Luke Voit lives out his Cardinals dream
St. Louis Cardinals slugging prospect Luke Voit is off to a roaring start in spring training Grapefruit League play.
But will the Redbirds be able to find room for him on the major-league roster, no matter how well he hits, unless there is an injury to Matt Carpenter, Jose Martinez or Jedd Gyorko?
After going 2-for-4 on Sunday against the Houston Astros, Voit is hitting .667 through three days. He's stinging the ball at the plate and he's offered to try to play the outfield in order to get away from the logjam at first base, which is both smart and commendable.
The problem for Voit, a local hero, is that he's probably going to be limited to the outfield corners because he's a big guy who doesn't have a lot of experience tracking fly balls. He's not going to have a lot of range, which will keep him out of center field and likely make him a defensive liability compared to the other available options.
Harrison Bader is likely all but assured a reserve outfielder spot on the Cardinals roster because he's proved all he has to prove in the minors, making his big-league debut last year. While there are questions about whether his offense can be consistent enough to play everyday in the big leagues, Bader can certainly handle defensive duties at all three outfield positions and has the speed to be a valuable and versatile bench player.
Tyler O'Neill is a relative newcomer to the St. Louis organization, spending the second half of the 2017 season in Class AAA Memphis after being acquired from Seattle. O'Neill has also played all three outfield spots, although he likely projects to be a corner outfielder. He is the guy that made the Cardinals front office folks feel Randal Grichuk was expendable. Like Grichuk, O'Neill has 30-homer-a-season power and the potential to strike out in bunches. But he's young and cheap with tons of upside.
Cuban import Adolis Garcia has made the most of his early spring opportunities, collecting a pair of hits in four at-bats, one of them a monster home run. Garcia hit .301 after arriving at Class AAA Memphis in the middle of last season and combined for 34 doubles, 15 homers and 15 stolen bases between Memphis and Springfield.
Although he is probably at least a year away from having a shot to make the big-league roster, a guy worth watching is outfield prospect Rudy Arozarena. Playing right field Sunday against the Houston Astros, Arozarena gunned down a baserunner trying to go from first to third on a hit-and-run. He had 32 doubles last year between high-Class A Palm Beach and Class AA Springfield and swiped 18 bases.
Also on the long-range radar, Oscar Mercado hit well at Springfield in 2017 with 37 extra-base hits and 38 stolen bases.
It seems most likely that Voit could bounce between St. Louis and Memphis, collecting at-bats here and there when an injury creates an opportunity. But even if the Cardinals don't choose to keep Bader and O'Neill on the big-league roster, it's hard to imagine that Voit would be able to hold down one of only two reserve outfielder spots. His most likely place to find playing time remains first base because the Cardinals have too many good outfield prospects on the horizon to mess around with a guy who is just learning to play the position.