ST. LOUIS, MO- With Sunday’s win against the Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals have won three consecutive series for the first time all season. It is because it is the first time we can say this in 2018, and that it’s happening in August, which gives one pause about still passing a crowded field in the way of breaking the franchise’s playoff drought.
So regardless of what happens to the team over the next month and a half, there are still some important individual player evaluations to be completed in the remaining games this season.
- You can never have too much pitching, but: 2018 has seen a remarkable wave of pitching talent coming through the minor league system to the major league level. Hicks, Flaherty, Hudson, Gomber and Poncedeleon lead the pack in that regard. Where will all of it fit next year? Will Luke Weaver finish 2018 with an overall body of work and trends to show he deserves a shot at the rotation in 2019? All of the guys listed above, along with John Gant and Alex Reyes figure to be in the big leagues next season in some capacity.
- Ongoing outfield “churn”: Derrick Goold at the Post-Dispatch has a good look at how Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill quickly went from platooning in center after the Tommy Pham trade to having the chance at extensive playing time down the stretch thanks to Dexter Fowler’s injury. But as soon as that happened, O’Neill went down with a groin injury, bringing Adolis Garcia up from Memphis where the Cuban outfielder has been mashing away at AAA pitching. Garcia was playing himself into a September call-up but this headstart means his audition for a place on the roster next season starts now. Fowler was getting confidence back after the managerial change and now has the offseason to heal and recharge. It’s still hard to imagine Fowler being anywhere else in 2019 unless the Cardinals pay off a hefty amount of the contract in trade and or take on a bad contract in return. After giving up 4 prospects for Marcell Ozuna, the front office has to hope for a contract year push for the left fielder, although I suppose he could be parlayed for another player entering his walk year if the match was right. At least one outfielder in the current mix (including the disabled Fowler and O’Neill) will likely not be on the opening day roster next spring, in addition to Jose Martinez, who is a candidate to be moved to an AL team in search of a DH.
- Yairo Munoz: He’s been one of the pleasant surprises of the season with an athletic bat and defensive versatility in the outfield, third, shortstop and second. Where does he profile getting the most playing time next year?
- Carson Kelly/Andrew Knizner: Kelly was unable to gain traction in the majors this year when Yadier Molina went on the DL, leaving Francisco Pena to absorb the bulk of the playing time. Molina has two more years left on his contract and despite missing time with a groin injury, has continued tapping into a fountain of youth and shows no signs of being ready for a time-share. Pena is arbitration eligible in the offseason. Is he your backup? If something happens to Molina, who gets the call? If it isn’t Kelly, seen as ready defensively for the majors, then the franchise is potentially letting an asset lose value in the minors. Also waiting in the wings is Andrew Knizner, who has rocketed up the minor league system and the eyes of scouts. Neither of them are on the 25 man roster now, but Kelly would seem like a logical September recall.