Cheap Seats

The Cardinals have another exciting prospect on the horizon, and he deserves a chance

Oscar Mercado, who played for the Colombia team during the World Baseball Classic, is the next prospect who should get a chance with the Cardinals.
Oscar Mercado, who played for the Colombia team during the World Baseball Classic, is the next prospect who should get a chance with the Cardinals. AP

Enough with the calling for Marcell Ozuna's head because the dude overslept one time.

Is it embarrassing? Sure. Is it irresponsible? Possibly. It depends if he was out running around until four in the morning or if he got to sleep late because he was upset about his poor season so far at the plate and couldn't get it off his mind. But, short of us finding out that a guy who has a pretty solid reputation as a teammate was carousing when he shouldn't have been, I think everyone is entitled to one mistake.

Somehow, showing up late to the ballpark — not missing the game, but missing pre-game meetings and warm-ups — makes Ozuna's lack of home runs and lukewarm batting average intolerable? Let's not lose our minds over this. The Cardinals need Ozuna to lock in and start producing. So let's not create an artificial distraction that makes it even harder to focus on the task at hand.

If St. Louis manager Mike Matheny can let Ozuna's faux pas go, I think we can, too. After all, it must have been terrible for the former teammate of Darryl Kile to have to send someone to knock on one of his player's door to make sure he was OK.

Speaking of Cardinals outfielders, the crowded outfield picture in St. Louis continues to get more and more complicated.

Harrison Bader was fighting Ozuna, Tommy Pham and Dexter Fowler for playing time when Tyler O'Neill forced his way onto the big league roster with a home run barrage in Class AAA Memphis. He took over for Ozuna when he was in the doghouse Wednesday, and he's made a big impression both at the plate and in the field in limited playing time. But, while the Birds are trying to find playing time for the five major league outfielders they have, Oscar Mercado is clearing his throat for attention.

Oscar Mercado AP

Mercado, a 23-year-old center fielder, is hitting .329 with 6 homers and 10 stolen bases. He's a dynamic player who deserves a shot in the major leagues — and he's one of the main reasons the Tommy Pham situation is so perplexing.

Pham is one of the best hitters in baseball right now. But he's had trouble staying healthy throughout his career, and he's pushing 30 years old. While he's currently great, what is his shelf life? With his health problems and his degenerative eye condition, will the Cardinals regret letting Mercado get away to stick with Pham? Or will the Birds part with a very popular and productive player and gamble that they'll get six or seven years out of Mercado instead of two or three out of Pham?

Some would say that sounds like a good problem to have. But, in some ways, it's a no-win situation because there just doesn't seem to be room for them both. Especially if O'Neill is for real and turns out to be an heir apparent for a corner outfield spot.

The pitching staff is soon going to be as crowded as the outfield with the long-awaited return of Alex Reyes following Tommy John surgery that derailed his 2017 season before it began. While St. Louis still lacks a true ace to lead the pitching staff, it's got more viable starters than it has innings to offer. Even with former ace Adam Wainwright on the 60-day disabled list, Michael Wacha, Miles Mikolas, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and Carlos Martinez have all pitched well. Who gets the bump to make room for Reyes who the Cardinals have already said is going to be a starter when he returns?

While there is a strong argument that can be made for Reyes to work some late innings to stabilize the bullpen, hopefully he'll be that missing piece at the front of the rotation. It's tough to ask a guy who is still, essentially, a rookie to act like a crusty veteran with ice water in his veins. Martinez has the talent to be that guy. But, frustratingly, he seems to still get overly excited when we least expect it.