Restoring the rosters: No. 17 – St. Louis

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
Producing the game’s best player and one of the top five pitchers only goes so far. The Cardnals’ lack of pitching depth leaves them right in the middle of these rankings.
Rotation
Dan Haren
Braden Looper
Anthony Reyes
Mitchell Boggs
Brad Thompson
Bullpen
Kyle McClellan
Luke Gregerson
Chris Perez
Jason Motte
Josh Kinney
Jess Todd
Blake Hawksworth
The Cardinals haven’t had a high first-round pick since taking J.D. Drew in 1998, but they’ve missed on an awful lot of pitchers with selections in the 20s and 30s. 12 of the 19 first- and supplemental first-round picks they’ve had since then have been pitchers, but only three have reached the majors: Perez, likely bust Chris Lambert and the recently traded Clayton Mortensen.
So what we’re left with here is Haren and not much else. Looper, the third overall pick in the 1996 draft, is a mediocre closer turned No. 4 starter. Reyes has No. 3-starter talent, but he may never be able to stay healthy. He’s out until late next year following Tommy John surgery. Boggs is a fringe fifth starter, and Thompson is most useful in middle relief. The bullpen is more promising. Both McClellan and Gregerson are shaping up as excellent setup men, and Perez and Motte still have a fair amount of promise. Todd might end up being better than all of them.
Lineup
3B Adam Kennedy
2B Placido Polanco
RF J.D. Drew
1B Albert Pujols
LF Rick Ankiel
C Yadier Molina
CF Colby Rasmus
SS Jack Wilson
Bench
2B/OF Skip Schumaker
CF Coco Crisp
INF Brendan Ryan
OF Terry Evans
C Mike DiFelice
Another star would be nice, but Tony La Russa would be happy with the flexibility provided by this lineup. Also, the excellent defense will help all of those starters who won’t be recording many strikeouts. Molina, Pujols, Wilson all rank among the game’s best at their positions, and Polanco is still a surehanded asset at second. The outfield defense is a little above average with this arrangement and significantly better when Crisp starts and Rasmus goes to a corner. Against lefties, Ryan should start over Kennedy, Crisp over Ankiel and perhaps Evans over one of the other two outfielders.
Summary
The Cardinals have struggled to keep pitching prospects healthy and are paying for it in these rankings. It’s worth wondering just how much better off they’d be if they concentrated more on producing hitters over these last 10 years. After all, in Dave Duncan, they have a pitching coach who excels at turning around veteran starters. They could have played to that strength a little better.
Of course, it’s not as though the Cardinals are struggling. It looked like they’re set to reach the playoffs for the seventh time in 10 years, and they won it all in 2006. While I generally give a lot more credit to general managers than field managers, in this case, La Russa and Duncan deserve the praise, probably more so than former GM Walt Jocketty.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.