Mar 24, 2013, 8:43 AM EST
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.
Mar 6, 2015, 9:25 PM EST
Daniel Murphy suffered a scare on Friday afternoon when he was hit on the hand with a pitch, but early results have been positive.
Mar 6, 2015, 8:35 PM EST
Friday was Matt Harvey Day in Port St. Lucie, as the right-hander returned to game action for the first time since he had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Mar 6, 2015, 7:45 PM EST
The Astros didn’t like what they saw following Ryan Vogelsong’s medical examination, which is why they lowered their offer.
Mar 6, 2015, 6:55 PM EST
Gregor Blanco will probably get the lion’s share of the available playing time with Hunter Pence absent for six to eight weeks.
Mar 6, 2015, 6:05 PM EST
The Blue Jays have nothing to worry about with Jose Bautista, per manager John Gibbons.
Mar 6, 2015, 4:48 PM EST
Most of them don’t. But there are some predictive stats to be found in spring training games. If you know where to look.
Mar 6, 2015, 3:51 PM EST
The once top prospect hasn’t played in the bigs since 2012.
Mar 6, 2015, 3:15 PM EST
Kotchman was the Angels’ first-round pick in 2001 and played 10 seasons in the majors for seven different teams, most recently with the Marlins in 2013.
Mar 6, 2015, 2:40 PM EST
Beaned on Tuesday, plunked on Friday. Not the best week for Murph.
Mar 6, 2015, 2:20 PM EST
Beimel pitched well for the Mariners last season, throwing 45 innings with a 2.20 ERA.
Mar 6, 2015, 1:49 PM EST
Lucroy was initially given a 4-6 week recovery timetable on February 11, so he’s three-plus weeks in.
Mar 6, 2015, 1:19 PM EST
He faced six batters and retired them all. And he cranked it up to 99 m.p.h.
Mar 6, 2015, 12:39 PM EST
He’s been injured the last two seasons. He’s not starting 2015 out much better.
Mar 6, 2015, 11:31 AM EST
See, now that’s good sportsmanship in 2015!
Mar 6, 2015, 11:03 AM EST
The pitchers are starting to drop. Here’s hoping we don’t get a rash of these like we did last year.
Mar 6, 2015, 10:47 AM EST
Barry Zito took the mound Thursday for his first game action since 2013.
Mar 6, 2015, 10:30 AM EST
Reconnecting with old friends is always nice.
Mar 6, 2015, 10:15 AM EST
Campana signed a minor-league deal with the White Sox in November.
Mar 6, 2015, 9:34 AM EST
Please make a note of it in whatever log or journal you happen to be keeping.
Mar 6, 2015, 8:45 AM EST
Votto explains his approach to one of his biggest detractors.
- Video: Watch Matt Harvey’s return to action against the Tigers 1
- Matt Harvey makes his return. And he was really impressive. 21
- Hector Olivera’s camp denies any damage to ulnar collateral ligament 3
- UPDATE: Hunter Pence out 6-8 weeks with fracture in left forearm 28
- MLBPA: leaks are from people “who want to see Josh Hamilton hurt personally and professionally” 36
- Suspending Josh Hamilton for a year would be obscene 147
- Report: MLB panel split on rehab for Josh Hamilton; one-year suspension is in play 45
- Joc Pederson goes 2-for-2 in Cactus League debut 6
- Daniel Murphy on Billy Bean: “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual” (380)
- Suspending Josh Hamilton for a year would be obscene (147)
- Curt Schilling lowers the boom on some men tweeting threats against his daughter (137)
- That facts of Josh Hamilton’s case should not be a matter of public record (94)
- Billy Bean responds to Daniel Murphy’s comments (90)