The Cardinals has made a couple of moves this week. They have acquired catching prospect Michael Ohlman from the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations; as well as signing Carlos Villanueva to a minor league contract, which includes a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Both significant transactions considering the Cardinals lack of catching depth; as well as a much-needed RHP, who can not only pitch out of the bullpen, but can also make an occasional spot start if necessary. That could potentially make the transition of either Marco Gonzalez or Carlos Martinez to the starting rotation that much smoother. However, the bottom line is, Villanueva still has to make the team for this all to work.
First, let’s start off with Michael Ohlman: Ohlman is your atypical catcher. At a rather lofty 6 feet 5 inches, he stands as the tallest catcher on the Cardinals depth chart in the minors or majors for that matter. He offers an intriguing bat, although he struggled mightily last year hitting only a slash line of .236/.310/.627; however, the year before in the minors he hit a line of .313/.410/.524/.934 in 100 games with Baltimore’s A+ affiliate. Granted, last year’s decline in numbers came after a promotion to Baltimore’s AA affiliate. It remains to be a mystery if Ohlman can adjust as the competition becomes that much greater. That said, if he can improve his footwork defensively and find the stroke that he did at A+ ball, then he could be very well one to watch out for in the next few years. Plus, at age 23 he still has some time to see if he can play the game at a higher level.
On to Carlos Villanueva: The Cardinals added some needed pitching depth this week when they acquired Villanueva on a minor-league contract with a non-roster invite for Spring Training. As stated before, he’ll be enlisted possibly to offset the move of either Gonzalez or Martinez from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Carlos is certainly no stranger to going from bullpen pitcher to starter and back again, a lot of the time within the same season. He has made 20 starts the past two seasons with the Chicago Cubs as well as pitching out of their bullpen. He was 5-7 with a 4.64 ERA with the Cubs in 42 games last season.
Here is GM John Mozeliak’s thoughts regarding the signing via Derrick Goold from STLtoday.com: “He gives us that protection that we’ve discussed before as a right-handed option for the bullpen or in the rotation if needed.”. ”As we get closer to spring training there are still a lot of arms out there; a lot of pitchers to look at, and we saw (Villanueva) as having the profile for what fit us the best.”