With Marcel Ozuna most likely gone for the 2020 season, the St. Louis Cardinals find themselves in a tough situation. Currently on their 40 man roster your options for replacements are somewhat limited or at the very least unproven at the major league level. What should the Cardinals do? Let’s break it down.
Outfield options on roster:
I am going to eliminate the unrealistic options:
Justin Williams will not make the team without a ridiculous spring, he’s out.
Adolis Garcia has power, 31 homers along with a .517 slugging percentage in AAA definitely stands out, but he has found himself behind Lane Thomas and Randy A, he’s out.
Tommy Edman and Yairo Munoz will be utility players on the roster. Projected them as starters in the outfield is not an option (yet). They are out.
Jose Martinez is not a starter for any team in the National League. You can only ignore his defense for small periods of time. He’s out.
Who has a chance:
Dexter Fowler has right field likely locked down. While he wasn’t good in the playoffs Fowler was able to raise every offensive statistic. He still sucked but the money is too much for him to not be slotted into the lineup going into spring training.
Tyler O’Neil should be given the first chance to be the left fielder, you know what he brings to the table. He is going to strikeout and he is going to hit dingers. O’Neil’s 40% k-rate is alarming to say the least but with O’Neil there is still major upside. His hard hit rate from 2018-2019 ranks fifth in baseball behind guys like Christian Yelich, Aaron Judge, Alex Avila, Matt Olson and his most comparable player Joey Gallo. O’Neil’s plate discipline is a problem, but his upside is undeniable. He should get the first chance but its not set in stone.
Center field for the 2019 Cardinals is going to be a competition of similar attributes. Randy A, Harrison Bader and Lane Thomas are all viable candidates.
Harrison Bader brings the most experience which is laughable as he doesn’t really bring much. Bader’s defense is elite but a 29% strikeout rate in during 2019 with little power upside and an OBP of just .301 is not something the Cardinals can afford with a team that already has been deprived of offense with the potential loss of Ozuna.
Lane Thomas played well when given the chance at the major league level last season. His surprising power numbers over the last two seasons in triple A and the major league level is what garnered the attention of the front office. Increasing his slugging percentage by nearly 100 points from 2017 to 2018 is a huge positive regression. Thomas will need a solid spring to win the job but he is a guy that has to be taken into consideration.
Randy Arozarena’s .453 OBP last season is the highest of the three potential candidates. Randy A has the lowest walk percentage of the three, while it’s not a huge difference it still shows that he is more reliant on putting the ball in play rather than taking pitches. The Cardinals are in need of a leadoff hitter currently and Randy seems to be the likely option because, well he can hit. If he is able to make the roster, it would hopefully be in a starting capacity. There is no need to force him to the majors if he is not going to play.
Free Agent Options:
The Cardinals are never likely to make a free agent move of any prestige so I want to take out candidates like Yasiel Puig and Nick Castellanos So what is left…nothing. The Cardinals will most likely go after a guy past his prime to compete for a spot on the roster. Names that come to mind are Cameron Maybin (33, 1.6WAR), Corey Dickerson (31, 1.0WAR) and Kole Calhoun (32, 2.5WAR). All three of the aforementioned players would be nice bench assets but with a bench full of younger higher upside players it doesn’t make sense to reach for an outfielder with little upside.
As the roster stands right now I would like to see Fowler, Randy A and O’Neil in the outfield. The Cardinals could be bold and make a move to add one of the premiere offensive free agents at third base (Anthony Rendon, Josh Donadlson) and put Tommy Edman in the outfield but that would not meet with the history of this franchise. The Cardinals have questions in their outfield, it’s obvious they need to make a move. Dylan Carlson is coming so they are going to be patient and hope that one of their young players takes the next step.