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Cardinals prospects with the most to prove in Spring Training

Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2013, at 11:49 AM

St. Louis Cardinals old and new are finishing up their off season training regimens as they enter the final weeks before Spring Training.

The Cardinals released their list of non-roster invitees (NRI) this week. A total of 16 NRIs will be heading to Florida, some with a lot on the line.

For reasons varying from a position block to the potential to become trade bait, prospects have to show up in Florida ready to put on a show. If you don't stand out in the crowd of other hopefuls, it will be difficult to ever make the final jump.

That goes for players who have spent a brief stint in the majors as well. Just because a player made the team in 2012 as a September call-up doesn't necessarily mean they will make a return in 2013.

Spring Training is their chance to hang onto that spot.

Following are a handful of prospects that have to prove themselves this spring.

Ryan Jackson

Once viewed as the Cardinals future at shortstop, he seems to have fallen down in the rankings a bit over the last year.

After a respectable season at Triple-A Memphis, Ryan Jackson received a call-up to St. Louis in September, but little came of it. Jackson made 13 appearances, mostly cameos, and stepped to the plate only 18 times.

In truth, he hardly had a chance to prove himself. He will have that chance in Florida and there's a chance it will be his only.

With the Cardinals acquisition of Ronny Cedeno as a backup shortstop and Pete Kozma proving to be a competent backup as well, the roster may have met its shortstop limit already.

Pete Kozma

Pete Kozma made the most of his shot at the big leagues in September and October 2011.

The Oklahoma native hit .333 in 26 regular season games including five doubles, three triples, two home runs and 14 RBI.

While his overall numbers declined during the postseason, he put together numerous timely hits that turned out to be difference makers.

Believed to be the backup shortstop prior to the signing of Cedeno, Kozma's situation is less of a "shoe-in" than once believed. He may not be losing his roster spot, but if he wants to see a substantial amount of playing time he needs to be ready to go at the start of Spring Training.

John Gast

John Gast is a name that a lot of Cardinals fans may not be familiar with, but it's not because he doesn't have the talent.

Gast has put up promising numbers on his trek through the minor leagues and made a decent showing in his 20 starts at Memphis in 2012. He gave up quite a few runs which spiked his ERA up to 5.10, but did manage a 9-5 record.

The problem for Gast is that "good" isn't good enough in the Cardinals farm system. If he wants to shine in the Cardinals sea of quality pitching prospects, he's going to have to do it soon.

He'll have his chance soon.

Shelby Miller

There is little doubt that Shelby Miller will make the Cardinals Opening Day roster, but in what capacity?

That's the real question. Miller will make a serious push for the fifth rotation slot in 2013, but will have stiff competition in Lance Lynn and Trevor Rosenthal. Two of the three will likely begin the season in the bullpen.

The Cardinals would most likely be reluctant to shift Miller to the bullpen given the trouble he had in 2012. Consistency is everything in baseball and at this stage in Miller's development, a move like that could wrinkle the team's long-term plans for their once top prospect.

If Miller shows up in Florida and pitches like he did in September and October, he shouldn't have much to worry about.

Matt Adams

Matt Adams is an interesting case. He will show up for Spring Training kind of in flux.

With no room for him in St. Louis at the present time, the Cardinals will have to make a tough decision. They will have to decide whether to bring him to St. Louis as a bench bat or leave him in Memphis until an injury clears room for him to get regular playing time with the Cardinals.

In 2012, General Manager John Mozeliak made it clear he wanted Adams in the lineup everyday if he was going to be in St. Louis. At this point, that would be difficult for him to do if he gets a promotion.

Given his tremendous success in the minor leagues, he's reached his ceiling at the lower levels of the game.

All Adams can do is show up in Florida and play good enough that they have no choice but to bring him to St. Louis.

Corey Noles of The Daily Statesman is a baseball columnist whose work is featured on KSDK.com and Semoball. He also serves as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He can be reached at cnoles@dailystatesman.com.

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I don't believe Gast will ever make it to the show as far as being a Cardinal. I just don't have the "feel" for him. Maybe I'm wrong.

Shelby has been on my "fan favorite" list for a few years and I was thrilled to see him finally in the Majors this past fall. I seriously hope he excels wherever he lands this season. I think Trevor and Lance have proven themselves, and because I don't think Carp will be able to last all season, it is possible two of those three could end up starting.

Matt Adams...I hate to see him leave the Cardinals system. I wish there was a way to keep himn around, but he does have some value as a potential slugger. He is too good to use as a pinch hitter or as a bench player. It is a nice problem to have.

As far as SS, I wish we had the same problem of not having room for a player. I just don't know about that position. As long as they do the job I am happy....

Then again I feel that way about the entire team.

-- Posted by Blogdog on Mon, Feb 4, 2013, at 5:46 PM

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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