First base is one of the few position battles the Cardinals have had during Spring Training. The candidates for the spot have seemed clear for awhile but a dark horse might have a chance to make this a race.
Spring training is the time of the year where teams can experiment with lineups, young players, and even moving players to new positions. That is exactly what the Cardinals have done this spring by giving 7 time all-star Matt Holliday reps at first base.
In his prime, Holiday was an average fielder but he’s now 36 years old and his legs don’t work as well as they did when he was 25. Unfortunately, Holiday plays in the National League where there is no designated hitter so if the Cardinals want his bat, they need to keep him in the field. And they really need his bat.
First basemen in the MLB are notoriously great hitters, supplementing their glove for their bats. At first base, you don’t need the range of an outfielder or middle infielder. Also, you do not need a strong arm unlike third base, making it the perfect position for an aging all-star who can’t run as well but still is an above average hitter.
— J.J. Bailey (@TheJJBailey) March 6, 2016
The Cardinals weakest position is by far first. Right now, it is occupied by a platoon of a top prospect who has not lived up to his potential in Matt Adams and veteran Brandon Moss. Could Adams finally put it all together? Or does Moss have something left in the tank for one more 20 homerun year? We don’t know but it is highly unlikely.
Holiday is the perfect in house option to fill the first base void. He is still an all star hitter but he is a liability in left field. Also, with Holiday playing first base, it opens up a spot in the outfield for Tommy Pham to play everyday. This would increase the quality of defense in the outfield while also possibly pumping up the already very low caliber offense.
The second year player, Pham, had a very impressive 2015 campaign, earning him a vote for rookie of the year. He hit .268/.347/.477 with 5 homeruns in 56 games. Pham could simply not earn a consistent starting spot in the crowed 2015 Cardinals outfield. With Jason Heyward signing in Chicago and the potential move to first for Holiday, left field or center are Pham’s positions for the taking.
In the end, this all depends on if Holiday can play first base. Having a good defensive first baseman is one of the most important things to have on the diamond. No matter how good your infielders are, they will make bad throws and it is the responsibility of the first baseman to prevent those throws to turning into errors.
Manager Mike Matheny has been experimenting with Holiday at first this spring and he has held his own over a few games but has not yet shown that he can handle the responsibilities at first base over a long and grueling 162 game season. But it would sure be exciting seeing him play somewhere that could elongate his career. All of this would be done while also possibly making the team better as a whole.