In this crazy world of ours, where nuclear war could break out at any moment, one must be ready for the worst at all times.
Baseball is no different, and if any team should be doing as many duck-and-cover drills as infield drills, it’s the Cardinals. This is part of the deal when you stock your roster with players who, while talented, are older and/or are no strangers to the disabled list. Sure, injuries can derail any team, but the 2102 Cardinals are more prone than most, and that fact has not been shy about rearing its head in the early going.
So how prepared are the Cardinals for a disaster any position? Their minor-league system is well-stocked, so a trade could be an external option, along with the waiver wire. But what about within the organization? Let’s take a look.
Catcher: Yadier Molina has been as durable as they come, playing 140, 136 and 139 games the past three years. This is fortunate, because he’s certainly one of the players the team can least afford to lose. A platoon of Tony Cruz and Bryan Anderson would be intriguing but also wouldn’t approach Yadi’s production, offensively or defensively. Disaster Preparedness Rating (DPR): 3/10
First Base: Lance Berkman’s calf is causing some problems already, and while his move back to first from the outfield theoretically should help him stay healthy, he’s also 36. In the short term, Matt Carpenter and his beautiful walk rate seem to be second in line at the position, even though he played a total of one game there in the minors. Allen Craig, likely to start a rehab assignment soon, would pick up most of the starts upon his return, and the Wrench has the bat to make him a solid regular at the position. Then there’s the prospect looming at Memphis and hitting .410/.439/.744 in the early going, the kind of numbers that eventually could force the issue, despite Mr. Adams’ lack of presence on the 40-man roster. DPR: 8/10
Second Base: The Cardinals already are going with a sort of platoon here, so an injury simply would make Daniel Descalso or Tyler Greene the full-time starter unless Skip Schumaker has returned (and he’s reportedly about to begin a rehab assignment). The depth situation is scary, both on the full 40-man roster (Pete Kozma) or off it (Mr. 0-for-2011, Eugenio Velez). DPR: 4/10
Third Base: David Freese was scratched from Saturday’s lineup due to finger irritation, just the latest health-related setback for a player whose postseason heroics have been rivaled only by his bad luck in trying to stay on the field. Carpenter is the clear option to take over everyday duties at the hot corner if necessary, and there are plenty of people curious to see how his minor league OBP would hold up. The club also could sacrifice some offense and shift Descalso there, leaving second base for Greene/Schumaker. Zack Cox has struggled early at Memphis. DPR: 7/10
Shortstop: The Cardinals certainly took a chance when they re-signed Rafael Furcal for two more years, given that he’s averaged about 92 games over the past four years. That said, Greene is a natural shortstop, and Descalso played the position surprisingly well last year. A Furcal DL stint likely puts both in the lineup on a daily basis, or makes them part of a three-man unit if Schumaker is back. Again, Kozma is the lone 40-man roster option available in Memphis, but the team instead could clear space for Memphis’ Ryan Jackson and his advanced defense. DPR: 4/10
Outfield: Assuming Matt Holliday doesn’t get attacked by any insects or vestigial organs again this season, the Cardinals are pretty well set with him and Jon Jay at two OF positions. Carlos Beltran obviously presents more of a risk, but when Craig returns, the club will have an excellent backup for the corner positions. The options after Craig are numerous but considerably less attractive for reasons of either offense or defense (or both). DPR: 6/10
Starting Pitcher: We’ve already seen Lance Lynn step in for Chris Carpenter, who a committed cynic might suggest is fated to not throw a pitch for the 2012 Cardinals. The other four spots in the rotation are filled with three Tommy John survivors – one in his first year back – and one of whatever the heck you call Kyle Lohse, post-2009-10. The team has weathered the Big Carp situation, but if someone joins him on the DL, it wouldn’t have another choice of Lynn’s quality in either the big league bullpen or the Memphis rotation. The most likely probably is Brandon Dickson, and the one with the highest hysteria-to-likelihood ratio probably is Shelby Miller. DPR: 3/10
Relief Pitcher: The bullpen is the only part of this team that isn’t especially old or injury-prone, and the one health issue so far (Scott Linebrink’s) isn’t exactly creating panic in the streets of St. Louis. Eduardo Sanchez is working on some things in Memphis but figures to be back relatively soon, and a handful of other intriguing options exist on the 40-man roster. DPR: 6/10