Kwang Hyun Kim is slated to toss a 90-pitch simulated game today, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told reporters (including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Kim tossed another simulated game earlier this week, so the left-hander may be just about on the verge of rejoining the Cards’ rotation during the team’s upcoming series against the Phillies from April 16-18.
The Cardinals have placed outfielder Tyler O’Neill on the 10-day IL due to a right groin strain, the team announced. Since righty Jake Woodford was optioned to the alternate training site after yesterday’s game, the two open roster spots were filled by outfielder Lane Thomas and right-hander Johan Oviedo.
O’Neill suffered the injury during an at-bat in yesterday’s 9-5 loss to the Brewers, coming out of the batter’s box moving slowly after hitting a grounder. He was replaced in the field the next inning. Manager Mike Shildt told reporters (including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that O’Neill might only be out for the minimum 10 days, saying that the young outfielder received “Favorable news from an imaging standpoint….Probably a three to four day (situation) before he can get in there. We didn’t want to play short for three or four days.”
The IL stint could possibly act as something of a reset for O’Neill, who has hit only .143/.172/.286 with a league-high 14 strikeouts over his first 29 plate appearances of the 2021 season. Strikeouts have been a persistent issue during O’Neill’s four MLB seasons, and his overall production at the plate has trailed off considerably since a promising 2018 rookie season. On the plus side, O’Neill won a Gold Glove for his defensive work as the Cardinals’ regular left fielder in 2020.
O’Neill joins Harrison Bader on the 10-day IL, leaving the Cards even more short-handed in the outfield. A veteran of 52 Major League games, Thomas will join the mix along with Dylan Carlson, Justin Williams, Austin Dean, and utilityman Tommy Edman (when Edman isn’t at second base). Minor league signing Matt Szczur is also on hand at the team’s alternate training site.
Brewers second baseman Kolten Wong departed the team’s game against the Cardinals on Thursday after re-aggravating his left oblique, manager Craig Counsell told Andrew Wagner of the Wisconsin State Journal and other reporters. It’s the same issue that kept Wong from playing Wednesday, and Counsell said (via Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) there’s a “distinct possibility” that he’ll require a trip to the injured list. Wong, previously with St. Louis, joined the Brewers on a two-year, $18MM contract during the offseason. If he does have to miss time shortly into his Brewers tenure, it would be another blow to the middle infield depth of a team that traded Orlando Arcia to Atlanta earlier this week. The Brewers did add veteran Dee Strange-Gordon on a minor league contract Thursday, though Daniel Robertson – who replaced Wong when he exited – would be the favorite to handle most of the reps at the keystone.
- Paul Goldschmidt was scratched from today’s Cardinals game because of lower back tightness, per MLB.com’s Zachary Silver (via Twitter). The move was precautionary, so presumably the Cardinals don’t expect this to lead to an IL placement. Manager Mike Shildt said after the game that Goldschmidt’s day to day, and the Cardinals will know more about his status Friday, Jeff Jones of the Belleville News tweets.
The incident developed after Cards pitcher Jake Woodford hit Castellanos with a pitch during a fourth-inning at-bat. Castellanos wasn’t pleased by the HBP, and picked up the ball and held it in Woodford’s direction as he went to first base. Later in the inning, Castellanos scored from third on a wild pitch, and celebrated the run by standing over Woodford (who was covering home plate) and flexing. This led to the benches clearing, and a lot of shoving and heated words between the two NL Central rivals.
Outfielder Nick Castellanos was issued a two-game suspension for his part in Saturday’s brawl between the Reds and Cardinals, the league announced. Castellanos was the only player suspended, and he is appealing his two-game ban. Fines were issued to three players on each team — the Reds’ Castellanos, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez, and the Cardinals’ Jordan Hicks, Yadier Molina, and Nolan Arenado.
- After the bullpen logged more innings than starters in their opening series against the Reds, the Cardinals may soon have to consider adding a ninth reliever to the roster, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jake Woodford made the opening day roster exactly for this possibility, and he soaked up 2 1/3 innings on Saturday afternoon. Seth Elledge and Kodi Whitley are two bullpen arms on the taxi squad that could be added to the roster if the Cardinals decide they need another arm for their series against the Marlins.
The Cardinals announced Thursday that they’ve claimed lefty Bernardo Flores Jr. off waivers from the White Sox. He’s been optioned to the Cards’ alternate training site. The waiver claim fills the Cardinals’ 40-man roster.
Flores, 24, was Chicago’s seventh-round pick back in 2016 and made his big league debut this past season, tossing two innings and yielding a pair of runs. He’d have spent the 2020 season at the Triple-A level had there been a minor league season, but his top level aside from that brief two-inning cup of coffee in the big leagues has been Double-A. The southpaw has posted strong numbers in parts of two Double-A campaigns, working to a combined 3.04 ERA with an outstanding 4.6 percent walk rate and a 52 percent grounder rate — albeit with a below-average 18.8 percent strikeout rate.
Flores will give the Cardinals some depth both in the rotation and the bullpen. He has a pair of minor league options remaining, so he can be shuttled between Triple-A (or the Cards’ alternate site) and the big leagues over the next two seasons if he sticks on the 40-man roster.
- Tommy Edman will be the Cardinals’ backup centerfielder to start the season, per Jeff Jones of MLB.com (via Twitter). Tyler O’Neill will line up after him. Harrison Bader’s injury has certainly thrown a bit of a wrench into the Cardinals defensive alignment. With Bader, St. Louis was preparing an otherworldly defensive unit: Paul Goldschmidt is a three-time Gold Glove winner at first; Yadier Molina is a nine-time winner and the consensus best defensive catcher of his generation; Paul DeJong has been frozen out of award season, but he’s been easily among the NL’s best defensive shortstops in recent seasons; ditto for Bader in center, while O’Neill posted 9 DRS in left last season; Nolan Arenado, of course, has never not won the Gold Glove. Not mentioned there, Carlson and Edman, who are, apparently, capable of shifting to centerfield at a moment’s notice. No matter who mans center, it seems, the Cards plan on catching the baseball.
The latest minor moves around the league…
- The A’s announced a pair of roster moves, optioning Vimael Machin and Seth Brown to Triple-A. That means Rule 5 selection Ka’ai Tom is likely to make the roster as a reserve outfielder, notes Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. Tom didn’t get a full spring because of an oblique injury, but he apparently showed enough for the A’s to keep him on the active roster. He’ll need to stay there for the entire season or else be returned to the Indians. Machin spent some of last season standing in for Matt Chapman at third before Jake Lamb arrived, but a relatively punchless .206/.296/.238 across 71 plate appearances likely returns the difficult-to-strikeout left-handed hitter to an emergency fill-in role. Brown, 28, contributed 0.7 fWAR in a highly-productive 26-game sample in 2019, but he logged only five plate appearances across seven games in 2020.
- The Rangers released Nick Vincent yesterday, but today they announced that he will stay with the organization on a minor league contract. We’ll see this pattern with a number of players between now and opening day. The 34-year-old Vincent has seen action in every season going back to 2012 when he debuted with the Padres. He has appeared in 405 games over his nine-year career with exactly matching 3.38 ERA/FIP marks while suiting up for the Pads, Mariners, Giants, Phillies, and Marlins.
- 16-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Mario Piño has agreed to sign with the Cardinals for $767K, per ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel (Twitter links). Pino had multiple offers both for this signing period and next, but he ultimately has decided to join the Cardinals’ 2021-22 class of international signees. The White Sox, A’s, and Red Sox were among the teams who were said to be interested in Pino.
The St. Louis Cardinals have set their roster for opening day, per MLB.com’s Jeff Jones, Derrick S. Goold of the St.Louis Post-Dispatch and others (Twitter links). John Nogowski, Austin Dean, Edmundo Sosa, and Jake Woodford will be on the roster, while Lane Thomas and Kodi Whitley become two of the final cuts. Goold lists the final opening day roster here.
Nogowski required a strong spring to make the roster, as the 28-year-old first baseman doesn’t bring a lot of utility to the roster. He did exactly that, however, slashing .379/.526/.586 in spring action. He’ll be the first right-handed bat off the bench. With Matt Carpenter on hand to serve as Paul Goldschmidt’s primary backup, it’s hard to imagine Nogowski seeing much action in the field.
The Thomas demotion might have the most impact, as without him, the Cardinals don’t have a true centerfielder on the roster. The Cards are all-in on rookie Dylan Carlson as their man in the middle until Harrison Bader returns from injury. Justin Williams and Austin Dean will be among the players replacing Carlson in right. Tommy Edman, who won the starting second base job, could also see time in right while Carpenter or Edmundo Sosa step in at the keystone. Starting left fielder Tyler O’Neill, meanwhile, is most likely to backup Carlson in center.
Woodford, 24, wins a spot in the bullpen on the strength of a 1.04 ERA this spring. Whitley, 26, heads to the minors to begin the season. Woodford can serve as a long man out of the pen, which may be important given the uncertainty in the back end of the rotation where Carlos Martinez, John Gant, and Daniel Ponce de Leon will take their turns until Miles Mikolas and/or Kwang Hyun Kim return. From the left side, Tyler Webb and Genesis Cabrera join Andrew Miller in the bullpen.
The Cardinals have been granted a fourth minor league option on outfielder Justin Williams, as first reported by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter). President of baseball ops John Mozeliak confirmed as much in an afternoon call with reporters.
The extra minor league option might have dampened Williams’ chances of making the club more substantially under normal circumstances, but today’s Harrison Bader injury news puts Williams more squarely in the mix for a spot. With Bader sidelined anywhere from four to six weeks due to a forearm issue, Dylan Carlson will likely slide over to center field, giving the trio of Williams, Lane Thomas and Austin Dean a greater chance of making the roster.
Williams, 25, was acquired along with Genesis Cabrera and Roel Ramirez in the trade that sent Tommy Pham to the Rays. He’s logged just seven MLB plate appearances but is a career .271/.333/.423 hitter in 581 Triple-A plate appearances and is batting .259/.333/.407 in 30 trips to the dish this spring. Williams’ numbers to this point in his career don’t show it, but scouting reports throughout his minor league tenure have pegged him for plus raw power and bat speed. That power has been curbed in large part by a penchant for hitting the ball on the ground; Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel wrote at FanGraphs in January 2020 that Williams had the second-best exit velocity in the Cardinals’ system and the lowest launch angle.
Williams was one of several players awaiting ruling from an arbiter on whether he was out of options or had a fourth minor league option. The process, as is the case with most debates between MLB and the MLBPA, took longer than expected, but rulings have been filing in for the past day. The discrepancy stems from the truncated length of the 2020 season and how it should be treated with regard to fourth option eligibility.
Typically, fourth options are granted to players who have exhausted all three of their minor league options before being healthy enough to play five “full” seasons of pro ball. The league defines “full” as 90-plus days on an active Major League or Minor League roster (not the injured list), but last year’s 60-game season lasted just 67 days, and there were no active roster/injured list distinctions at teams’ alternate training sites.