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St. Louis Cardinals: Grading Each Player's Spring Training

Jeff SucherContributor IIIMarch 29, 2013

St. Louis Cardinals: Grading Each Player's Spring Training

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    With Opening Day just a few days away, the Cardinals will wrap up an interesting spring training Friday and head for Arizona.

    Having to replace two starting pitchers and a shortstop and lineup an everyday second baseman, the Cardinals had a lot to accomplish.  Now that the spring is all but wrapped up, they have done a nice job filling each one of their needs and appear ready to hit the ground running.

    The final 25-man roster has not been announced officially yet, but it appears to be pretty close to taking its shape.  Using the depth chart listed on stlcardinals.com as a basic guide, here are spring training grades for each player.

Starting Pitchers

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    With Chris Carpenter going down and Kyle Lohse leaving town, the Cardinals had to fill two spots in the rotation this spring.  With a plethora of internal options, the Cardinals were able to take a long hard look before settling on their rotation.  

    Here are the grades for the starting five:

    Adam Wainwright: A-

    Waino looked to be regaining his 2009-10 form toward the end of spring.  His curveball is sharp and has the break it had before his Tommy John surgery.  He must have impressed the Cardinal brass as he signed a five-year, $97.5 million deal this week. Wainwright finished this spring with a 4-1 record with a 3.00 ERA.

    Jaime Garcia: A+

    Coming off an injury from last postseason, it was unclear which Jamie Garcia would show up.  But as the spring went along, it was clear the Cardinals were dealing with the Garcia who was signed to a four-year extension in the summer of 2011.

    Garcia went 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 29 innings this spring.

    Jake Westbrook: B

    Westbrook looked solid in the spring.  He has never been a guy with great stuff, but if his sinker is sinking, he should be able to complete six decent innings.  His spring wasn't anything special but wasn't awful either.  Jake went 2-1 with a 3.60 in 20 innings in the Grapefruit League.

    Lance Lynn: C

    Lance Lynn came into camp much lighter this spring and ready to go secure his spot in the rotation. While his new physique looked good, it didn't translate into consistency on the mound, yet.  He looked great at times, and then when you blinked, he looked just like the melt down guy in the playoffs.  

    However, Lynn was dominant in his final spring training start of 2013. He mowed down the final 14 Marlins he faced and only allowed two hits in six innings of shutout ball.  

    All in all, Lynn wasn't awful and secured his spot in the rotation.  He posted a 2-3 record with a 4.94 ERA and hitters batted .280 off him this spring.  Hopefully for Cardinals fans, he'll start the 2013 campaign in the same fashion as he did in 2012.

    Shelby Miller: B

    Knowing he was coming into the spring with a legitimate shot at a rotation spot, Miller performed fairly well.  His spring efforts proved enough to be named the fifth starter.  Miller posted a 2-0 record with a 3.94 ERA and struck out 13 in his 16 innings of work.

Bullpen

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    As the Cardinals begin the 2013 season, the bullpen is a strength once again.  Even with closer Jason Motte most likely starting the season on the DL, the Cardinals are loaded in the pen.  

    Jason Motte: B+

    Although his ERA finished at 5.00 in spring training, Motte didn't allow an earned run in his last five appearances.  Hitters only batted .189 off him, and he converted his only save opportunity. Hopefully, his elbow soreness is not serious, and the bearded wonder will be back on the bump by late April.

    Mitchell Boggs: A+

    Boggs looked extremely sharp this spring.  He converted all three save opportunities, with a 1.13 ERA, and hitters batted only .185 off him this spring.  He will do a fine job filling the closer role should Motte start the season on the DL.

    Edward Mujica: D-

    Spring was not kind to Edward Mujica.  He got bombed most of the spring, posting a 8.46 ERA.  Batters hit .346 off Mujica, and he gave up 18 hits in 11.2 innings pitched. Historically, Mujica hasn't pitched well in the spring, so hopefully this spring was just par for the course, and he'll return to his dominant second-half 2012 form.

    Randy Choate: B-

    Choate was brought in to stabilize the lefty specialist role for the Cardinals in 2013.  His spring was very pedestrian.  He made 11 appearances and as would be expected in his role, pitched 5.2 innings.  He had a solid 3.38 ERA, but his WHIP was 1.88 and batters hit .318 off him this spring.  He'll need to cut down the walks as he usually will face only one or two batters a game during the season.

    Marc Rzepczynski: B

    Rzepczynski was, at times last season, the only lefty in the Cardinals bullpen.  Coming into camp, Zep knew he wouldn't have to carry the lefty load all alone this season.  He pitched pretty well this spring, posting a 3.12 ERA and struck out eight in 8.2 innings pitched.  He will also need to work on bringing his 1.62 WHIP down as the season begins. 

    Fernando Salas: A+

    Salas pitched extremely well this spring.  He looked like the guy Cardinal fans came to love in 2011 when he put up excellent numbers.  During his 2013 tour through the Grapefruit League, Salas had a 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and struck out 10 in 9.1 innings pitched. Batters also hit a paltry .125 off Salas this spring.  

    Trevor Rosenthal: B+

    Rosenthal knew fairly early in spring training that he'd be in the bullpen.  He did get one start in, but it became clear as Rosenthal pitched this spring he'd be a huge asset in the bullpen.  While touching the 100s on a regular basis this spring, Rosenthal kept batters off balance.

    Batters hit .208 off Rosenthal this spring, and he struck out 11 in 13.1 innings pitched.  He will be a dominant late-inning guy for the Cardinals this season.

    Joe Kelly: C-

    Until last week, Joe Kelly was competing for the final spot in the Cardinals rotation.  Now as he finds himself in the bullpen, hopefully he can sharpen his game a bit.  Kelly didn't have a great spring.  His ERA was 5.54 and he only struck out two batters in 13 innings.  Hitters also batted .300 off him and he walked six.

    Now that he knows his role for the time being, Kelly should settle in and be a nice long relief man for the Cardinals.

Infield

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    With Rafael Furcal going down for the season with Tommy John surgery and David Freese starting the season on the DL, the Opening Day infield will be a bit shuffled.  But once everyone is settled in, the Cardinals should have a decent infield.  The defense may suffer a bit, but the offense from the infielders should more than make up for any defensive weakness.

    Allen Craig: A-

    The Cardinals believe Allen Craig can man first base for years to come in St. Louis.  Craig was locked up a few weeks ago with a five-year, $31 million extension.  After Craig signed the deal, he went right back to doing what he does best: drive in runs.

    In 19 games this spring, Craig has driven in 13 runs.  He also has hit .300 and walked 11 times and posted an .886 OPS.

    Matt Carpenter: A-

    Coming into camp with the opportunity to be the everyday second baseman, Carpenter took the opportunity and ran.  Carpenter won the position but will actually be the starting third baseman on Opening Day with David Freese starting the season on the DL.

    With all Carpenter had going on coming into the spring, he managed to hit well and play well in the field, thus the high grade.  He batted .318 and walked a team-high 12 times.  His versatility will be a major help to the Cardinals this season.

    Pete Kozma: A

    Opportunities sometime fall right into your lap.  Pete Kozma would be a fine example of being in the right place at the right time.  With Rafael Furcal out for the season with Tommy John surgery, Kozma won the starting job at shortstop.  

    Kozma, a career .236 hitter in the minor leagues, hit .333 in limited duty last season for the Cardinals. This spring he continued his hot hitting, putting up a .355 average and driving in 15 runs, good for second on the team.  

    David Freese: B-

    Freese had a decent spring before heading to the DL to start the season.  He was batting .267 and blasted two home runs.  Injuries seem to creep up on Freese almost every year.  Hopefully for Freese and Cardinals, this will be his only stint on the DL in 2013.

    Matt Adams: A+

    Matt Adams knew he had to have a heck of a spring to make the Opening Day roster.  He answered the challenge and did just that.  Adams leads the team with 17 RBI and swatted three home runs while batting .297.  It is highly likely that Adams' impressive spring will land him a spot on the bench as a power lefty bat and backup first baseman.

    Daniel Descalso: A

    Descalso will be the ultra-utility man this season.  He has hit well this spring, putting up a .354 average and is second on the club with 23 hits.  It is very likely that he will see time at third base, shortstop and second base for the Cardinals this season.  Having been a soft hitter so far in the major leagues, hopefully Descalso will take his hitting from this spring with him to the regular season.

    Ty Wigginton: D

    The Cardinals signed Wigginton for his ability to play multiple positions and provide a little pop off the bench.  He did not hit well this spring, posting just a .135 average.  Wigginton will hopefully straighten out his swing quickly and be an asset off the bench this season.

Outfield

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    The outfielders should be a major plus for the Cardinals this season.  Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran make up one of the best outfields in the National League.  Holliday and Beltran may have lost a step defensively, but they more than make up for it at the plate.  Jon Jay plays a mean center field and if he can hit away from Busch Stadium this season, could have a career year.

    Matt Holliday: B+

    Holliday has his bat in shape to start the season.  He has hit .310 this spring with two home runs and drove in seven runs in 42 at-bats.  Hopefully Cardinal fans will see a bit more power from Holliday this season and perhaps see him blast over 30 home runs for the first time in a Cardinal uniform.

    Jon Jay: B+

    Jay has played fairly well this spring.  Jay continues to man center field as well as he did last year and is the field general in the outfield.  He also is batting .310 and has put up a .844 OPS.  Now Jay will need to continue to hit going into the season.  He couldn't hit away from Busch Stadium last season, posting a .224 average. That needs to change this year for him to keep his spot all season. 

    Carlos Beltran: Incomplete

    Beltran played for his hometown Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic this spring.  As such, he hasn't had a lot of spring training at bats.  He did hit .297 in the WBC but only drove in one run in his nine games.  If the Cardinals can get a repeat of 2012 from Beltran, they will be elated.  Time will tell as Beltran will be 36 this season.  He'll need more time off this year to keep his bat and his knees fresh.

    Shane Robinson: A+

    Shane Robinson hit camp with the proverbial chip on his shoulder.  However, the chip was named Oscar Taveras.  Robinson spent the entire spring competing with Taveras for the fourth outfielder spot.  While no official decision has been made, it is highly likely Robinson will be the guy.

    He blistered the baseball this spring.  Robinson is hitting .452 with 14 RBI and a 1.242 OPS.  He showed he is ready to take a spot on the Cardinals bench and be ready when called upon.   

Catchers

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    The Cardinals have the best in the business behind the plate in Yadier Molina.  San Francisco Giants fans may disagree, but Molina is the most complete catcher in the majors.  Last year he came of age at the plate and put up big numbers to go along with his defensive prowess.

    Yadier Molina: Incomplete

    Molina also played in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico.  He hit OK there, posting a .286 average in seven games.  In his nine games for the Cardinals this spring, Yadi is pounding the ball at a .458 clip.  

    Molina will probably hit sixth in the lineup this season and should pickup where he left off last season, a career year for Yadier.  He will continue to be a force behind the plate defensively and will call great games this season.

    Tony Cruz: C

    Cruz did exactly what you would expect a backup catcher to do this spring.  He hit in the high .220s and knows he will spell Yadier Molina once or twice a week.  He did a decent job driving in eight runs in 18 games this spring.  There shouldn't be much expectation on Cruz this season other than to play when called upon.

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