The most visible prospect among the St. Louis Cardinals’ improving stash is outfielder Colby Rasmus, in major league camp as a non-roster invitee. One of the biggest roster questions for the club is whether there will be room for the 22-year-old to make the team.
One by-product of all that attention is that the player’s every move is analyzed and often over analyzed. On Saturday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an article about Rasmus in which they highlighted a recent run of eight spring plate appearances through his first at-bat of Saturday’s game.
The headline screamed, “La Russa talk appears to have paid off for young St. Louis Cardinals Cardinals outfielder Rasmus”. Whew!
- The player may no longer be pressing.
- A talk the manager had with the player must have worked.
- A drop to the ninth spot in the order must have worked.
- All is right with the world.
Ok, I added the final point, but hopefully, you get the idea. Eight plate appearances aren’t enough to determine anything. Unfortunately, spring training is as long for the writers as it is for the players and coaches.
For the record, Rasmus went 0-for-3 with a strikeout over the rest of Saturday’s game following the eight cherry-picked plate appearances trumpeted in the P-D article.
Even my colleague Ray Mileur at Scout.com declared this morning that Rasmus has appeared to have made the team – with almost four weeks of exhibition games to go.
While Rasmus has been given the most at-bats on the Cardinals team, and in fact, the most of any player in any club’s spring training, he is hitting just .250. With his usual good eye at the plate, his on-base percentage is .351 due to five walks taken. Three extra base hits put Rasmus’ slugging mark at .375.
In other words, with only about 30 more points of spring OPS, Rasmus can reach Aaron Miles’ 2008 regular season mark of .753.
Am I suggesting Miles is Rasmus’ equal as a hitter? Of course not. But making pronouncements over 32 spring at-bats, let alone eight, is microanalysis at its best, or should I say, worst.
If one could take spring performances to date to the bank, Allen Craig, a man without a clear home defensively who realistically will be fighting to make the Memphis roster for the first time, should be starting at first base for St. Louis ahead of .286-hitting Albert Pujols. After all, Craig’s current line is a lusty .438/.526/.688.
One of the early worries was whether Rasmus, seemingly being pushed by the front office, would see enough at bats in Tony La Russa’s camp. Those fears were unfounded.
With an assist due to regular starting centerfielder Rick Ankiel being slowed by Achilles tendon soreness, Rasmus has seen action early and often this spring, including time in centerfield, as noted above.
As camp began, La Russa tossed out the idea of hitting Rasmus ninth in his order, but started spring games with Colby seeing action at or near the top instead. For the last several days, Rasmus has been in that ninth spot, as originally suggested.
Let’s move on to the broader landscape, which I assert affects Rasmus’ immediate future on the club as much or more than his own play. Inherent in the question of whether he makes the Cardinals are several other still-open issues related to other incumbent outfielders:
- Will Skip Schumaker be able to execute a successful transition to a major league-capable second baseman on the fly, thereby opening a left-handed outfield spot?
- Will Joe Mather start the season at third base, making a bit more room in a very crowded outfield?
- Will the Cardinals finally engineer a trade to relieve some of the outfield surplus to address other needs after a winter of attempts and failures?
Here’s hoping that Rasmus does well this spring, but let’s check back on his progress in a few weeks, not in a few more at-bats.
So, how is Chris Carpenter doing today?