One positive out of the dreadful final weekend was the ability to get some playing time for the rest of the expanded roster. In trying to maneuver the map of who makes it onto the 25-man NLDS roster, picking the hot hand honestly could use a legend for support. Where last night’s look at the rotation was straightforward, at least three of the infield spots can be written in semi-permanent ink, right?
First in the order and first in our hearts, Matt Carpenter won’t be moving on down the lineup in the near future. The newly-minted power hitter possesses the pop that can give any starter an early lead or just frustrate the living daylights out of even the stingiest staff. Carpenter truly does deserve MVP votes as well as credit for putting in time wherever the Cardinals need him.
The current third baseman honestly could play just about anywhere in the field and not miss a beat but as the back-up options for the hot corner are less than stellar, St. Louis relies on #13 to hold the line. It really doesn’t matter which NL Central foe wins the opportunity to face the Cards, since Carpenter will gladly greet them with a nine pitch at-bat just to set the tone.
Across the diamond truly becomes a carousel of sorts depending on how Matheny and company utilize the weapons currently at the ready. Before we dive into the deep water, however, there is a certain double-play combo who wishes not to be forgotten. Kolten Wong and Jhonny Peralta have quite a few things in common entering October but mostly the extended break is its own reward.
Both of the middle infielders enjoyed better first half numbers by far, and they did it mostly by occupying the same spots in the lineup. Wong was an option in the top two spots before needing a breather and has settled in just fine in the lower third. His power numbers have drastically fallen off, again much like Peralta, so that will be something to watch.
Wong still has star potential in spades, so his spot on the roster was never in doubt. The very same can be said for Peralta as well, and no player on the Cardinals needed a week-long vacation more than the shortstop. Peralta was a warrior this season, and the All-Star carried the team for long stretches of the summer.
The Cubs surely haven’t forgotten just how much fun late-inning home runs can be at Wrigley, but only when St. Louis is doing the mashing. Unfortunately for Peralta and a few others, the power outage of late becomes the main reason for so much uncertainty at first base.
In a perfect world, a certain October celebrity from just last year would be anchoring down first base or at the very least providing one half of a powerful platoon. An injury to Matt Adams delayed any talk of starting full-time down the stretch and to be fair, it is easy to see him being left off the roster altogether. Adams is only an option at first, and that puts him behind two other players who have been healthy all year.
Mark Reynolds was brought in to be a part-time performer, but the Cardinals’ crystal ball could never have predicted just how much fun everyone was going to have. Reynolds was unable to continue his streak of 20 home runs, but he did hit some important bombs along the way and honestly played much better in the field than advertised. He was never in doubt to make the postseason for the first time since 2012 but shouldn’t be starting unless things get crazy again.
A mid-season addition to the infield is also someone who knows something about postseason heroics. Brandon Moss was secured for a bat that never really produced and as insurance that would be best served unused if you ask most St. Louis faithful. For a different opinion, though, just talk to anyone who still has nightmares about Moss trying for a third long ball in last year’s AL Wild Card game.
Moss won’t be seeing time in the starting lineup either but much like Adams and Reynolds, he gives the Cardinals some much-needed late inning weapons. There could be quite a bit of mixing and matching over the series, and it never hurts to have as many flexible pieces as possible.
With the sights on 14 position players expected to get the call, it is very likely all six of the offensive weapons are chomping at the bit for Friday. Now the real fun begins so stay tuned for the craziness that is sorting through bullpen arms aplenty as well as an over-sized outfield supply!