A 5th outfielder may force his way on to the roster and make the Cardinals make some tough decisions.
If you were to ask any Cardinals fan who Jeremy Hazelbaker was before the season, they’d have no idea. Now he is about to become a household name.
Okay maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but Hazelbaker is turning a lot of heads this spring training. The 28 year old outfielder has put up an impressive .310/.375/.552 slash line this spring, showing he can not only hit for average but also power. Before this season, Hazelbaker’s biggest flaw was his tendency to strike out too often and not draw enough walks. It seems that this spring he has been able to turn that trend around this spring. So far he has only struck out twice in 32 plate appearances.
On the other hand, Hazelbaker has not been seeing as many pitches at the plate. He has only been averaging 1.84 pitches per plate appearance. His inability to work deep in counts can be used to the pitcher’s advantages by throwing off-speed early in counts to keep Hazelbaker off-balance.
It is 2 weeks away from Opening Day and Hazelbaker is still hanging around though it will still be a tough challenge for him to make the team. The Muncie, Indiana native is competing against a stacked outfield with no holes that includes Randal Grichuk, Matt Holliday, Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty.
— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) March 21, 2016
Recently, the Cardinals have been flirting with the idea of putting Holliday at first base. Currently, Matt Adams and Brandon Moss are competing for the starting position at first. Neither of them have truly claimed the job. If Holiday can learn how to field the position, his bat would be a major plus over the two options and would leave the 4th outfielder spot for Hazelbaker.
Hazelbaker is the perfect candidate for the 5th outfielder spot. His ability to hit for average, power, and steal bases makes him a valuable late game asset for manager Mike Matheny. The Cardinals lineup is also very heavy right handed hitting. Hazelbaker’s left handed bat off the bench can come in crucial in late game situations.
Hazelbaker’s chances of making the team were reduced dramatically with the injury to Jhonny Peralta. With the all-star shortstop on the DL, the Cardinals will most likely keep an extra infielder on their MLB roster taking a roster spot away from Hazelbaker.
With only 2 weeks left of spring training, Hazelbaker can claim himself an MLB spot if he keeps putting up big numbers.