There has been no true winner of the first base battle that has taken place this spring. Heading into the season, first base will be a position of interest.
If there is a position to keep your eye on this year for the Cardinals, it is definitely first base. Heading into Spring Training, this position appeared to be a two-horse race for Matt Adams and Brandon Moss. However, recently, Matt Holliday has inserted his name into this battle and has become a major contender to becoming the starting first basemen, rather than playing his usual left field position. With less than 5 days to Opening Day (!!!), Manager Mike Matheny has yet to make a decision, so definitely keep an eye on how this position battle plays out.
Each player brings a different sets of strength, making this a difficult decision. Adams and Moss are two “true” first basemen, who have played this position for years, so initially they will have the leg up in this three-way battle. Adams and Moss will have much more experience than Holliday to play first base defensively. However, for most of the second half of Spring Training, Matheny has been getting Holliday reps at first base and it has worked so far. Holliday has looked very comfortable playing at first base and has fielded the position well.
As it stands right now, Moss appears to be out of this position battle. This Spring Training, he has been in a slump at times and is only batting .244. Last year, the Cardinals lacked productivity at the plate from the first base position, so hitting will be a major deciding factor for who becomes the starting first basemen.
Adams has performed much better. He is batting .279 in 16 games. If, whoever starts at first base for the Cardinals this year can bat around the .280 mark, it will help alleviate pressure from some of the other parts of the lineup and that will be their key to success.
— OK Preps Extra (@okprepsextra) March 16, 2016
Holliday, who will likely bat in the 3rd spot in the batting lineup whether he plays left field or first base, is batting .290 and looks ready for the regular season.
The X-factor in deciding this position may be outfielder Tommy Pham. Pham has always been a highly touted player who possesses elite speed to cover the outfield. The reason why Matheny has been looking at Holliday at first base is to work Pham into the lineup. When the Cardinals open up at Pittsburgh, they will be playing at PNC Park, a stadium with a very spacious outfield. Pham’s speed could potentially save runs in that critical opening series against the Pirates. If Pham can live up to his lofty expectations and hit well at the plate, Matheny can comfortably play Holliday at first.
In my opinion, Holliday at first and Pham as the third outfielder is the best combination for this team. Pham, if he lives up to the hype, is a much better batter than Adams and Moss. Plus, his elite speed in the outfield would be a tremendous upgrade over Holliday. Even though it’s not Holliday’s preferred position, it is where he will help this team out the most.
My guess is this position will likely change series by series based on factors like the ballpark or whether the DH will be in play. It will also come down to who is hitting well and who isn’t. There is a huge question mark surrounding this position heading into 2016, but there is so much potential. Get excited for this position battle. It will go a long way in deciding how successful the Cardinals are this season.