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.
Apr 18, 2014, 12:23 PM EDT
When you’re as tall as he is, it’s far less than 60’6″ to home plate.
Apr 18, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT
Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata left Wednesday’s game after crashing very hard into the wall in Cincinnati while making a tremendous catch and was diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms.
Apr 18, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Tanner Scheppers and his 9.82 ERA may not be long for the Rangers’ rotation.
Apr 18, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
Over two million Americans have peanut allergies. This story is about two of them.
Apr 18, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
After a pair of ugly early season outings Tigers closer Joe Nathan talked last week about going through a “dead arm” phase, but now the 39-year-old is feeling much stronger.
Apr 18, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
On the disabled list with a strained hamstring, Mark Teixeira got three at-bats in a minor-league rehab game Thursday and is expected to rejoin the Yankees’ lineup Sunday.
Apr 18, 2014, 9:24 AM EDT
And one serious mistake with respect to the Tigers.
Apr 18, 2014, 8:47 AM EDT
He may not care, but I’m going to write a research report about how you normalize ISPFMLBLSSR for different eras.
Apr 18, 2014, 8:33 AM EDT
If this is true, you’d have to think the Philly Phanatic would have a no-fly zone imposed over him.
Apr 18, 2014, 6:47 AM EDT
Adam Wainwright turned in the latest of several dominant pitching performances around Major League Baseball this week.
Apr 17, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT
The Phillies’ rotation is about to get stronger.
Apr 17, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
The Twins scored six runs on one hit, eight walks (!) and three wild pitches in the bottom of the eighth inning tonight.
Apr 17, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT
Jonathan Papelbon had a little more giddy-up on his fastball today, but don’t ask him about it.
Apr 17, 2014, 9:31 PM EDT
Jeremy Jeffress turned down a minor league assignment with the Blue Jays and will seek an opportunity elsewhere.
Apr 17, 2014, 8:21 PM EDT
Lots of teams watched Joel Hanrahan throw today.
Apr 17, 2014, 8:16 PM EDT
Yangervis Solarte, Brian Roberts, and Scott Sizemore turned a triple play and got CC Sabathia out of a potential jam.
Apr 17, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT
Mike Napoli suffered a dislocated finger on Tuesday, but only had to miss one game.
Apr 17, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT
Shane Victorino has been sidelined since the end of spring training with a hamstring strain.
Apr 17, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT
Yet another injury for Lorenzo Cain.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Ji-Man Choi, a Triple-A first baseman in the Mariners’ farm system, has been suspended 50 games after testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug methandienone.
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