NL Central Previews: St. Louis Cardinals

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The Cardinals were under achieving early in the season, so much so that they fired manager Mike Matheny. Interim skipper Mike Shildt seemed to inspire the Cards who finished at 88-74, staying in the Wild Card race until the final week of the season. The Cubs and Brewers were never really in danger from the Red Birds despite the late run. Looking to close the gap in 2019, St. Louis traded for slugging Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. They also retained Shildt as the manager in 2019. The question is: Will the addition of Goldie get the Cardinals back in the playoffs?

Projected Starting Pitchers

1. Miles Mikolas (R)

2. Carlos Martinez (R)

3. Jack Flaherty (R)

4. Michael Wacha (R)

5. Adam Wainwright (R)

Mikolas was a revelation in 2018, coming over from Japan to become the ace of the staff. A 2.83 ERA and a 18-4 record are going to be hard to replicate. Especially for a low strike out, pitch to contact guy. Carlos Martinez entered last season as the Cadinals' ace, but injuries derailed things. His walk totals spiked early in the season and an arm injury forced him into the bullpen down the stretch. A spring shoulder injury, may keep him out early this year as well. Flaherty came up from AAA and pitched great in 28 games. He had 182 strikeouts in only 151 innings of work. He'll look to extend that success to a full year in the rotation. Wacha was having a very good season before an oblique injury limited him to 15 starts. The veteran Wainwright decided to come back for another season, he pitched only 40 innings with an elbow injury in 2018. It's clear that injuries will be a big concern for the St. Louis rotation.

Projected Starting Lineup

1. 3B Matt Carpenter (L)

2. CF Harrison Bader (R)

3. 1B Paul Goldschmidt (R)

4. LF Marcell Ozuna (R)

5. C Yadier Molina (R)

6. SS Paul DeJong (R)

7. RF Dexter Fowler (S)

8. 2B Kolten Wong (L)

Carpenter was at times unstoppable and other times anemic at the plate last year. He will probably spend most of the season in the leadoff spot with the addition of Goldschmidt. Ozuna and DeJong are significant power threats in the middle of the lineup. Yadi is still going strong after a 20 homer performance in 2018. Fowler was not good last year. He did play better under Shildt and he has nowhere to go but up. Bader and his tremendous speed earned him playing time last season. Wong is an excellent defender while still struggling to hit consistently.

Projected Bullpen

1. Closer Jordan Hicks (R)

2. RP Andrew Miller (L)

3. RP John Gant (R)

4. RP Dakota Hudson (R)

5. RP Dominic Leone (R)

6. RP Chasen Shreve (L)

7. RP Luke Gregerson (R)

The fire-balling Hicks has been named closer this season after being a set-up man last season. The Cards are hoping Miller can regain his form after an injury-plagued 2018 in Cleveland. Hudson, Gant, and Leone are young arms looking to establish themselves in the majors. Shreve came over in the Luke Voit trade with the Yankees and will be a lefty specialist. St. Louis hopes to have Gregerson back in some form this year, but injuries remain a concern.

Projected Bench

1. IF Jedd Gyorko (R)

2. OF Tyler O'Neill (R)

3. OF/IF Jose Martinez (R)

4. IF Yairo Munoz (R)

5. C Matt Wieters (S)

The Cardinals have a right-handed heavy bench, only backup catcher Wieters can bat from the left side. Martinez and Gyorko provide some serious power for late pinch-hitting duty. Munoz is a utility infielder who saw a lot of playing time in 2018 due to an injury to DeJong and a slump by Wong. O'Neill is a highly thought of prospect who may take over for Fowler if his struggles continue.

Conclusion

The addition of Goldschmidt makes an already good lineup more formidable. The defense is still somewhat of a question mark, but a full season of Bader and Wong may help a bit. The starting rotation was good, when not injured. Unfortunately for St. Louis, that health was rare in 2018. The bullpen has some weak spots, although most teams can't be the Brewers. The Cards should be in the playoff hunt again in 2019. If the rotation can avoid injuries and Miller and Goldschmidt make a big impact: A division title is definitely possible.

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  • Any word on Reyes. Always like his stuff just can’t stay healthy.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Reyes will be coming out of the bullpen - at least for the start of the season. Ineffectiveness by Wainwright or an injury could force their hand and put him back in the starting lineup.

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    Wow... way to keep it classy.

  • I'd like to see Dexter have a good year, but not the Cards. Matheny and Fowler were like oil and water. Still now that Dexter has lost some his speed game and does not play center, his value has diminished.

  • I think I’m ready for the season to start. Speculating & projecting is fun & all, but it’s getting old about now.

    Hoping they abandon the “3 batter minimum” rule after seeing how silly it is. I’m going to “project” it may last a month or 2 then be ditched.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Hear! Hear! Let's have some baseball!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    10 more days. Can’t get here soon enough.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    They will give it at least a season

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    Its the fan equivalent of a "dead-arm" period during Spring Training.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    At least the Hawks are playing, fighting for the last playoff spot. They got the Canucks tonight.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    And they lost... 16 seconds into overtime after they tied it up with 3 minutes left. They just don’t have the fortitude the Stanley Cup teams had. Defense has been sour. Hopefully that gets addressed this summer.

  • Yeah - the Cards could be very good,... IF Wainright, Martinez and Wacha can stay on the field. Adding Goldschmidt is going to make their offense a lot more interesting as well.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Cards & Brewers fight it out w/Reds for 2,3 & 4 spots in division. Cubs run away with it. 95 plus wins.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I dunno about a runaway, there's just too much improvement from the other teams in the NL Central. The Cubs are talking about how they have "flipped the switch," meaning the hunger is back, TWTW, all of that good stuff. If true, and they can sustain it, they'll take the division. One key, in my view, is whether Theo meant it when he talked about evaluating by performance rather than potential. I expect (hope for) quick FO action to address problem areas and players this year. The window is only open for so long...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    That’s what I thought they would do this offseason... except for reupping Hamels & signing a few “depth relievers & 1 bench guy to replace a traded bench guy, they did nothing. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Nothing.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Heck, I think they might be better if all 3 of them stay off the field. Well, maybe Wacha as he has pitched well in the spring deserves to be in the rotation or in the pen. Quite frankly their young pitchers might be better than either Wainright or Martinez. Flaherty is their best pitcher period. Reyes if healthy is right there with him and then you have Hudson, Gant, etc. They solidified their offense and defense with Goldie. Really their key to the year is how their outfield plays. Not a big fan of Bader and Ozuna came to camp in similar form as the Kung fu Panda and is having a bad spring because of it. And of course Fowler is a key.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    And Hicks could be the next dominating closer.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    True about Fowler - if he can stay on the field and produce anything like he did his years with the Cubs - that's a team that can score a lot of runs.

    And yes - somehow the Card always seem to be able to find or develop (or both) quality young pitching,...

  • Don't kid yourselves. The Cards ARE going to be very good again this year. It's in their blood. The fact that the Cards and Reds made significant improvements to their lineups and the Brew Crew are going to be as good, if not better, than last year means that the NL Central teams are going to beat up on each other. This will take away from the win total and may hurt one teams chances of making the post season as a wild card.

  • The Cubs are going to need at least two of Schwarber, Almora, and Happ to come of age offensively. If Bote hits, Bryant could be in the outfield I suppose.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I know Bote did some heroic things last year that he is remembered for but his ceiling is low in my opinion. Probably will be a sub .240 hitter. Our lineup has too many of those already. As I said during Spring Training, if Bote is needed to get more than 200 at bats, it doesn't bode well for this team. Him and Happ should be bench players and yet they will be starting many games for this team.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    Your entitled to your negative tendencies Saluki, but I don't see 'sub' .240 hitters to be in very obvious supply in this lineup.
    And I don't think the David Bote story, has been written yet.

  • Trout close to an extension with LA - $430 million, 12 years...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Yeah - I just read something about that. Harper is going to be a distant 2nd in this FA class. Just think of how much Bryant is likely to command,....

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    Maybe it is just a technicality but Trout didn't sign as a FA. So Harper can continue to brag.

    It seems that the new thing is for guys to sign extensions. Which might work out well for the Cubs offense.

  • At today’s game. Yu got pulled mid-batter. Looked like the trainer was out there with Maddon...

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Blister(s). Precautionary. Wasn’t an arm, elbow or shoulder, so...

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Yes, I learned that afterward. Sigh of relief...

  • ...and CJ just got tossed for hitting a guy between the numbers??? Yes he just gave up a HR, but...

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