Standing O Sports is previewing all 30 Major League teams seasons, division by division, team by team. Up next in the National League Central is the St. Louis Cardinals.
What Happened Last Season?
Two wins. That’s how close the St. Louis Cardinals came to winning the World Series. After taking over for Tony LaRussa following the 2011 season, Mike Matheny’s first 2 seasons in St. Louis weren’t just successful, they were historic. Matheny became the first manager in Major League history to lead his team to the League Championship Series in each of his first 2 seasons. Both seasons however, ended in bitter disappointment. Though 2013 didn’t result in a World Series championship, the season shouldn’t be considered a complete waste. Michael Wacha “Flocka Flame” was discovered, Shelby Miller was highly impressive in his rookie season, and Matt Carpenter had a breakout season leading MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL in hits with 199. The bottom line is this team has the pitching rotation, and the clutch offensive players necessary to once again make a deep playoff run.
- Traded 2011 World Series MVP David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels in exchange for Pete Bourjos and minor league prospect Randall Grichuk.
- Lost Carlos Beltran to the New York Yankees
- Signed shortstop Jhonny Peralta to 4-year $53 million dollar deal
- Signed second baseman Mark Ellis to one-year $5.25 million dollar deal
Take: The Jhonny Peralta move looks to be a major upgrade over Pete Kozma, especially offensively. However, Peralta is coming off serving a drug suspension for PEDs and when these guys aren’t on the juice, you never know how much they will change as a player. Losing David Freese is a loss for St. Louis because of how much he mean to that locker room. The addition of Bourjos though is a significant defensive upgrade over Carlos Beltran. Overall, the Cardinals continue to rely on the home-grown talent to fill most of the voids which is the way to go.
Matt Carpeneter (3B)
Peter Bourjos (CF)
Matt Holliday (LF)
Allen Craig (RF)
Matt Adams (1B)
Yadier Molina (C)
Jhonny Peralta (SS)
Kolten Wong (2B)
At the top of the lineup, Matt Carpenter had a career year in 2013. You just never know how the following season will go and whether Carpenter will continue to grow, or take a step back. St. Louis brought Peter Bourjos in for his defense and his speed. Offensively though, Bourjos when healthy is average at best. The only year he was a regular was 2011 and that was his best statistical season. Injuries have held back Bourjos to this point. Matt Holliday is solidified into the 3rd spot, Allen Craig isn’t a dominant offensive force, but is a more than capable run producer. Matt Adams is a legitimate power guy, he just can’t stay healthy. Yadier Molina is a top 5 catcher both offensively and defensively in the game, Jhonny Peralta will presumably not be on PEDs in 2014, and Kolten Wong is the Cardinals new second baseman. Wong has 59 career at-bats and is most known for getting picked off to end game 4 of last year’s World Series. As a player, Wong is a speed and contact guy which is perfectly fine for the 8th spot in an NL lineup.
One player to watch for as the season progresses is top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras who is still recovering from right ankle surgery. Taveras will likely start the season in the minors and when he gets going, watch out.
Projected Pitching Rotation
As of now, this is how the Cardinals pitching rotation is shaking out, but that could still change. Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and Shelby Miller are the locks. Wainwright was dominant last season and looks to be all the way back from Tommy John Surgery. Wacha only started 9 regular season games in 2013 before he took over in the playoffs. St. Louis is assuming Wacha carries that momentum into 2014. Miller had a solid rookie season for the Cardinals, but didn’t pitch in the playoffs. Miller though is viewed by many as a more than solid number 2 in the rotation. Jaime Garcia is owed over $16 million over the next 2 season’s, so he’s the likely number 4. Lance Lynn was an all-star in 2012 and his overall numbers look impressive. Numbers though don’t tell the whole story and Lynn needs to be a whole lot more consistent if he wants to retain his spot. Otherwise Joe Kelly or top pitching prospect Joe Kelly could win the 5th starters job.
X-Factor: Top of the lineup
Matt Carpenter and Peter Bourjos will be counted upon heavily to be table setters for the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals. Carpenter had a break out season in 2013, and he needs to put up similar, if not better numbers in 2014.
The likely number 2 hitter is Peter Bourjos who let’s face it, isn’t the best offensive force. Bourjos will need to improve drastically on his .333 career on-base percentage so Holliday, and Craig can drive him in. If Carpenter takes a step back, and Bourjos struggles, the Cardinals will be in a lot of trouble.
Even though the Cardinals continue to lose cornerstone pieces to the team like Albert Pujols and most recently David Freese, St. Louis hasn’t missed a beat. Led by one of the most talented pitching staffs in the sport, and a lineup filled with gritty offensive players, the Cardinals should once again be viewed as favorites to win the NL Central.
Frankel: 95-67 (1st in NL Central)
Mike: 1st in NL Central
Jack: 1st in NL Central