Mar 24, 2013, 8:43 AM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The St. Louis Cardinals.
The Big Question: Can the Cards keep rolling?
The Cardinals have made the playoffs nine times since the start of the 2000 season and they have reached the National League Championship Series seven times in that span — securing three National League pennants and two World Series titles. And there is no end in sight for this run of success.
Yadier Molina is the best defensive catcher in baseball and has suddenly become a real offensive threat. Matt Holliday has hit .308/.389/.528 in 502 games since joining the Cardinals in a summer 2009 trade. Allen Craig is emerging as an elite slugger and Carlos Beltran had 32 home runs and 97 RBI in 2012.
And we’ve only scratched the surface on this club’s arsenal of heavy weaponry. Jon Jay (4.1) ranked just behind Josh Hamilton (4.4) and Adam Jones (4.6) on the center-field fWAR leaderboard last season. David Freese won the World Series MVP in 2011 then went on to post career-highs in home runs (20), RBI (79) and OPS (.839) in 2012. Matt Carpenter, who has made an incredibly smooth transition into the starting second base role this spring, batted .293/.372/.467 in 340 plate appearances as a utilityman last summer.
Albert Pujols is entering his second year in Anaheim and ace right-hander Chris Carpenter won’t ever pitch again, but the Cardinals organization is a well-oiled machine, and it’s greased up nicely for the 2013 season.
What Else Is Going On?
- The rotation is missing Carpenter, but he made only three regular-season starts last year anyway. Adam Wainwright is two years removed from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery and Jaime Garcia has experienced no shoulder trouble in camp. Jake Westbrook had a 3.97 ERA in 174 2/3 innings last season and Lance Lynn posted a 3.78 ERA and 180/64 K/BB ratio in 176 frames. The final spot will either go to Joe Kelly, a solid sinkerballer, or Shelby Miller, one of the game’s top pitching prospects.
- The bullpen took a hit this month when closer Jason Motte was diagnosed with a mild right elbow strain, but it’s not a long-term concern at this point and there’s enough high quality depth to keep things ticking in his absence. Mitchell Boggs, who registered a 2.21 ERA and 1.05 WHIP across 78 relief appearances last season, will fill in at closer. Setting Boggs up will be young fireballer Trevor Rosenthal, and behind him you’ll find a solid group of middle relievers and left-handed specialists. Kelly will presumably join the bullpen in a long relief role if he loses out to Miller in the race for the fifth rotation spot.
- Rafael Furcal tried to rehab a torn ligament in his elbow this winter and it did not work out. He needs Tommy John surgery and will not appear in a game this season. Taking his place at shortstop will be Pete Kozma, who owns a nice-looking .303/.373/.506 batting line in 104 major-league plate appearances but a .236/.308/.344 batting line in 2,752 minor-league plate appearances. It’s highly likely that he will be exposed early on. Look for the Cardinals to launch a shortstop hunt by the end of June.
- The Cardinals’ farm system is widely considered to be the best in baseball, and it’s about ready to spit out some potential game-changers. Oscar Taveras, a 20-year-old Dominican outfielder, hit .321/.380/.572 with 23 homers, 37 doubles and 94 RBI in 124 games last season at Double-A Springfield. Michael Wacha, the No. 19 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft, owns a 0.50 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and 59/6 K/BB ratio in 35 2/3 total spring and minor league innings. Kolten Wong should develop into a solid everyday second baseman and Carlos Martinez is a hard-throwing 21-year-old righty with great upside. Matt Adams had 18 homers and 50 RBI in 67 games last summer at Triple-A Memphis and will open the 2013 season on the Cardinals’ 25-man roster. And don’t forget the aforementioned Miller and Rosenthal.
Prediction: Second place in the National League Central, winners of a Wild Card spot.
Jul 4, 2015, 12:58 AM EDT
In a shocking move, the Rangers designated Neftali Feliz for assignment to clear roster space for Matt Harrison.
Jul 3, 2015, 11:45 PM EDT
Base Ba’al has no mercy for Coco Crisp.
Jul 3, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT
The Mets are VERY interested in Ben Zobrist.
Jul 3, 2015, 10:10 PM EDT
The Mets are getting desperate for runs, but aren’t ready to rush prospect Michael Conforto just yet.
Jul 3, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT
Miguel Cabrera suffered a calf injury after a single in the fourth inning on Friday against the Blue Jays.
Jul 3, 2015, 9:08 PM EDT
Anibal Sanchez has silenced a tough Blue Jays lineup.
Jul 3, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT
Patrick Corbin will complete his long trek back to the major leagues when he starts against the Rockies on Saturday.
Jul 3, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
The Athletics haven’t used Josh Reddick much against left-handed starters. Reddick isn’t too happy with that, despite his results against southpaws.
Jul 3, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
Jameson Taillon was getting pretty close to returning to action for the Pirates, but an inguinal hernia has knocked him back on the shelf.
Jul 3, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
The Cubs acquired Clayton Richard from the Pirates and he’ll start for the club on Saturday.
Jul 3, 2015, 4:40 PM EDT
Jul 3, 2015, 3:52 PM EDT
Both he and the White Sox have disappointed this year, but he could help a contender.
Jul 3, 2015, 3:11 PM EDT
Chamberlain has posted a 4.09 ERA and an ugly 1.682 WHIP in 30 appearances this year. Gorzelanny has been even worse.
Jul 3, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT
$3.5 million will be paid out . . . to charity.
Jul 3, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT
He’s only had six plate appearances since being recalled in late June.
Jul 3, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
And, someone, Tony La Russa placed in this thing.
Jul 3, 2015, 11:37 AM EDT
He changed his mind.
Jul 3, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT
“We’ll leave it at that.”
Jul 3, 2015, 9:11 AM EDT
He has a 2.56 ERA and a 72/31 K/BB ratio over 102 innings on the season.
Jul 3, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
He wasn’t hit hard, but the Braves hit ’em where they weren’t.
- Rangers designate Neftali Feliz for assignment, activate Matt Harrison 3
- Anibal Sanchez loses his bid for a no-hitter with one out in the eighth inning 11
- The Yankees, A-Rod resolve their dispute over the $6 million milestone bonus 28
- Yankees donate $150,000 to charity to get Alex Rodriguez his 3,000th hit ball 19
- Mike Scioscia says Josh Hamilton should apologize to Angels owner Arte Moreno 87
- Settling the Scores: Thursday’s results 59
- Breaking: Cardinals fire their scouting director, likely due to the Astros hacking scandal 61
- Bryce Harper is naked in ESPN’s “Body Issue” 55
- Settling the Scores: Sunday’s results (99)
- Mike Scioscia says Josh Hamilton should apologize to Angels owner Arte Moreno (87)
- What Yasiel Puig being a pain in the butt means. And what it doesn’t mean. (78)
- Report: Jerry Dipoto “definitely out” as Angels GM (77)
- Brian Dozier is the best second baseman in baseball (72)