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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Could Daniel Descalso win a job by survival?

When my wife and I searched for our current house, we struggled mightily to make a selection from a wide variety of homes, after seeing over 60 of them. As we listed pros and cons of each, they all fell short of our ideal in various ways.

Out of time and forced to make a decision, we reluctantly put three on our short list, but couldn’t choose. I suggested a compromise to make our pick. We would each eliminate one from the list and the final one left standing would become our new dwelling. It was agreed.

The house that I liked best, she hated. I too was against her favorite. The one for which we both had the fewest serious objections became the winner by survival.

I wonder if the selection process the St. Louis Cardinals follow for their utility infielder to replace injured Nick Punto could take a similar path. Perhaps manager Tony La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak will play the roles of the opposing decision-makers.

Let’s look at the three combatants.

Matt Carpenter has yet to play a game above Double-A, yet was the organization’s Player of the Year in 2010. The third baseman has been very effective in the first two weeks of spring training.

Ramon Vazquez is an older, well-traveled veteran who does not hit much, but can play major league-quality defense at three positions. The latter virtues are much like Punto.

Daniel Descalso is in between. He has a little MLB experience, can play two of the three positions adequately and is likely a better hitter than Vazquez.

Here is a summary of some of the key factors.

Hitting Spring MLB Minors
Carpenter Excellent No experience Good
Descalso Good Limited good Good
Vazquez Poor Below average Fair
Carpenter LHH
Descalso LHH
Vazquez LHH
Defense 2B SS 3B
Carpenter No No Yes
Descalso Yes No Yes
Vazquez Yes Yes Yes
Roster 40-man
Carpenter No
Descalso Yes
Vazquez No

All three are left-handed hitters, so there is no benefit to any one of the three.

While La Russa’s glowing comments about Carpenter on Saturday were widely reported, he also said about Carpenter, “If he gets sent out, he has still had a great camp.”  The manager also noted, “He may be ready and doesn’t fit our club,” a reference to multi-positional needs.

In the same conversation, I asked the manager what Vazquez would have to do to make the team. La Russa said they know what the “solid player” can do. He noted that when others go to the minors, the vets get their at-bats over the final ten days of camp, perhaps said as a reminder that it is still early.

Descalso? No one said anything. Daniel is quietly hitting .304 with a .385 on-base percentage and added a pair of stolen bases.

Descalso has one advantage in that he is the only one to have a place on the organization’s 40-man roster. This is a potential issue for the other two, but not an insurmountable problem.

Descalso has option years remaining as well so could easily be moved back and forth between St. Louis and Memphis as necessary. What to do with Vazquez when Punto returns could be an issue. Starting Carpenter’s option years one season earlier than planned could be a minor concern, coupled to the 40-man issue noted above.

While there is a lot of baseball to be played, could Descalso end up being the easiest alternative, just as was my house selection? As La Russa noted, it may be just a one-month decision.

Which player will make the Cardinals out of spring camp?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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