We focus on the stars in baseball (and rightly so in most cases) but sometimes who wins comes down to how deep a team is. Look at the Dodgers last year: They had a ton of injuries, but thanks to depth and front office resourcefulness, they made the playoffs and made the Cubs’ lives interesting. with that in mind, I thought I’d look at the Cards bench and see where we stand depth wise there.
Currently it looks to be:
Matt Adams 1B)
Jedd Gyorko IF)
Kolten Wong 2B, OF)
Greg Garcia 2B, SS, 3B)
Jordan Schafer OF)
Tommy Pham OF)
Eric Fryer C)
I include both Gyorko and Wong on this list because either one or the other will be on the bench, and both can play positions beyond 2B.
Overall, this isn’t a bad bench, though I doubt this will be what we have when the season starts, as the rumor mills are flying around Adams, with Matt Carpenter starting at 1B in 2017. Adams, if kept, is a nice power bat to have off of the bench.
I just covered Adams, so let’s move on to the rest.
Gyorko hit 30 homers in 438 PA’s last year while composing a .243/.306/.495 slash line. That screams “starter” to me, and if I had my druthers, I’d park Jhonny Peralta and his contract on the bench, and install Jedd at 3B. Instead, he’s the super utility guy, and will likely share time at 2B with Wong, courtesy of Mike Matheny. I don’t think we’ll see 30 homers again, but depending on playing time, 20+ is certainly possible.
As mentioned above, Gyorko will likely get a bit of 2B time, reducing Wong’s playing time. That is a shame, as Wong’s defense and speed are sorely needed in the lineup. Sure his bat still needs work, but the rest of the lineup is good enough that we can take the hit and make our D better. I get the feeling, though, that Mike will look at his lineup and say “we got Fowler for speed now” and put Gyorko in at 2B more than ever. Doing so would be a mistake.
Fryer is our de facto backup catcher. He likely won’t get much playing time, since if Yadier Molina is injured, Carson Kelly will likely be called up. Otherwise, Yadi will probably ground into dust, something that’s gone into more detail here. Personally, I think Kelly should be called up and be required to star 40-50 games to get experience, but unless Mo relocates himself to the dugout, sitting over Matheny’s shoulder, that ain’t happening. Where’s Art Howe when you need him? (Go read Moneyball people, if you haven’t already.)
With Gyorko around, I don’t really see the need for Garcia outside of an injury replacement. Whoever Gyorko is subbing for can pinch hit or play in the later innings. Flexibility is nice, but Garcia seems a little redundant.
Schafer, a recent acquisition, is a substitute outfielder who has a little speed and can even pitch from what I hear. In fact, he was converted mainly into a pitcher last year, spending the whole year in the minors learning how to pitch. I like the Cards ‘pen though, and he struggled with the bat in 2015, so I’m not sold.
Pham is out incumbent backup outfielder. He struggled last year, with a .226/.324/.440 slash line in 183 PA’s. I like his plate discipline that, as evidenced by his OBP being nearly 100 points higher than his batting average. Again, flexibility is nice, but I don’t think we need bother Schafer and Pham, with Wong able to play the OF. Between Pham and Schafer, if I had to choose, I’d choose Pham, even with Schafer’s ability to pitch. I like Pham’s plate discipline.
Bonus: Jhonny Peralta
Jhonny Peralta *should* be on the bench. Doing so, in fact, clears many things up. Gyorko gets 3B time, Wong sees more action at 2B, and we have another valuable bat off the bench as well as a late inning replacement for 3B and SS. The move makes a ton of sense, but since he’s still owed a bit of money and has become a “Matheny guy” it’ll never happen.
In sum, it’s a solid bench, with a little redundancy in the form of Garcia and Schafer. Both have struggled, so I’d prefer better bench bats. Plus neither is young and isn’t what the bench is usually for, to groom up and coming prospects for starting roles?
That’s my two cents on the bench.
As always, thanks for reading.