The Cardinals will be like most teams next week by expanding their roster; as of September 1st, any player on the 40-man roster can be added to the active roster (normally at 25 men). This gives many teams, the non-contenders, an opportunity to see what they have for next year, while the contenders can give the regulars some rest.
Hopefully the Cardinals will be in the latter group.
(Note: this is all contingent on the minor league playoffs; both Memphis and Springfield are in the hunt, so any promotion might wait until their seasons are officially over.)
Pitching-wise, the Cardinals have plenty of useful options. Start Marco Gonzales will probably end up with the club, but being used out of the bullpen. The last time Gonzales was up, he was hit pretty hard. Rumor was he didn’t have faith in his secondary pitches, which left him throwing nothing but his high-80 to low-90 fastball; players can hit a fastball like that. Since he went back to the minors (and his first stint in Triple A), he went back to his dominating fashion.
Relievers Eric Fornataro, Jorge Rondon, and Kevin Siegrist should all get recalled. Fornataro was recalled a few times this season; he’s pitched in 9.2 innings with a 4.66 ERA and 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Rondon has also been up a few times, but has only 1 appearance during his short MLB career; he’s allowed a walk in 1 inning pitched. Siegrist was demoted to Memphis after struggling in recent weeks; since he was reinstated from the 15-day DL for a forearm strain, he owned a 12.38 ERA with 6 strikeouts and 2 walks in 8.0 innings.
Righty reliever Keith Butler won’t be activated, since he’s on Memphis’ DL after having Tommy John surgery earlier this season; he won’t be ready to play until mid-season next year, at the earliest.
Audry Perez is a toss-up right now. With A.J. Pierzynski and Tony Cruz as the current options, he won’t get much playing time; that’s also before figuring that Yadier Molina will be back with the team before the season ends. Perez was up last year call up, so he could be up as a cheerleader again.
Greg Garcia and Pete Kozma figure to see a promotion. The Cardinals do not have a true shortstop on their bench, so both guys will have a role. Garcia is the better option for playing time, as he’s younger and has a better bat; Kozma is better defensively, so he might be coming in to the 8th or 9th inning of close games. Garcia was also recently demoted to Springfield to be close to the Cardinals for a quick recall.
Aledmys Diaz probably won’t be called up. He’s spent a good deal of time on the disabled list at Springfield (AA) and even saw a demotion to Palm Beach (Hi A), where is again on the DL.
Randal Grichuk looks to be the lone 40-man outfielder; he’s been up twice this year already and has had a pretty good year at Memphis. He’ll bring power to a bench that is sorely missing it.
Rafael Ortega will probably not get the call; his only MLB stint was an emergency promotion with Colorado in 2012. Being in the MLB clubhouse wouldn’t be a bad thing for the speedster, and the team could use him like they did Adron Chambers in the past – strictly as a pinch runner.
There are also a few candidates that are not on the 40-man roster.
David Aardsma was recently activated from the Memphis DL; he had groin surgery and missed about 6 weeks. If he proves he’s healthy and can be an asset in Triple A, he could force his way onto the roster.
First baseman Xavier Scruggs is another player that will need to be added to the 40-man this winter, and he could be a good addition to the team. He brings power to the bench, although he won’t make much contact. He’s had a good first season at Memphis.
Outfielder Tommy Pham is another player that could force the Cardinals hand. He stayed healthy for the first time in a while and had a great season in Memphis. He’d bring power and speed to the Cardinal outfield and can play all 3 positions.
Two players I left off were lefty Tim Cooney and outfielder Stephen Piscotty. Both players are on the verge of making the majors, but neither has to be rushed on the 40-man roster. They don’t need to be added this winter. The Cardinals have said that Piscotty will most-likely not be promoted, but I expect Cooney to be left behind with him.
The problem with the 40-man roster is there is only one spot open, and that will most likely be for Michael Wacha, when he is activated from the 60-day DL. They could move Butler to the 60-day DL. There are also some DFA candidates – a catcher (Pierzynski or Cruz when Molina is back), Shane Robinson, Mark Ellis, Kozma, and/or Justin Masterson.
The idea that Masterson being DFA may be a stretch right now, but with as badly as he’s pitched and the need for other players to be promoted, he could be the odd man out. Wacha will also complicate this further, if he’s instantly re-inserted to the rotation when he’s activated.