A few observations at the end of St. Louis Cardinals spring training:
▪ I didn’t understand the front office’s fascination with Brandon Moss when the team traded for him. I didn’t understand it when the team re-signed him and I don’t understand it now.
He is a lousy defensive player who strikes out in bunches, hits for low average and hits from the same side as the players he is supposed to platoon with, Matt Adams.
Why would the Cardinals invest $8.5 million in a guy who is going to likely be a part-time player in an off-season where they steadfastly refused to go outside the organization to add a much-needed slugger?
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▪ On the same note, I am not impressed with what I have seen from Jedd Gyorko.
He’s another guy who isn’t a very good defensive player, which isn’t the hallmark of a typical Cardinal.
But, in this world of baseball metrics, I don’t get the interest in a guy who has a career .293 on-base percentage.
The Cardinals’ biggest problem, offensively, isn’t a lack of power. It’s an inability to hit move runners up on the bases and drive them in. That hasn’t changed so far this spring. The Birds get a guy on first -- and then either promptly hit into a double play or else have a couple of strike outs and a fly out.
I don’t care if Gyorko hits 15 home runs if he has a .293 OBP and a .220 batting average. And I don’t see how the Cardinals are a better team with him in the lineup instead of Kolten Wong. I’m not inspired by the chances with him at the plate as a pinch hitter and he’s no defensive replacement. He’s another guy who makes too much money for what he does and those resources could have been better spent elsewhere.
▪ On the bright side, Matt Adams appears to finally be healthy and is hitting like we hoped he would when he arrived in St. Louis three years ago.
Adams sprayed the ball to all fields in spring training instead of getting into jags like he has the last couple of years when he either gets pull happy -- or else he runs in the other direction and has tried in long streaks to hit everything to the opposite field.
He makes himself too predictable to pitchers when he becomes one dimensional. He ought to be strong enough to hit the ball with authority in any direction, so he doesn’t need to try to get cute.
Adams has dropped a few bunts in spring training to punish teams for shifting against him. That’s made them accountable and he’s seeing more straight defenses which open up traditional hitting lanes.
To sum it up: Adams is putting all the pieces together. He just needs to keep it that way.
▪ I’m starting to worry about Matt Carpenter.
He absolutely has looked terrible at the plate. A lot like he did in his mid-season funk last year.
I don’t know what it is that gets him out of whack. But it’s becoming too frequent.
I worry that Carpenter has messed himself up by concentrating on becoming a power hitter. And I am still not convinced that a .270-hitting version of Carpenter with 30 home runs is better than the .330-hitting version with 18 homers and 50 doubles we saw glimpses of a couple of years ago.
▪ I said it before spring training and I’ll say it again: Randal Grichuk could be the key player on this team.
When the Cardinals refused to sign one of the several available power hitting outfielders or first basemen on the market they committed to Grichuk for the job.
He was St. Louis’ best hitter in spring training and made several outstanding plays in centerfield.
I think Grichuk is capable of hitting .270-.280 with 30 or more home runs. If he can do that -- while cutting down on his tendency to chase balls out of the strike zone -- he could transform a mediocre offense into a solid one.
▪ Regardless of the numbers this spring, the St. Louis pitching staff is the engine that makes this team go.
Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia have struggled a little bit with their command here and there. But the consistency is coming around and every pitcher in this rotation has the ability to dominate every time he takes the mound.
The key is health. So far, at least, they all appear sound.
Each one of these guys could be a number one or a number two starter someplace in the major leagues.
▪ Finally, we’ll see how he holds up. But the answer seems to be in the affirmative on the question about whether Matt Holliday could return after an off 2015 to be the player he used to be.
Holliday’s bat doesn’t seem to be even a tick slower as he ended spring training by clubbing line drive after line drive. Yes, he had only one home run this spring. But it was a laser over the left field wall off Bartolo Colon that took about half a second to clear the air space over Roger Dean Stadium.