By Ben Haber, from Cardsblog.com
As of Friday, the Cardinals have played eight games in Jupiter, Florida for Spring Training and have a 3-4 record in those games (with 1 tie). As most baseball fans know, a player’s or team’s performance in spring training is usually not indicative of things to come in the regular season.
While few of the team regulars play often in the spring, let alone the first week, top prospects and minor leaguers are given a great chance to prove themselves. For the Cardinals in particular, they are expecting large contributions from their younger players once the season arrives, so it is crucial that they have young talent to get fans excited for the future.
Here are some of the top surprises or standout moments from the team’s first week of spring training.
Marcell Ozuna Hits First Home Run with Cardinals, Pham has Hot Start
All-star outfielder Marcell Ozuna got a decent amount of game time as he adjusts to playing with his new teammates. On Thursday against Minnesota, Ozuna crushed a homerun to deep left field for his first of the spring.
Even though games and stats don’t count, his first long ball of 2018 should mean more to the team and the fans, giving them a glimpse of what to expect from him in the regular season. He appears to be fitting into the team well so far, and as the major league roster begins to play more games, more of Ozuna’s two-way talent should be on display.
Also, Tommy Pham has added a home run in the first week as well, which should also excite fans since many are expected a huge year for him, building off his breakout 2017. In fact, as Pham is becoming a bigger name around the league, he has higher expectations being placed on him by the team to succeed.
Yairo Muñoz Hits Two Home Runs in the Same Inning, Adolis Garcia With Strong Start
Yairo Munoz is a new name in the Cardinals organization after acquiring him from the A’s in the Stephen Piscotty trade. However, the 23-year-old did not take long to make an impact, as he launched not one, but two homers in the 7th inning on Wednesday against the Orioles.
In addition, Munoz has started off strong as a whole in the spring, batting .350 in 20 at-bats. One has to wonder if his performances for the rest of March continue in this upward trajectory.
Outfielder Adolis Garcia, who spent 2017 in the AAA and AA teams, has also had a hot start in February. Garcia, in 7 games, batted .400 with a home run and 4 RBIs. Garcia’s name should be another one to watch in the coming weeks, as he will receive more game time and looks to build off his first week.
Notable Pitching Performances
In the early days of spring training, no manager should drain their pitchers, no matter how much of an impact they may have in the major leagues.
However, a few Cardinals pitchers had promising starts, including reliever John Gant who has only surrendered one run in five innings. It should also be noted that Gant has thrown multiple innings in each of his appearances this season, and has struck out nine total batters over those five innings.
John Brebbia, another young reliever, has also had a strong February, striking out 6 in three total innings while only allowing one hit.
Both these players will look to make an impact in the bullpen in 2018, and strong performances in spring training will surely lead to increase in game time in the major leagues.
On the other hand, a few notable arms have struggled in games this year, but with such a small sample size, this should not lead to much concern going forward.
One pitcher who has struggled is Bud Norris, who has allowed seven hits and seven earned runs in 4.1 innings total. Norris, a closer last year for the Angels, is expected to play a large role in the bullpen, so the Cardinals are hoping his form improves as March continues.
Also, Jack Flaherty, a top pitching prospect for the team, has surrendered four runs and four hits in four innings, but he will also undoubtedly play much more in the spring, with more chances to show his talent and what he can bring to the team in the future.
Overall, the Cardinals have a number of positive takeaways from spring training, to begin with, and fans’ excitement should be building as we move closer to Opening Day.