General - The Cardinals 2014 season ended tragically, beginning with their loss to the Giants in the championship series courtesy of a Travis Ishikawa homerun. Coming into the playoffs not many Cardinal fans were familiar with the name Travis Ishikawa. The season ended early meaning one of their top prospects left for the Dominican Republic early. Oscar Taveras died in a single car traffic accident when he should have been playing in a World Series game if things had gone differently. The Cardinals hope the 2015 season has better news. They have won their division the last two years and made the playoffs the last four years. No reason to think a fifth year is not in the cards. The core of Holiday, Molina and Peralta is getting older, but they still have a few good years left in them.
2015 key additions - Their big move was with the Braves when they acquired Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden. Right field had been reserved for Oscar Taveras but Jason Heyward has it now. Walden should fit nicely in the high heat Cardinal bullpen. They also signed the swing and miss bat of Mark Reynolds as insurance at the corners and Matt Belisle to bolster the bullpen. Not a lot of moves but the Cardinals are all about development and bringing up the younger players.
Catcher - Yadier Molina has always been a rock, catching 140 something games a year. Last year he only played 110 games because of injuries. At 32 years old he is no longer a youngster. The Cardinals will give more playing time to Tony Cruz, who while a solid defensive catcher still falls short of the Molina tools. He also does not have much of a bat. When Molina is catching the Cardinals will have one of the best at the position. It just won’t be as often as it used to be.
First Base - Has Matt Adams come down to earth? He seemed to come from nowhere as a lot of Cardinal prospects do with monster shots rising over the fence. Last year he hit 15 with a .457 slugging average. That was short of his 17 homeruns and .503 slugging average of 2013. He also struggled hitting lefthanders with a .180 average which could result in a platoon for 2015. In 2013 he hit .231 against lefties. Mark Reynolds could be the bat to come off the bench against tough lefthanders. He can hit the ball a long way, but there is a lot of swing and miss in his bat. He plays better defensively at first base than third from what myworld saw of him at Baltimore. Xavier Scruggs is a player to watch. He doesn’t hit for a lot of power, but has the potential for a .300 plus average and hit lefthanders at a .350 clip in AAA. There is not much more he can prove in AAA.
Second base - Kolton Wong struggled early but by the end of the season was the starter. He needs to improve on his .292 OBA which would result in more stolen bases and a player the Cardinals could put in the leadoff spot. He led the team last year with 20 stolen bases, so he is their only real speed source. Pete Kozma will replace Daniel Descalso as their utility player. Kozma has a soft bat but has the glove to play all the infield positions well.
Third Base - Matt Carpenter may be more comfortable at third base but his offense suffered last year after the move from second base. In 2013 he batted .318. Last year his average dropped to .272. He still does a good job getting on base (.375 OBA) which makes him good for the leadoff spot, but he lacks speed to steal bases. Mark Reynolds can play here, but unlike Adams the lefthanded bat of Carpenter does not have any trouble hitting lefthanders.
Shortstop - Last year the Cardinals got solid production from Jhonny Peralta. He may not provide a lot of range at the position, but he fields most balls hit at him and he carries a power bat for a shortstop (21 homeruns and .443 slugging). Pete Kozma will provide some blow time for Peralta who may need to rest his 33 year old legs to keep him fresh for the 162 game season. Dean Anna played for the Yankees last year and is the alternative utility player should Pete Kozma fall more into a full time player or needs extended time on the DL because of injury. Neither player offers a terror bat that you would want at this position for an extended period.
Left Field - Matt Holiday still provides a terror bat for the position. He hit .272 with a .441 slugging. He also takes a lot of walks (.370 OBA). The defense is less than satisfactory so expect fourth outfielder Randall Grichuk to play a lot of late inning defense. Grichuk is more noted for being the player the Angels drafted ahead of Mike Trout when they had back to back first round picks, calling the name of Grichuk before Trout. He started in right field during the playoffs but will fall to the fourth outfielder role with the arrival of Heyward.
Center Field - Peter Bourjos is a superb defensive player. The Angels preferred him in center over Mike Trout when the two played with the Angels. His bat is far behind his defense at this point and may make him more of a fifth outfielder for the Cardinals. John Jay is a player with less range but more of a bat. Last year he hit .303 but he won’t hit for a lot of power or steal bases. He is just a steady, vanilla type player who won’t get the headlines.
Right field - The Braves thought Jason Heyward was going to be a superstar. Solid starter was just not good enough for them, so they traded him to the Cardinals to improve their pitching. Heyward has the potential to hit 30 plus homeruns but last year he hit only 11. A .169 average versus lefties slows down his numbers. This may create a platoon with Randal Grichuk who hit lefthanders better in AAA (.325) than the major leagues (.242).
Starting Pitcher - Adam Wainwright was third in the Cy Young voting. His 20-9 record puts him as the ace of the Cardinals rotation. He knows how to throw the double play grounder. Lance Lynn has not got his due. He had another good season, giving the Cardinals 15 wins and 200 plus innings. He led the Cardinals in strikeouts despite throwing less innings than Wainwright. Question marks follow these two pitchers. They would like to see Michael Wacha reach his potential. Despite solid numbers (5-6, 3.20) the Cardinals did not have the confidence to use him in the playoffs. John Lackey is a veteran starter who could eat innings or be released by mid season. Jaime Garcia hopes to return to his old form after being hurt for most of last year. Prior to his injury he was the Cardinals number three starter. Carlos Martinez has been used in the bullpen, but the Cardinals would like to see his 95 plus fastball as a starter. He was used in that role in the winter league. Marco Gonzalez was a 2013 first round pick that saw five starts last year. He will probably start his season in the minors and be called up when help is needed.
Closer - Hitters tagged Trevor Rosenthal a little better in 2014 than in 2013. His fastball did not seem to have the same velocity. The Cardinals are still happy with his 45 saves, second in the National League to Craig Kimbrel. Carlos Martinez and Jordan Walden also throw high heat fastballs geared toward the closer role.
Other relievers - If Martinez does not make the rotation he will be the setup man. His .297 average against lefthanders means he needs to enhance his changeup. Another pitcher who throws hard who will arrive on the scene like Rosenthal in 2013 is Sam Tuivailala who hits the radar in the triple digits. He may not be seen until mid season. Randy Choate limited lefthanders to a .093 average. That is as automatic an out as you will find. Others returning from last year are Sam Freeman and Seth Maness. Free agent pick up Matt Belisle will provide depth at the back end of the bullpen. A solid group that will live and die as Rosenthal goes.
2015 rookies - Marco Gonzalez has a shot to make the starting rotation. Randall Grichuk has not lost his rookie status but will be limited to a fourth outfielder role. Xavier Scruggs is not a highly touted prospect but he could rake if his starts are restricted to lefthanded pitching. Tim Cooney saw 25 starts in AAA and is a nice fit in the back end of a rotation. Sam Tuivailala will be another high heat bullpen source before mid-season. They have a couple power bats in Ed Easley and Cody Stanley who will only see time behind the plate if Yadier Molina misses time because of an extended injury. Aledmys Diaz is a Cuban signing that could see a utility role along with Dean Anna and Greg Garcia. The Cardinals hope for a bigger bat with Diaz and if a more permanent role is needed at short he could get the call if he shows success in the minors.
2015 Finish - The team is getting older. Myworld thinks they have enough to make the playoffs, but they may fall short to the Pirates for the division title this year. A lot will depend on the development of their younger pitchers and how they respond to the starting rotation when called upon.