Bernie on the Cardinals: Spring Training Watch List, Written In 500 Words.

The Cardinals will open spring training next week in camp Jupiter, and I’m reporting early … well, not exactly. Not physically. I won’t be there. But I’m writing early, analyzing early … getting the jump before the annual spring-training tradition gets underway.

I’ll keep it light today.

I need to loosen up, and all of that.

Here’s my 2020 Spring Training Watch List:

1. Dylan Carlson and the young outfielders. Will these kids really, truly receive an extensive opportunity to play for the ‘20 Cardinals, or was the offseason hype just a big part of management’s marketing campaign? We’ll learn a lot this spring.

2. Carlos Martinez: Is he healthy? And mentally locked in to compete? Can he reclaim a spot in the starting rotation? Or will he Martinez the closer role again?

3. The Closer: If Martinez goes into the rotation, what’s the plan for the ninth inning? Multiple candidates, including Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley and Andrew Miller. Or maybe go with the committee approach.

4. Matt Carpenter: the comeback begins for the veteran third baseman. (Comeback, bounceback, whatever.) I don’t care about the batting average. He’s what matters: having a decisive approach at the plate, hitting the ball hard, and staying healthy.

5. Lineup question: who bats leadoff?

6. Another lineup question: Who bats cleanup?

(Sidebar: Questions five and six are connected. It doesn’t matter who bats third or fourth if the top two guys on the lineup don’t get on base at a high rate.)

7. KK Kim, the lefty from South Korea: comes to the MLB with a nasty-slider rep. Where does he fit? Starter? Reliever? Maybe both.

8. Brett Cecil. Sigh. Is he a factor, or just a camp visitor? The lefty reliever hasn’t pitched in a regular-season game for the Cards since Sept. 25, 2018.

9. All-purpose competition for bullpen jobs.

10. Alex Reyes. Let the man have health, and peace, and pitch without interruption.

11. Camp surprises? Derrick Goold (Post-Dispatch) and Ben Clemens (FanGraphs) are touting Kodi reliever Kodi Whitely as one to watch.

12. Nolan Gorman: The third-base prospect won’t make the big club coming out of spring, but it will be fun to see him get a lot of at bats in exhibition games. If, in fact, that’s part of the plan.

13. Batting coach Jeff Albert: He enters his second year in the gig. Will his messaging be more focused this season? Will the players buy in?

14. Can Harrison Bader figure it out offensively? If Bader can’t hit, then we’ll find out if the Cardinals are serious in their effusive praise of Lane Thomas.

15. Tyler O’Neill vs. plate discipline. Same as it ever was.

16. Will right fielder Dexter Fowler have a good camp — or does even it matter? Is he competing for playing time, or protected by his contract?

17. Manager Mike Shildt and his staff presumably will be working hard on improving the team’s terrible situational hitting that we saw last season.

18. NOLAN ARENADO, BABY! (Probably not.)

19. A contract extension for Yadier Molina.

20. Will the Cardinals keep two catchers or use the new 26-man roster to carry three catchers?

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie