Tag Archive | "Assumption"

Cardinals Position of Interest: Organizational Shortstop

The most talked about issue for the St. Louis Cardinals is what is going on at shortstop. The loss of Rafael Furcal to elbow surgery has hastened the future of the lone position on the organization’s map where there is no ideal succession plan in place. It was an issue that was on thin ice all winter, and could be a focus throughout the summer and into next winter as well. The options at shortstop include more questions than answers, and addressing the issue start both at the bottom of the organization all the way to the top of it.

Ryan_Jackson

Majors: The injury to Furcal set everything in a different direction than hoped for. While there was always a cautious optimism regarding his status, if not a given assumption that it would be a multiple man job this season. The worst came to be with Furcal never even making it to a spring lineup, and simultaneously activating every backup scenario possible at once for a replacement.

The initial answer to the question will be Pete Kozma, incumbent replacement for Furcal when the injury ended his season last fall. Kozma has been making a statement for his fitness for the spot, hitting .419, through 10 games, but due to his inconsistent past since being made the team’s first round pick in 2007, questions will continue to surround his performance. Defense will continue to be a work in progress for him, but the idea is that his only job is to keep the position stable for the time being.

Behind him, is a mixture of utility men in Ronny Cedeno and Ryan Jackson. Cedeno was brought in to be a support option in case Furcal wasn’t ready, and he has remained in that capacity behind Kozma. He has struggled in the spring, which has gone very noticed by GM John Mozeliak. Despite having a partially guaranteed Major League contract, prolonged struggles could make him this season’s J.C. Romero. Jackson was the first promotion to fill in for Furcal last year, due to his similar range to Furcal in the field, but his greatest advantage with the glove has been offset severely by his limitations at the plate.

High Minors: The minor league ranks have begun to blend with the Major Leagues as of late. Jackson could very well be the odd man out in the chase for a spot in St. Louis, and would be left to continue on in Memphis. He’s got the best glove of any shortstop in the system, but has shown no bat at all in brief stint last season (.118 in 18 at-bats) or this spring (.143 through 10 games). But he did manage to hit over .270 for three seasons while he rose from the Single to Triple A levels, so there’s some medium for him to improve upon…if he regains the chance to do so, due to a new teammate this year.

Greg Garcia is looming as perhaps the best current fit for the long-term picture up the middle. He played the entire season at Double-A Springfield, and hit .284 with 20 doubles and 10 home runs, while managing to have an impressive 80 walks vs. 83 strikeouts. He’ll be 23 this season, and will be the starter in Memphis this season. Garcia’s future is probably more of a Descalso (who he profiles quite similarly to thus far in the minors), but an offensive profile of this sort plays much better at shortstop than at second base. He has shown a steady improvement throughout the system, and is perhaps the lone prospect with a chance to actually fill into more potential as he matures.

Cardinals hitting coach John Mabry stated in February at the Cardinals Winter Warm Up that Garcia would see plenty of opportunities to show what he could do this spring, due to the World Baseball Classic’s impact on the spring roster, but the loss of Furcal has now made auditioning Kozma the top priority, and Garcia’s chances thus far have been less than originally anticipated.

The lone issue at hand is how Jackson fits into the picture now, especially with Kolten Wong being the everyday second baseman at Memphis for the time being. Garcia’s improved stock, combined with Kozma’s increased role and the presence of Cedeno, have thrown his role into question.

At Springfield, Jake Lemmerman, who was the return from the Dodgers for Skip Schumaker this winter, could see some opportunity. The 23-year-old hit has hit .285 as a minor leaguer, but has struggled since reaching Double-A, hitting only .233 in 137 games.

Low Minors: There’s no true emerging option at any of the lower levels of the Cardinal system. Many of players that take on shortstop do it in a moonlight capacity, while making most of their impact at second base. Some could find their future at shortstop due to organizational need, but the clearest sign of the team’s need to draft well up the middle is here. The only player that made a majority living at the position was Matt Williams, who played 126 games as short for the Class-A Quad Cities River Bandits.

Prognosis: If there is any position that the team could have its hand forced in, either via trade or draft, it is at shortstop. There is 0% chance that Furcal will retained after the season, so the page has been turned in real time for the Cardinals. While there are bodies to fill the space now, the answer over the long-term simply is not there, nor is it on the horizon. Even if Kozma, Jackson or Garcia can become an adequate major leaguer, the need to restock the organization’s depth at the spot is well past due. For a team that is full of succession plans, the lack of one at short has hit a dangerous level and isn’t going to be a quick fix.

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Royals Fans Feel Duped

Kansas City Royals fans woke up to an exciting email in their inbox today, they had been given the opportunity to purchase Opening Day tickets.  Once they opened the email, frustration set in very quickly.

The subject line of the email gave fans reason to get fired up, it read “Your Royals Opening Day Ticket Opportunity”.  Many fans had signed up recently for the opportunity to purchase tickets to the Royals home opener and most jumped quickly to the assumption that their name had been drawn in that regard.

Unfortunately, the subject line did not match the body of the email.  As overjoyed fans opened the email to see what they needed to do to ensure their seat at the home opener, they found the following text:

RoyalsTicketOpp

“You are receiving an exclusive opportunity to purchase tickets to every 2013 game, excluding Opening Day, today! Buy tickets before the rush!”

That’s right, the email that stated it contained your opportunity for Opening Day tickets revealed that it, in fact, contained your opportunity to buy tickets to anything except opening day.

Fans have taken to social media with their displeasure with the club over what some are calling a “bait and switch” tactic.  Many felt slighted and wondered how the club could provide an email with such a glaring oversight.  Many seem to feel this is “par for the course” with the Royals business over the last few seasons.

There is a lot of excitement around the Royals going into 2013.  The team should take notice and make sure they are not coming across as “the same old Royals”.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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It’s All About The Pitching

I love it when the Cardinals are in first place. Absolutely, positively love it. Mostly because it means exactly what it is: The Cardinals are in first place. But, I also love it because it of what it infers: The cubs are NOT in first place, and trail the Cardinals in some capacity. I admit to being a homer, I even said to a friend earlier today that I “am not drunk on Cardinals Kool-Aid, but I do drink the stuff.”. Having said that, I want to look back at the general feeling in Cardinal nation at a couple of intervals, then look forward.

Feb 23rd: Cardinals fans (in general) figured they’d have a fight on their hands, but if things went just right for the redbirds, and just wrong for the Reds & Brewers (and cubs, depending on who you spoke with), the Cards could win the National League Central division. Then came the Wainwright news on the 24th. Hearts in Cardinal nation sank, hearts (and players) in Cincinnati sang, and lines in Vegas shifted. Suddenly, the Cards “had no shot”.

Chris Carpenter talks to Jake Westbrook while Kyle Lohse & Kyle McClellan look on

March 30th: Fast forward five weeks Opening Day. By & large, the general consensus for the pitching staff was: Carpenter (#1) would need to be the Cy Young contender that he’s been in recent years, and with Waino on hielo, the Cardinals could ill-afford to waste a single Carpenter start all year. Westbrook (#2) made sense to move to the second slot, more on that in a moment. He had a solid 2010 second half with the Cards, and with a little run support (4 runs) he very well could’ve been a perfect 8-0 in a Cardinals uniform-he pitched that well. The assumption was that his performance wouldn’t be that different, and having just signed him to a 2-year deal in the offseason, his importance is now huge, with Wainwright out. Garcia (#3) certainly had success as a rookie, but he probably takes more losses in the 2 hole, and to make him third is significantly better in terms of match-ups during the year, not to mention the starting rotation’s only southpaw fits comfortably sandwiched between two righties ahead of & behind him. Then there were two big questions at the back of the rotation. Where on the spectrum of 2003/2008 Kyle Lohse to the Lohse we’ve seen over the past few years, would the 2011 Kyle Lohse (#4) be pitching from? The answer would likely play a big role in the Cards success level this season. Finally, Kyle McClellan (#5) would emerge from spring training as a starter, for the first time in his major league career. Although he “stretches out and acts like a starter every spring training”, we’d yet to see how he would perform in the starting role. Being the 5th man takes a lot of pressure off, and quite frankly, it’s the only realistic slot for him. Speaking of “Frankly”, I think we all knew Ryan Franklin was going to be the closer, and most fans probably thought little of that, until thinking about late August. Other minor chatter surfaced here & there about the ‘pen, but nothing major.

May 11th: Six weeks into the season, and here’s my take on how much things have changed since Opening Day. Carp just notched his first win of the year, and it took him 8 starts to get it. Granted, that’s not entirely his fault (only one of those 8 was in Arizona, after all), and sure we’re looking at Ws & Ls…a somewhat faulty benchmark anyway (SABR Alert!). So much for making every Carp start count. Fortunately, we’re in May, so a lot of the “He’s on pace to…” talk is over, and we don’t have to listen to how he’s on pace for 4 wins this year. (Oops!) Westbrook? Other than the ERA near 7, triple the number of earned runs as Jamie Garcia, less than 40 IP in 8 starts, and a K/BB ratio of 1, he’s been mediocre. Garcia, 4-0 with a 4 K/BB, and sub-2 ERA, has been nothing short of outstanding thus far. Can’t say enough about the job this kid has done to this point-could be a legit #2 guy on a lot of clubs with what we’ve seen so far. #4 guy, Kyle Lohse is healthy, and looks very good! He’s rocking a 2.9 K/BB and 0.860 WHIP to go along with his 4-2 record. One of those losses was a 107-pitch outing where he went 8 strong, scattering 6 hits, giving up only one run. Unfortunately, this was during a 14-inning streak where the Cards were no-hit, and Lohse got no run support in that last outing. K-Mac has also seen the right mixture of lucky & good so far. At 5-0, his control has been less-than-ideal at times, but he’s gotten the job done, and has proven to be as reliable a 5th starter as the Cardinals could have hoped for.

Dave Duncan talks with Molina (left) and Jamie Garcia

Let’s play a game of “which Cardinals starter is worse?” I’ll run down a few pitching categories, and I’ll name the owner of the 2nd-worst stat, then name the only Cardinals starter that’s worse in that category, ready? (It should be noted that at the time I wrote this, the May 11th game was over, but May 12th game, Garcia’s 8th start, had not yet started)

Wins: Westbrook has 2. Only starter worse? Carpenter, 1.
Losses: Carpenter has 2. Only starter worse? Westbrook, 3.
ERA: Carpenter’s is 4.32. Only starter worse? Westbrook, 6.92.
Walks: Carpenter has walked 17. Only starter worse? Westbrook, 23.
WHIP: Carpenter has a 1.46. Only starter worse? Westbrook, 1.82.
Earned Runs: Carpenter’s given up 24. Only starter worse? Westbrook, 30.

So, those are your #1 and #2 pitchers in the starting rotation. What are the 3, 4, & 5 guys up to?

Only combined for a 13-2 record in 20 starts with 95 Ks to only 36 BBs. ERAs are 1.99, 2.24, & 3.30 respectively, with WHIPs of .971, .860, & 1.35.

Looking ahead today: Does this trend last forever, where the 3-4-5 guys in the rotation are putting 1 & 2 to shame? Doubtful & unlikely, if I had to guess. Sooner or later, things will even out over the rest of the season. But, Carp & Westbrook might want to get it together soon–this can’t last forever–the Cardinals staying in first place with pitching performances like this from the front two guys. Carp is relatively old & expensive as it is. Westbrook isn’t much younger, and is only signed for this year & next. 2013 rotation could start with Wainwright, Garcia, Miller…that’s not a bad front three! I could write for a week about theories as to how the current trend could potentially play favorably down the road, and/or how there are more than a few striking similarities between having your better pitchers 3-4-5 in the rotation, and hitting them 8th in the lineup, but let’s be honest, no one could’ve seen this coming. For now, we’ll just have to hope Carp & Westbrook figure it out before the rest of the NL Central does.

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