Ranking the St. Louis Cardinals 40-Man Roster

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A look at the best (and worst) players on the team

While life can be rather boring without 15 baseball games every night, over the next few weeks Athlon Sports Baseball Editor Charlie Miller will rank players on every 40-man roster.

Between the end of the World Series and Opening Day every winter, fans are inundated with lists. Rankings of the best shortstop, the best left-handed relievers, the best leadoff men, the best second basemen in runs saved, the best right-handed pinch-hitter in road games in July and more. So, while life can be rather boring without 15 baseball games every night, over the next few weeks I’ll rank players on every 40-man roster.

This is more than merely a ranking though, it is a breakdown of contract status, future prospects and the general direction of each franchise. Generally, the ranking is based on the value of each player to the franchise, with an emphasis on the immediate effect on winning. Enjoy.

The St. Louis Cardinals have become a model organization by just about any criteria. The club has played in — and won — more postseason games this century than any other franchise. The Redbirds have appeared in the last three NLCS, winning two of them, and have positioned themselves to continue this current run of success well into this decade. Of the 10 position players, four starting pitchers and closer the Cardinals used during the World Series, only two — Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran — were not homegrown. St. Louis’ current roster is stocked with veterans that are both still in their prime and affordable for the next few years. The next wave of stars has already arrived and there are more on the way.


1. Yadier Molina, C
Open Day Age:  31
Contract:
2014:
15,000,000
2015: 15,000,000
2016: 14,000,000
2017: 14,000,000
2018: 15,000,000 mutual option, $2 million buyout
Molina is the unquestioned leader of this team, and young players respect him, especially the slew of rising stars on the pitching staff. One of the best defensive catchers and throwers to ever play the game, Molina has developed as a hitter to the point that he has become the most indispensable player in the game.

2. Adam Wainwright, SP
Open Day Age:  32
Contract:
2014
: 19,500,000
2015: 19,500,000
2016: 19,500,000
2017: 19,500,000
2018: 19,500,000
The big righthander remains the Cardinals’ ace regardless of how well Michael Wacha looked in the postseason. Waino is locked up for another five seasons at a relatively small price as far as aces go. He’s a horse, who not only eats innings, but will be a serious Cy Young contender in at least three of the next five seasons.

3. Matt Holliday, LF
Open Day Age:  34
Contract:

2014: 17,000,000
2015: 17,000,000
2016: 17,000,000
2017: 17,000,000 club option, $1 million buyout
St. Louis stepped outside of its typical modus operandi a few years ago when the team signed Holliday to what was at that time quite a rich deal. His $17 million salary is relatively modest by superstar standards and he produces. Yeah, he occasionally misses a game or two from a back injury in the weight room or a moth flying in his ear, but he’s well-respected in this clubhouse and leads by example with hard work.

4. Allen Craig, 1B
Open Day Age:  29
Contract:
2014
: 2,750,000
2015: 5,500,000
2016: 9,000,000
2017: 11,000,000
2018: 13,000,000 club option, $1 million buyout
The Cardinals clearly missed the RBI machine’s bat in the middle of the lineup during the postseason. He’ll make somewhere around $70 million less than Albert Pujols, whom he replaced at first base. Craig is just versatile enough to play the outfield and gives the Cardinals some lineup flexibility with rising slugger Matt Adams.

5. Michael Wacha, SP
Open Day Age:  22
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
It is possible that the Cardinals started Wacha’s clock ticking a bit too soon this season making him eligible for arbitration as a Super 2 player in 2016. But either way, the Cardinals have a future ace with the stuff, durability and makeup to be at the top of St. Louis’ rotation for a long time.

6. Trevor Rosenthal, CL
Open Day Age:  23
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
Most scouts believe that Rosenthal is better suited to be a starter than closer, but rotation depth and Edward Mujica hitting a wall in September landed Rosey the closer’s gig — for now. He’ll hold down the role until Jason Motte proves he’s healthy enough for the day-to-day rigors of closing. At that point, the Cardinals will have a decision as to Rosenthal’s future role. At any rate, he appears to be on track to be a valuable piece for the next five seasons.

7. Matt Carpenter, 2B-3B
Open Day Age:  28
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: First possible free agency
With an uncanny work ethic and steady routine, Carpenter has made himself into an above-average second baseman, and a top-notch leadoff man. When he’s hitting well, this offense is potent. When he’s scuffling, the lineup struggles to score.

 

8. Jhonny Peralta
Opening Day Age: 31
Contract:
2014
: 15,500,000
2015: 15,000,000
2016: 12,500,000
2017: 10,000,000
This contract does two good things for the Cardinals and one really good thing for baseball. For the club, it plugs a hole at shortstop where the Cardinals were in dire need of offense, and with declining salaries, the potential of hamstringing the team later on is diminished. For baseball, this deal will most certainly accelerate the players’ union to enact harsher penalties for cheaters.

9. Joe Kelly, SP
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
For the past two seasons, Kelly has been the odd man out early in the season. He wasn’t called up until later in 2012, then missed out on a rotation spot coming out of spring training in 2013. And at key times during both seasons, Kelly has bailed out the Cardinals’ rotation. He’s athletic, throws hard, has guts and is profoundly entertaining in the clubhouse.

10. Lance Lynn, SP
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: First possible free agency
Lynn apparently has missed the cutoff to be arbitration eligible this winter by less than five days’ worth of service time. Tough break for him, huge cost savings for the Redbirds.

11. Carlos Martinez, P
Open Day Age:  22
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Mike Matheny and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist believe they have a third ace in Martinez to pitch alongside Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. He enjoyed success as a setup man late in the year showing the poise and maturity the Cardinals expect from their starters.

12. Shelby Miller, SP
Open Day Age:  23
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
Whether it’s as a member of a deep and talented rotation in 2014, or as a trade chip over the winter, Miller brings tremendous value to the organization coming off of a superb rookie season with 15 wins.

13. Oscar Taveras, OF
Open Day Age:  21
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First Possible Free Agency
Widely considered the best prospect in baseball, Taveras dealt with injuries last season that delayed his development. When the Cardinals signed Carlos Beltran to a two-year deal prior to 2012, the thinking was that Taveras would be ready to take over in 2014. But he probably needs some significant injury-free time at Triple-A to prevent throwing him to the wolves prematurely. His health and development will be closely monitored in spring training.

14. Kevin Siegrist, RP
Open Day Age:  24
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
After his debut in early June, the Cardinals were judicious in picking spots for the young lefthander. As the season progressed he was used more often in increasingly high-leverage situations. And he responded with 50 strikeouts and only 17 hits and 18 walks to show for his 39.2 innings.

15. Jaime Garcia, SP
Open Day Age:  27
Contract:

2014: 7,750,000
2015: 9,250,000
2016: 11,500,000 club option, $500,000 buyout
2017: 12,000,000 club option, $500,000 buyout
The feisty lefty has had Tommy John surgery and more recently major shoulder surgery that ended his 2013 season after just nine starts. His 1.328 career WHIP isn’t overpowering by any means, but he consistently keeps his team in the game, especially at home where his ERA is about a run-and-a-half better than on the road.

 

16. Peter Bourjos, CF
2014
: 1st Year Arbitration
2015: 2nd Year Arbitration
2016: 3rd Year Arbitration
2017: First Possible Free Agency
The Cardinals acquired one of the best defensive center fielders in the game in Bourjos. It would be a bit optimistic to expect him to produce 49 extra-base hits like he did in 2011, which included an AL-best 11 triples.

17. Jason Motte, RP
Open Day Age:  31
Contract:

2014: 7,000,000
The closer lost 2013 to Tommy John surgery, and it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals approach re-signing him beyond this season. Considering the depth in the pitching staff, the likelihood of him being offered a significant deal to stay in St. Louis is not high. But he can be a valuable member of the bullpen in 2014.

18. Seth Maness, RP
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: 4th Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
For some reason, Maness became a master at producing double plays last season. He induced 16 twin killings and faced just 249 batters.

19. Matt Adams, 1B
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
The Cardinals are happy with the development of Big City, but need him to hit lefties more consistently and shorten his stroke enough to avoid prolonged slumps. His continued improvement gives St. Louis some options and may force some big personnel decisions.

20. Kolten Wong, 2B
Open Day Age:  23
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Forget about that baserunning gaffe in Game 4 of the World Series, Wong is a budding star. He didn’t prove himself big-league ready this season, but it won’t be much longer.

 

21. Randy Choate, RP
Open Day Age:  38
Contract:

2014: 3,000,000
2015: 3,000,000
The lefty specialist is a necessary component of the bullpen, and he held lefties to a .176 average with no homers in 85 ABs last season.

22. Daniel Descalso, IF
Open Day Age:  27
Contract:

2014: 1st Year Arbitration
2015: 2nd Year Arbitration
2016: 3rd Year Arbitration
2017: First possible free agency
St. Louis fans think of him as Jose Oquendo Light.

 

23. Jon Jay, CF
Open Day Age:  29
Contract:

2014: 1st Year Arbitration
2015: 2nd Year Arbitration
2016: 3rd Year Arbitration
2017: First possible free agency
A year ago, the Cardinals thought they a had a budding Gold Glover in center field, but he seemed to take a few steps backward this season. He doesn’t run or hit well enough — especially against lefthanders — to keep an everyday job in center as an average defender. His future is probably as a fourth outfielder, albeit a very good one.

 

24. Tony Cruz, C
Open Day Age:  27
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: First possible free agency
There are worse jobs in baseball than Yadier Molina’s caddie.

25. Shane Robinson, OF
Open Day Age:  29
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: First possible free agency
The diminutive Robinson is perfectly suited to be a fourth outfielder.

 

26. Randal Grichuk, OF
Open Day Age:  22
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First Possible Free Agency
The first-round pick of the Angels in 2009, Grichuk has battled injuries and had just two fully healthy seasons. He is a budding power hitter who has put together back-to-back seasons of 57 extra-base hits. The Cardinals will work to refine his approach against breaking pitches and plate discipline.

27. Pete Kozma, SS
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
The former first-round pick brings solid character and a steady glove to the ballpark everyday with a genuine desire to improve. But the Cardinals would prefer a little offense mixed in as well.

28. Mike O’Neill
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First Possible Free Agency
The small lefty-swinging outfielder has hit for average at every minor league level with no pop. He probably translates to a corner outfielder and must use speed to his advantage to get on base.

29. Sam Freeman, RP
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
He may be the slightest built Cardinal since Dal Maxvill.

30. Tyler Lyons, P
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
The Cardinals were 3-5 in his eight fill-in starts this season; 3-1 when the lineup gave him three runs of support.

31. Greg Garcia, IF
Open Day Age:  24
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First Possible Free Agency
Garcia is the “does all the little things” kind of player. He is similar to Daniel Descalso, with a little better bat overall, especially against lefthanders.

32. Keith Butler, P
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
He doesn’t wow you with overpowering stuff like many of the Cardinals’ youngsters, but the club believes he can be a complete pitcher.

33. Joey Butler, OF
Open Day Age:  28
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Stuck at Triple-A in the Rangers’ system since 2011, it’s possible a change scenery and situation could be a positive jolt to his career.

34. Audry Perez, C
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Yadier Molina was a .274 hitter in the minor leagues. So, is there stardom in the future for this defensive-minded backstop, who has hit .266 over six seasons? Uh, probably not.

35. Jorge Rondon, RP
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Through age 25, he’s appeared in 258 minor league games.

36. Eric Fornataro, P
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
The sixth-round pick in 2008 didn’t exactly set the world on fire when given a chance at Triple-A in 2013.

 

Non-Roster Prospects

Significant prospects not currently on the 40-man roster
Tyrell Jenkins, SP
Stephen Piscotty, OF
James Ramsey, OF

 

Exclude From Games: 
Include In Games

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