Lynn arrived at the Cardinals' spring training facility in Jupiter, Fla. much lighter and in the best shape of his professional career.
Coming out of spring training, expect him to fill one of those two open starter spots.