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.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
It’s particularly rough timing, as Milwaukee hosts a four-game series with St. Louis beginning Thursday.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
Michael Wacha’s recovery from a shoulder injury has gone so well that the Cardinals just announced he’ll come off the disabled list to start Thursday against the Brewers.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Before being shut down in mid-July the 25-year-old rookie from Japan went 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts, including a 135/19 K/BB ratio in 129 innings.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:09 PM EDT
If it weren’t for expanded rosters for September, he’d probably be on the DL.
Sep 2, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Morrow has been exclusively a starter for Toronto since 2010, including what looked at the time like a breakout season as a starter in 2012.
Sep 2, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Wrap your head around THAT for a second.
Sep 2, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Young flopped with the Mets on a one-year, $7.25 million deal.
Sep 2, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Not too many managers seem to be on the hot seat. Part of that is because being a manager today is very different than it was back in the day.
Sep 2, 2014, 3:06 PM EDT
Bring out yer dead!
Sep 2, 2014, 2:51 PM EDT
Raburn struggled mightily before going on the DL, hitting .173 in 70 games after playing well enough in a part-time role last season that Cleveland handed him a two-year contract extension.
Sep 2, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT
From a baseball to a slip of paper to a giant statue of the biggest baseball star who ever lived.
Sep 2, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT
Please keep in mind that the Twins are currently in last place at 60-77 following three consecutive 95-loss seasons and only the Astros have fewer total wins since 2011.
Sep 2, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT
Polanco went 4-for-26 (.153) during his brief demotion and was in a nasty two-month slump before being sent down, hitting just .204 with a .564 in his last 40 games.
Sep 2, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Toronto transferred infielder Brett Lawrie from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list, which means he won’t be eligible to return to the active roster before the season ends.
Sep 2, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Gambling on baseball is dumb. But Kershaw for the Cy Young Award is a pretty safe bet.
Sep 2, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT
Adams has thrown just 42 total innings for the Phillies with a month remaining in a two-year, $12 million contract.
Sep 2, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT
Or: meanwhile in weird concessions . . .
Sep 2, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Neftali Feliz has regained the Rangers’ closer role, but not his old velocity.
Sep 2, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT
And if their shovels are as good as their bats have been lately, they’ll probably dig a hole three miles off target and a month too late.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Among the Giants’ call-ups for September 1 roster expansion is 27-year-old right-hander Brett Bochy, who in addition to being a Triple-A reliever also happens to be manager Bruce Bochy’s son.
- Carlos Gomez diagnosed with sprained wrist 0
- Michael Wacha to start Thursday for the Cardinals 2
- We’re not going to pretend that Bo Porter had no idea what he was getting into, are we? 49
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 50
- The Cardinals have moved ahead of the Brewers for first place in the National League Central 34
- No-hitter! Four Phillies pitchers combine to blank the Braves 61
- Bo Porter fired by the Astros 56
- Settling the Score: Sunday’s results — and a reminder of what Labor Day is all about 48
- Could women play major league baseball? Sure. Right now, though, the deck is stacked against them. (221)
- Albert Pujols plays the “you never played the game!” card (104)
- Great Moments in Drug Testing and Punishment: The NFL Edition (101)
- Baseball is dying, you guys, because no one would recognize Mike Trout in a bar (76)
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights (75)