Sunday, March 24, 2019

St. Louis Cardinals 2019 season preview

Harrison Bader. Photo from ESPN


                The St. Louis Cardinals were one of the best teams in the early 2010s. Now three years removed from their last playoff appearance, the Cardinals are trying to get back to the postseason. They traded for all-star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, then extended him. The Cardinals rotation still could use improvements, as could their bullpen. But they are in the best position they've been in in years. Now, their isn't an excuse to miss the playoffs.

                 Offseason additions: 1B Paul Goldschmidt, LHP Andrew Miller, C Matt Wieters, LHP Tommy Layne, RHP Ryan Meisenger


                 Offseason subtractions: RHP Bud Norris, RHP Luke Weaver, INF Greg Garcia, C Carson Kelly, RHP Tyson Ross, RHP Matt Bowman

                  Rotation
Former ace Carlos Martinez moved to the bullpen last season, and could be the closer when he returns from a shoulder injury. That leaves Miles Mikolas as the new ace. Mikolas pitched for the Padres and Rangers from 2012-2014, then went to Japan. In his return in 2018, Mikolas posted a 2.83 ERA, a league leading 18 wins, but also allowed a league leading 186 hits. He finished 6th in NL Cy Young voting. Rookie Jack Flaherty had a 3.34 ERA in 28 starts. Michael Wacha was back on form last year but was shut down after just 15 starts. Veteran Adam Wainwright was brought back, and will start the season in the rotation. Wainwright has fallen off after finishing third in Cy Young voting in 2014. Dakota Hudson didn't make a start last year, but made the rotation this spring.

                   Bullpen
Flamethrower Jordan Hicks is the likely closer after Bud Norris departed. Both Norris and Hicks had a 3.59 ERA last season. Hicks made six saves. The Cardinals signed Andrew Miller coming off his worst season since 2011. Miller, when healthy, is one of baseball's best relievers. John Brebbia had a 3.20 ERA in 50.2 innings last year. John Gant didn't make the rotation, but he was good in 26 games (19 starts) last year. Both Brett Cecil and Luke Gregerson will start the season injured. Top prospect Alex Reyes will start the season in the bullpen. Righties Dominic Leone and Mike Mayers are coming off tough years. Lefty Tyler Webb was strong in 15.1 innings last year.

                    Catching
Yadier Molina plays nearly every day, unless injured like he was in 2018. He still hit 20 home runs. The Cardinals signed four time all-star Matt Wieters to be the backup. He failed in two seasons with Washington.

                    Infield
The Cardinals getting Goldschmidt might have been the offseason's biggest move. Goldschmidt has been an all-star every season since 2013. He is also a three time Gold Glove winner, which improves the Cardinals' defensive issues at first. Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals' first baseman last year, will move to third base. Carpenter hit 36 home runs last year. Shortstop Paul De Jong hit 19 home runs in 115 games, and might be one of the best power hitting shortstops in the National League. Second baseman Kolten Wong had a career high WAR, but his offensive numbers aren't good.

                    Outfield
Marcel Ozuna had an insane 2017, but his first season with the Red Birds saw his numbers go back into the decent 2016 form. Dexter Fowler played in just 90 games, and disappointed, with eight home runs, with a .180 batting average and a .576 OPS. Harrison Bader has a great glove, and moved Fowler to right field, taking over in center. He stole 15 bases as well.

                     Bench
First baseman and outfielder Jose Martinez has hit 31 home runs, with a .309 average and .850 OPS in his 270 game career. But, it looks like he could be traded. Tyler O'Neil, a top prospect, has had a good spring but because he has options he might not make the team. Jedd Gyorko, last year's third baseman, is now a utility infielder. But, he will start the season injured. Yairo Munoz, another utility infielder, and Drew Robinson, acquired this offseason from Texas, will start the season on the team.

                     Lineup
3B Matt Carpenter
1B Paul Goldschmidt
LF Marcel Ozuna
SS Paul De Jong
C Yadier Molina
CF Harrison Bader
2B Kolten Wong
RF Dexter Fowler

                     Rotation
Miles Mikolas (R)
Jack Flaherty (R)
Michael Wacha (R)
Dakota Hudson (R)
Adam Wainwright (R)

                     Bullpen
Jordan Hicks (R)
Andrew Miller (L)
John Brebbia (R)
John Gant (R)
Alex Reyes (R)
Dominic Leone (R)
Mike Mayers (R)


                     Bench
C Matt Wieters
OF Tyler O'Neil
1B/OF Jose Martinez
INF Yairo Munoz
UT Drew Robinson

                     Additional Information
Ballpark: Busch Stadium
Manager: Mike Shildt
GM: Mike Girsch
World Series Championships: 11
2018 record: 88-74

                      Steal of the Decade
The Cardinals want to make the playoffs this year. Their roster got a big boost this offseason with the acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt. They sent Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly and Andy Young, plus a draft pick to Arizona. Goldschmidt is a six time all-star, three time Gold Glover and four time Silver Slugger recipient. In his career, Goldschmidt has hit 209 home runs, stole 124 bases, has a batting average of .297, and an OPS of .930. The Cardinals recently extended Goldschmidt by five years.

                       Prediction
Without Goldschmidt and Miller, the Cardinals don't make the playoffs this year. With both of them, the Cardinals will have a chance to make the wild card, or win the NL Central.

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