Tuesdays' news that the Cardinals would invite 18 players outside their 40-man roster to spring training is best taken with last week's news that FOX Sports Midwest would be televising 15 spring training games.
Here's how you can tell spring training still serves a valuable baseball purpose: If it were strictly a fan-friendly exhibition, it would have gone all the way down one route or the other, either all-starters-all-the-time or sure-let's-just-let-Charlie-Tilson-take-four-at-bats. Instead we have one of those compromises that almost-pleases everybody: The fans in the stands down in Jupiter are disappointed to watch all the jerseys with names on the back leave by the sixth inning, and the fans on the blogs want to see Minor League Guy.
Non-roster invitees are, alas, mostly a blog-fan thing. And a John Mozeliak thing:
"The fun thing from my side of things will be looking at some of these young guys," general manager John Mozeliak said when asked about the few questions the big-league roster has going into spring training. "Carson Kelly catching in major-league camp. Piscotty. Ramsey."Carson Kelly earning this year's Somebody Has To Catch scholarship is both spring's most interesting (if ultimately, as catcher NRIs always are, anticlimactic) sideshow and another chance to freak out about Yadier Molina's replacements, if you're into that. Here's everybody:
Ex-Diamondback who hit .334/.394/.478 last year in (I'm sorry) the Pacific Coast League while playing his home games in (I'm sorry) Reno while (I'm sorry) 27. He should outhit Rob Johnson, which is the point.
The first strike against Pete Kozma, for people who have been counting strikes against him from the moment he was drafted: Pete Kozma is a tweener. He was a high schooler with polished-low-upside-college-kid skills, and everybody, best-case-scenario, was almost-pleased.
He wasn't even the right age for a high schooler—he was baseball-19 the year he whelmed 'em in Johnson City. Carson Kelly was 17 during his own trip to the Appalachian League, which means that his baseball-19 season will take place after he's already had his first disappointing season.
Between the move to catcher and the disappearance of the one attribute (power) we scraped from his professional debut it's hard to say much about Carson Kelly right now. But if it helps you keep the faith, pretend the Cardinals haven't drafted him yet.
If you sat down with a shadowy cadre of minor league scouts to devise a grueling, illegal test to measure a backup catcher's backup-catcher-intangibles—his ability to put the team ahead of himself, to keep his head down and play the right way—it wouldn't be long before somebody suggested running his father and brother out of town on a rail while bouncing him up and down the system every couple of months.
Cody Stanley has been the Cardinals' catcher-of-the-future-by-default since shortly before Carson Kelly was born, but at 25 he's still young enough to do something interesting.
Unfortunately, that will be the first interesting thing he does. Stanley's PED suspension is still the biggest news story of his career, but on his baseball card it blends in pretty well with all the injuries; he's never played more than 101 games in a season. While he's been not-playing he's climbed all the way up to AA, which makees it hard to say much about what he'd do if he ever got five solid months in the same dugout again.
Travis Tartamella threw out 14 base-stealers in 33 attempts last year. At this point Baseball-Reference has no data re: how many times he walked up to John Mozeliak and tried to start a conversation about Jason Motte.