With a record of 86-76, the St. Louis Cardinals finished 2nd in the NL Central, 17.5 GB of the first place Chicago Cubs. They also saw the Cubs win the World Series. They suffered a big drop-off in 2016. They were expecting a huge season out of prospect Alex Reyes, but Tommy John surgery will keep him from playing in 2017. If the Cards want to keep up with the Cubs in 2017, GM John Mozeliak needed to do big things. Let\’s look at what Mozeliak did.
Key additions: OF Dexter Fowler, RPs Brett Cecil, John Gant, Jordan Schafer.
Key additions: OFs Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss, Jeremy Hazelbaker, SP Jaime Garcia, RPs Seth Maness, Dean Kiekhefer.
Biggest move: For most teams, signing RP Brett Cecil to a 4 year, $30.5 million deal would be their offseason\’s highlight. But the Cardinals didn\’t just sign Cecil, they also signed OF Dexter Fowler to a 5 year, $82.5 million deal. A big part of the Cubs 2016 World Series win wasn\’t just Fowler, it was also John Lackey and Jason Heyward, two former Cardinals, who previously signed with the Cubs. It\’s really nice for the Cardinals to get revenge on their archenemy.
X-factor: On their active roster, the Cardinals only have one catcher in Yadier Molina. Molina is now 34, and hasn\’t hit double digit homers since 2013. The Cards need \”Yadi\” to not get hurt in 2017.
Biggest bounce back: In 2014, Adam Wainwright was a top pitcher in the game with his 2.38 ERA and 179 Ks in 227 innings. But an injury kept him out for all but 28 innings in 2015. In 2016, he had a bad year, with a 4.62 ERA in 198.2 innings (his first full season with less than 200 innings since 2012, where he also pitched 198.2 innings). Carlos Martinez is now the opening day starter, and Wainwright badly needs to get things together.
Biggest breakout: If it wasn\’t for the injury, Reyes would definitely be here. But, I\’ll be forced to put someone else here. The man I\’ll put here is someone who was supposed to sub at SS for Jhonny Peralta for a month after Peralta was injured. Aledmys Diaz took that chance, and performed nicely, forcing manager Mike Matheny to move Peralta to 3B. Diaz finished the season with a .300 average and 17 HRs. 20 HRs seems ideal for the 26 year old in his second season.
Guaranteed star: One thing the Cardinals don\’t necessarily have is a real number one guy. The are very well rounded. The guy I\’ll highlight is Matt Carpenter. Carpenter is a utility player. He\’s moved from 2B to 3B to now 1B. He also hits 20 bombs a year. He\’s no superstar, but he\’s a solid player to have.
The Cardinals lineup should look like this.
1. CF: Dexter Fowler
2. 1B: Matt Carpenter
3. RF: Stephen Piscotty
4. LF: Randal Grichuk
5. SS: Aledmys Diaz
6. 2B: Jedd Gyorko (platoon)
7. C: Yadier Molina
8. 3B: Jhonny Peralta
Their rotation will probably be this.
1. Carlos Martinez
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Mike Leake
4. Michael Wacha
5. Trevor Rosenthal
2B Kolten Wong (platoon with Gyorko), 1B Matt Adams and SS Greg Garcia will be on the bench.
Seung-Hwan Oh will be their closer, with Brett Cecil and Kevin Siegrist setting him up.
Finally, for my prediction, I think the Cardinals will improve in 2017, and make the NL wild card game. But, they will lose in it to the San Francisco Giants.