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Looking Ahead - The 2015 St. Louis Cardinals

Updated on October 16, 2015
Come On Spring!
Come On Spring! | Source

Looking back, the St. Louis Cardinals had a good year; not great, but good. They reached the playoffs; showed once more why they own the greatest pitcher in the game (Clayton Kershaw); and lost to the eventual World Champions, the San Francisco Giants. And while I really, really wanted another I-70 Series, it was not to be. But overall, it was a good year to be a Cardinal fan.

Now: looking ahead. What can we expect from our beloved birds? A repeat as Central Division Champions? Perhaps another League Championship? Dare we dream of a 12th World Series Championship?

I do!

Adam Wainwright - Cardinal Ace
Adam Wainwright - Cardinal Ace | Source

Starting Pitchers

Let's begin with the Pitching Staff. For Starters, we will welcome Adam Wainwright back, fresh from another dominant year where he topped the 200 inning threshold for the fourth time in five years (and that other year he was at 198 innings) so the workhorse of the staff will be back, ready for more. What to expect? Personally, I feel another 20 win season, with an ERA under 3.00 is well within his reach; and who knows? Maybe this year he will finally win his Cy Young after coming so close lately.

Lance Lynn is also returning, and while most may not realize it, Lynn is 15 and 10 each of the last two years, and reduced his ERA by a full run last year over the previous year. Including the 2012 season, he is 48 and 27. I'll take that! Looking ahead, I feel he will only improve as he matures and look for this to be his breakout year. Maybe he gets his first 20 win season and competes with Waino for Cy Young prestige.

Number 3 in the rotation is the old warhorse John Lackey. He will be playing for one last contract at age 35 (in May) and this might be his last hurrah. He hasn't hit the 200 inning mark since 2010, so I won't expect that; but I do think he will hit the upper 180's or so, bringing his bulldog attitude to the team and helping Waino lead the youngsters on the staff, teaching them what it means to be a tough, smart pitcher in today's game. Expectations for me are 188 innings, ERA around 3.50, and double digit wins, with an upper limit of 15. I do expect the Cards to offer him another contract for two years at some point either in the preseason or during the year, allowing him to retire as a Cardinal.

In the number 4 position we have Michael Wacha. On many teams, he might be a number 3, maybe a 2 but with the Cards, he slots nicely at 4. Solid, smart, with a good arsenal of pitches and room to grow. Remember: he's only 23, and has only pitched in parts of two seasons in the bigs. This year, I look for him to hit his stride, topping 180 innings for the first time, with maybe 13 wins and an ERA around the mid 3.00's.

In the final slot, we have Carlos Martinez. Personally, I look at him as a young Pedro. Nasty stuff, an attitude, and willing to work to secure his slot in the starting five. Another youngster at 23, he might just have a breakout year as well. If he continues to learn to control his demeanor while on the hill, listens to Yadi and focuses, opposing batters better look out. I can see him ending the year at 170 innings, a dozen wins and an ERA at 3.75.

Filling in as a spot starter during the year, I see the Cards handing the duty to Marco Gonzales, another young man with great stuff. He will open the season as another 23 year old, and he might even break camp with the Cards as a bullpen guy with the ability to go longer should he be needed.

The astute reader might notice I failed to mention Jaime Garcia. I love his stuff, having met him and gained his autograph in 2011. But: I fear his health to the degree that I think he will begin the year at Memphis in Triple A with the outside chance of filling in should one of the top five go down.

Catcher

Welcome Back Yadier Molina!! Glad to have the best catcher in the game calling the shots behind the plate once more, I can tell you! Yadi should be back healthy and ready to lead the Birds to the Series once more, having been subjected to injuries last year which saw him limited to 110 games. Moving forward, I do not expect him to be the hitting force he might have been a couple of years ago, but his wisdom behind the plate more than makes up for that. I predict him catching more than last year, but less than in years past coming in at around 125 games or so. He will still hit around .280, have around double digit HR's, maybe 20 2B and hold runners to a less than 50% success rate when attempting steals while continuing his mastery at calling games, thus teaching both the young pitchers and his backup, Tony Cruz, the ropes. I see him hitting a little deeper in the lineup at 7 this year, and his RBI's might drop due to this. But overall, he will be the Yadi we all love and adore. Enjoy him, folks. Father Time is doing his best to catch him, but Yadi will fight him off for another few years.

Infield

Matt Adam at 1st, Kolten Wong at 2B, Matt Carpenter at 3rd, and Jhonny Peralta at SS. Not too shabby, eh? Matt had some issues with lefthanders last season, yet clobber a couple of homers off the best lefty in the game in the postseason. I see him manning 1B for the majority of the games this season, with Mark Reynolds backing him up and offering a right hand alternative, should Mike Matheny choose to go that route. Personally, I would prefer to have Big Matt at first in every game, as Reynolds strikes out more than I like. Yes, he has power but at what cost? Roughly seven K's per HR. At his age, he is what he is with no room for improvement. Adams has about the same K rate, yet is still learning the strike zone in the bigs. I'll take my chances with Matt, thank you. I see him improving to near .300, with 20+ HR's, nearly 100 RBI's and better numbers against lefties than in previous years.

Kolten Wong won't be what he was at the end of the year, but will be more than he showed early. A sure handed infielder with some pop, I see him around .290 with double digit HR's, good gap power translating to 40 or so doubles/triples combined, 20+ steals and maybe 80 runs scored. In the market of today's second basemen, I will take that all day long.

What can you say about Matt Carpenter? Two years ago, with no secure spot on the team he learned second base, and went on to be an All Star. Last year he went back to his more comfortable position at third and while he didn't do quite as well, he still turned in respectable numbers. I believe he will rise once more to be that .300 hitter we know he is, probably 15 HR's, another 40+ doubles/triples, 100 runs scored and 75 RBI's. As he goes, so go the Cardinals.

Jhonny Peralta led the team in HR's, much to my surprise. I admit I was not a fan of this signing but he performed well in the shadow of the PED taint. And while I still feel he over-performed last year, I believe he will come close again this year. He'll hit .270, have 18 HR's, score 60 runs, drive in 60 more and provide solid defense up the middle. Not stellar, but solid.

Batting Order
Name
Position
Average
Home Runs
1
Matt Carpenter
3B
.300
15
2
Jason Heyward
RF
.325
25
3
Matt Holiday
LF
.300
25
4
Matt Adams
1B
.300
20
5
Jhonny Peralta
SS
.270
18
6
Jon Jay
CF
.290
10
7
Yadier Molina
C
.280
10
8
Kolten Wong
2B
.290
10

Outfield

Matt Holiday (I call him Doc Holiday) had another solid, workmanlike year. His average fell to its lowest point in a decade, as did his HR's. But, he did provide another 20 HR season, had 90 RBI's while scoring 83 runs. In today's world, that is a solid year for an outfielder who is not on PED's. Doc is perhaps the hardest working man in baseball in the offseason, and his workouts as legendary. Strong, talented, driven: who doesn't want that on their team? He will rebound to hit closer to .300, hit 25 HR's, have 100 RBI's score 100 runs and provide the welcome leadership the team needs in a quiet manner.

Will the real Jon Jay please stand up? Are you the .300 hitter we saw late, or the .200 hitter we saw early? Will you lose popups in the sun; or provide highlight reel catches while flying across centerfield? Will you be benched again; or find your stride and become an All Star? I am more concerned about this one position than any other on the team due to his up and down play over the past couple of years. I will say that, against my better judgment, I will hope and pray he becomes that which he has shown he is capable of and be a .300 hitter with occasional pop and solid, if not spectacular defense. So, that being said, I will predict a .290 season, double digit HR, and 60 each RBI's and runs.

Right Field. This was the future home of one Oscar Tavares until his untimely death this winter. And so the Cardinals had to decide whether to fill from within or seek outside help.

Enter Jason Heyward.

6' 5", 245 pounds of power, speed, defense and promise. He has been a power hitter, hitting 27 HR's in 2012. He has been a finesse hitter, hitting .271 with an OPS over .700 the past few years. He plays outstanding defense and can steal bases. Basically, he is what Oscar could have, should have been. Still young at 25, he has room to grow and just might show us what he was meant to be this year. Will he be a one year rental, taking big bucks after this year and moving on? Or will he become another Matt Holiday and fall in love with the Greatest Fans In Baseball (maybe all professional sports?) and sigh a long term contract, remaining a Cardinal for years to come? I hope he does the latter. His ability is in the upper reaches of anyone's and he will hit .325, slug 25 HR's top 100 RBI's and runs, be an All Star and win a Gold Glove. Lofty goals, I know; but well within his reach should he fit well into this lineup.

Do you believe the Cardinals will be in the World Series?

See results

The Bench

I see Peter Bourjos and Randall Grichuk as backup outfielders; Mark Reynolds as Matt Adams reserve at 1B; and Tony Cruz as Yadi's at catcher. As a backup infielder, the Cardinals might go with Greg Garcia or Dean Anna. I have some concerns with both of them but hopefully we won't be needing much from either of them in 2015.

I do feel we might see Aledymas Diaz make his Major League debut in September. He is the Cardinal's Cuban signee, and in limited action last year (injuries) he hit 5 HR in only 161 AB's while batting a respectable .273 after a long layoff. He will begin the year in Springfield AA but might move up to Memphis AAA by mid season. He will have decent power, approaching 20 HR, hit around .300 and steal some bases for the franchise. He is the future shortstop for the Birds, and I can see him forcing his way onto the Major League roster by Spring 2016, so Peralta better look out.

Another one to watch will be Stephen Piscotty. He can play first in a pinch, but is more comfortable as an outfielder who can also spell Carp at third should the need arise.

The 'Pen

Always a strong point of the Cardinals, the bullpen will be solid once more. Adding Matt Belisle and Jordan Walden eased the sting of losing Pat Neshek. Throw in Randy Choate, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist followed by Trevor Rosenthal and you have the makings of another great year. Rosey will likely repeat his 40+ saves while reducing his walks and ERA in my most humble opinion. I do not know who will be the final member of the 'pen this year. Will it be Gonzales? Nick Greenwood? Maybe Sam Freeman or Tyler Lyons? I am going to go out on a limb and go with Lyons.

Comments

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I had to vote no on them winning the World Series because they'll be playing the Mariners. :) Sorry, buddy, but I can't be swayed.

      Happy New Year to you and your wife.

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 2 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      Hey wait a second, isn't this the year that the Cubs win the World series?

      Was Back to the Future merely fiction?

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 2 years ago from Missouri

      Bill, I originally put winning the World Series, but thought of you and changed it to be in the World Series. But hey, so long as the M's and Cards are in I'm happy.

      And Jim, yes it was 2015 that the Cubs won the Series in Back To The Future 2, but remember: they were playing the Florida team, There is no Florida team in the American league other than the Rays, and I don't see them making it to the Series this year. Sorry to burst your bubble but yes: it was fiction! But I still fear the Cubbies this year!

      Thanks, guys. Take care and start counting the days until Spring Training!

    • Kile Taylor profile image

      Kile Taylor 2 years ago from Roanoke, VA

      Great article! Now I am pumped for this season. You did a great job and your research and stats are spot on. The Cards should be a force to reckon with again this year, but as you mentioned before they are injury prone and getting up their in age in some positions. I hope Heyward becomes the player that he Braves hoped he would be. Overall good job and I'll be looking out for your future articles.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      It is very interesting to know about baseball game and the players of one of the best teams. I am a fan of cricket matches and this is new to me. I learnt knew things by reading your hub and watching the highlights.

      Thanks for sharing it. Voted up and interesting.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

      Interesting and thoroughly enjoyed.

      Eddy

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