ST. LOUIS – Every baseball season represents a new opportunity for young players to show they belong in the big leagues. For the St. Louis Cardinals, that might prove truer more in 2023 than recent years.
A large pool of players will look to crave out larger roles this spring, and there will be plenty of friendly competition. The Cardinals’ current 40-man roster consists of 33 players who earned big-league experience with St. Louis last year. Ten of thirteen players who made their MLB debuts with the Cardinals last year will push for playing time once again.
As several regulars plan to participate in the World Baseball Classic in March, pitchers and position players alike could see more action in spring training.
“When we have this emerging group of young talent, they’re gonna get a lot of playing time,” said Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak.
Nearly three-quarters of the Cardinals roster consists of players under 30 years old, including some teammates born as recently as 2000. Several among that group spoke to media members at Winter Warm-Up on Saturday, notably enough with a veteran mindset. The general philosophy: Players welcome the competition and hope it brings the best out of them, even if they miss out on winning the big role.
“At the end of the day, I think my success or lack thereof is what determines the development for my career, and not necessarily what the other guys are doing. I don’t ever want to be the guy to get a leg up because it’s somebody else’s fault or somebody gets hurt. I want my spot because I earned it. And so I wouldn’t place a lot of importance on that. I see those guys as mentors for me, I see those guys as friends. We’re going out competing to win a World Series at the end of the year. So I’m competing with myself at the end of the day to be a better version of myself every single day, and that has nothing to do with them.
“If anything, it’s an opportunity that we have so many good arms, right? So you have stuff, you have experience, you have young talent with crazy stuff, right? So you look around the room, and you wonder what’s going to happen. But it’s opportunity ahead of us to be a great team. So I think it’s just about getting in worrying about each individual person being the best version of themselves. And then whatever shakes out at the end of the day will be the best for us. I think if we look internal, and we’re worried about what someone else is doing, none of us are going to be as good as we want to be.”
“Going into spring training, it’ll be fun to watch. The young guys compete for a spot. Somebody asked me a similar question earlier, and it’s tough because they’re your friends. But you also compete for the same jobs. So it’s different, but it’s exciting too. There’s a lot of great talent that I come up with. And even on the team, you got the Nolan Gorman the Juan Yepez, and stuff like that. It’s been it’s been fun to watch them and come up with them and kind of watch them grow.”
“[The Cardinals] do a really good job at just everyone going in there and competing for a position and a chance to play on the big league team. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna go in there and compete and try to win a job.”
“My main focus is internal and what I can do to get better and help this team win. That’s always been my number one focus … The great thing about baseball is you can never master this game. There’s always something you can get better at.”
“It’s nothing new for us on the pitching side, especially just coming to the minor leagues. We’ve had a crazy amount of talent come in and out and get up to the big leagues. But like, for me, personally, I’m just competitive. I want to come in. I want the job. If I’m in the bullpen, I want to I want to be the closer. If I’m the in the rotation, I want to be an ace. I just want to get the best bring the best to the table that I can that I can. Overall, I do think that brings the best out of you, that competition, no matter who it is. It could be your best friend right next to you, but it’s gonna make both y’all better. It’s no hard feelings. I mean, someone’s got to win the job but at the end of the day, we’re [all] here to want a championship.”
“We go into every year, especially us his younger guys, less-experienced guys, I think that we have a lot to prove. And so we put a lot of hard work into it. Sure there’ll be a little more opportunity, but I don’t think we’re treating it any differently than any other spring training. It’s just going in in the best shape that you can be and, you know, getting on a schedule there and, and performing when you get the ball.”
“I second that,” said Jake Walsh with a laugh after Naile’s comments.