In the upcoming season, St. Louis’s middle infield will primarily don the same appearance that it has for the previous couple of seasons. However, the backup options have been altered.
When the Cardinals signed free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $52 million deal in November of 2013, it’d be inaccurate to say people believed it would pan out to be one of the best signings that the team has ever made. Nonetheless, it’s not too farfetched to say that it has been. Since the beginning of 2014, there’s an argument to be made that Peralta has been the most consistent player on the team’s roster. Given that Peralta has respectively batted .263 and .275 and drove in 75 and 71 runs over the last two seasons, such a claim would not be invalid. In 2015, Peralta tied with Randal Grichuk for the second-most homers on the team with seventeen. Jhonny’s 420 assists led the club.
After David Freese was packaged off to Anaheim in 2013, the Cardinals shifted Matt Carpenter to third base to fill his void, leaving a full-time spot to be filled at second. St. Louis looked upon Kolten Wong, their first pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, to occupy the vacancy. He has done just that, appearing in 263 games since 2014. Kolten slashed .262/.321/.386 in 2015 and scored 71 runs. His 4.91 range factor was second-highest on the team, falling short to Yadier Molina’s 8.36. Kolten does have potential to win a Gold Glove, says general manager John Mozeliak.
Peralta and Wong collectively slumped during the season’s second half. Jhonny hit .252 from July onward and collected just 21 of his 72 RBI. Kolten struck out on 49 occasions in the same timeframe and hit .238. Many believe that their slumps sprouted from the heavy, stressful workloads the two took on. To ensure that they receive rest more sparingly, the Cardinals added a swift utility infielder to their roster this offseason.
In an early December trade with the San Diego Padres, St. Louis checked two boxes off of their to-do list by sending outfielder Jon Jay packing in exchange for Jedd Gyorko. Ridding the roster of Jay helped the Cardinals pave a clearer path for other outfielders, and it brought them back the utility infielder they were looking for. Gyorko, 27, is capable of playing second base and shortstop and brings a sturdy bat to the table. In 2015 with San Diego, Jedd drove in 57 runs and slashed fifteen doubles.
Other than Gyorko, the Cardinals’ middle infield depth features Aledmys Diaz and Greg Garcia. Diaz, a primary shortstop, spent most of 2015 with Double-A Springfield and fourteen games with Triple-A Memphis. He slugged .445 and drove in 52 runs in 425 total at-bats. Diaz, 25, is still in search of his debut and is likely to find it at one point or another in the upcoming season. Garcia gathered 75 at-bats with the Cardinals last season and 132 innings of fieldwork, 65 coming at short. He hit two home runs and batted .240.
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