With Spring Training finally underway, I thought I would take a look at projecting the starters for the Cardinals Class AAA affiliate Memphis Redbirds. This can be a very difficult task as spring training has just begun and there are many factors that could change things like injuries or good and bad performances. Lets run through the Memphis starting 9 by position.
Catcher – Audry Perez
This is who I would like to see start the season at Memphis, not necessarily who I think will. Perez seemed to have a solid season in 2012 at AA Springfield hitting .281 with 4 HR and 42 RBI. A solid contact hitter, with average power, Perez, is also average to above average behind the plate. As of now, the only other possibilities to start at Memphis are MLB vets J.R. Towles and Rob Johnson. Perez is definitely the one we would prefer to see starting behind the plate.
First Base – Matt Adams
As much as I hate to write it, I believe Adams starts the season back at Memphis barring an injury at the major league level. Adams does not have a spot on the major league bench and may be dealt to provide more depth at other areas. Obviously, Adams doesn’t have anything left to prove at AAA, he is just position blocked. I would like to see Xavier Scruggs get an opportunity to start at some point this season.
Second Base – Kolten Wong
I see the Cards pushing Wong to the highest minor league affiliate this season. He will make a great case to be the starting second baseman for the big club this spring, but I think that will go to Matt Carpenter. Wong could use Memphis to work on his ability to get on base and his defense, both are at an average level right now. I say Wong takes over the top spot for the Cards near the All-Star Break
Shortstop – Ryan Jackson
This may be the toughest position to call. This spot could be filled by a couple of different players. Other options could include Pete Kozma, newly acquired Jake Lemmerman, or Greg Garcia. A lot of this depends on the health of Rafael Furcal. If he is good for opening day, I give the Memphis nod to Jackson. If Furcal can’t go, I believe Kozma starts for the Cards, Jackson is a MLB back up, and Garcia starts at Memphis. This position is TBD.
Third Base – Jermaine Curtis
Curtis saw some time at Memphis in the early stages of 2012 before returning to Springfield. Curtis has an awesome ability to get on base. At age 25, Curtis needs to be playing in Memphis this season. He also has played some outfield, so that could be a possibility. Matt Cerda could be an option at third, but he has not played above AA in his career and will likely start the season at Springfield.
Avery solid outfield this would be. Chambers would play left, Taveras center, and Swauger right. I think Swauger is a pretty safe bet for Memphis, while the other two are interesting. Chambers is in the mix at the MLB level, but I think Shane Robinson may have the advantage there. Taveras, only 20, has had success at every level, but part of me wonders if the Cardinals want to rush him this quickly. Another interesting candidate is Mike O’Neill, who has only played 13 games above Class A, but he hit .563 in those 13 games for Springfield and he just turned 25.
This is a very solid rotation for a AAA ball club. I would really like to see the Cards push Maness to Memphis this season as he was the organization’s top pitcher in 2012. The interesting piece to this is what happens with the MLB club. I am assuming that Shelby Miller gets a starting spot. The major league bullpen can’t have both Rosenthal and Kelly in it without sacrificing a righty, and the only option to sacrifice would be Ferdy Salas. I give the AAA nod to Rosenthal just because he has less major league experience than Kelly. Jay Voss is another name that could make the starting rotation. For later in the year, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez could crack the rotation. The Redbirds could have a major league quality rotation by mid-year of Rosenthal, Martinez, Wacha, Maness, Lyons.
Closer – ???
This will be interesting as there are several candidates. Victor Marte, Eduardo Sanchez, and Keith Butler are all possibilities to close at Memphis. I would like to see Butler get the job as he has a career So/9 of 11.3.
After the season starts we will look back and see successful we were in our projections. This could be a very good Memphis team for 2013.