With guys like Oscar Taveras, Michael Wacha and Matt Adams set to start out on the farm, one wonders if a collection of Cardinals’ minor leaguers might be better than the Astros this year.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak made it clear today that Taveras, likely the best pure hitting prospect in baseball, would open the season in Triple-A rather than claim a spot on the St. Louis bench, adding that it had more to do with getting him regular at-bats than it did starting his free agent and arbitration clocks.
Taveras is hitting .302/.348/.535 with two homers and nine RBI in 43 at-bats this spring, but it would make little sense for the Cardinals to carry him on Opening Day. Carlos Beltran should sit once a week, but Matt Holliday is a full-time player and since Taveras and Jon Jay are both left-handed hitters, there’s no way to divvy up the center field job at the moment. The Cardinals also have Shane Robinson tearing it up this spring; he’ll likely be the fourth outfielder.
Taveras, Adams and second baseman Kolten Wong will likely form the backbone of a strong Memphis lineup this season. Shelby Miller is likely to lead the rotation initially, though he still hasn’t been eliminated from contention for a spot on the major league roster. As for Wacha, it’s not yet known whether he’s Double- or Triple-A bound. The 2012 first-round pick has quickly established himself as one of the game’s elite pitching prospects this spring.
The Blue Jays announced on Friday that the club acquired outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Dominic Leone and minor league pitcher Conner Greene.
Grichuk, 26, became expendable when the Cardinals acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins. With veteran Dexter Fowler in right field and Tommy Pham — who finished 11th in NL MVP Award balloting last season — in center, Grichuk was effectively pushed to the bench. He will get a shot at regular playing time in an outfield corner with the Jays. Grichuk has had solid numbers since debuting in 2014, but he hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of his 2015 campaign. Last year, he hit .238/.285/.473 with 22 home runs and 59 RBI in 442 plate appearances.
Grichuk will earn $2.8 million this season and will be eligible for arbitration for two more years before becoming a free agent.
Leone, 26, posted an impressive 2.56 ERA with an 81/23 K/BB ratio across 70 1/3 innings last season. The right-hander will earn $1.085 million this season and then will become arbitration-eligible for the next three years. Leone certainly helps bolster the Cardinals’ bullpen and may work his way up to high-leverage innings behind closer Luke Gregerson.
Greene, 22, was selected by the Blue Jays in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. This past season, with Double-A New Hampshire, Greene compiled a 5.29 ERA with a 92/83 K/BB ratio in 132 2/3 innings. He throws hard, but control has been a big issue for the right-hander throughout his minor league career. The Cardinals may think they can help turn him around.