Another season without the playoffs for St. Louis baseball. After limping to a 47-46 record, the Cardinals made the (long overdue) move of firing their manager, Mike Matheny. They surged from there. From July 15th to August 31st, they went 30-13 to start the Mike Shildt era and were in prime position to secure a Wild Card spot. Unfortunately from there, they went 12-14 in the month of September, effectively choking away a playoff spot by three games.
This actually might have been a good thing for the team. After missing the playoffs for three straight years, this forced the Front Office to make significant upgrades or risk their losing their jobs.
In year two of this article, I’m even more excited than last year. Let’s take a look into what their 25-man roster will look like
Note: This is NOT what I think the roster should be like, it is what I expect it to look like on Opening Day
1 – Matt Carpenter – 3B
2 – Dexter Fowler – RF
3 – Paul Goldschmidt – 1B
4 – Marcell Ozuna – LF
5 – Paul DeJong – SS
6 – Yadier Molina – C
7 – Harrison Bader – CF
8 – Kolten Wong – 2B
9 – Pitcher’s Spot
C – Matt Wieters
1B/OF – José Martinez
IF/OF – Yairo Munoz
IF/OF – Drew Robinson
OF – Tyler O’Neill
1 – Miles Mikolas – RHP
2 – Jack Flaherty – RHP
3 – Michael Wacha – RHP
4 – Adam Wainwright – RHP
5 – Dakota Hudson – RHP
John Brebbia – RHP
John Gant – RHP
Jordan Hicks – RHP
Dominic Leone – RHP
Mike Mayers – RHP
Andrew Miller – LHP
Alex Reyes – RHP
Major League Players to start the season on the Injured List:
RP – Brett Cecil
RP – Luke Gregerson
IF – Jedd Gyorko
SP – Carlos Martinez
C – Yadier Molina – 36
2018 Stats: 503 PA, .261/.314/.436, 20 HR, 103 OPS+, 31% CS%, 2.3 fWAR
Yadi always has his doubters, but he keeps producing anyways. After suffering a gruesome groin injury in May that forced him to sit out for a month, he played seemingly every game from then on to finish the season. In his age 35 season, he posted his first 20 HR season since 2012. His slash line wasn’t the best of his career, but he held his own and anchored his Red Birds to a late-season playoff push. Ultimately, 2018 showed that, at the plate, Molina is not only fighting off the aging curve, but is seemingly thriving under its pressure.
His 31% caught stealing was below his career average of 41%, but he remains one of the elite defensive catchers in baseball. Not many players can be expected to produce this late into their career, but I expect the iron man of modern baseball to put up another productive season in 2019.
1B – Paul Goldschmidt – 31
2018 Stats (With Arizona): 690 PA, .290/.389/.533, 33 HR, 139 OPS+, 6 DRS, 5.4 bWAR,
This excerpt from my article detailing the Goldschmidt trade nails it on the head, so this should suffice until he takes an at-bat in Cardinal Red.
“It’s not easy to please Cardinals fans, but Goldschmidt is as close as it gets. He is one of, if not the, premier first-baseman in baseball. Since the departure of Albert Pujols after the 2011 season, and the decline of Matt Holliday, the team has not had that big slugger in the middle of their lineup. Goldschmidt is just that. Over the last four seasons, Goldy has played 155+ games every year for the D-Backs. Over that time, he’s put up a monster slash of .301/.410/.538. He’s posted 30+ HRs in four of his last six seasons, also eclipsing 95+ RBIs in five of those six seasons as well. His career wRC+ is an astounding 144, along with an average 5.45 fWAR over the last six seasons.”
On March 23rd, Goldy and the Cardinals agreed to a five year, $130 million dollar extension. The deal will pay him $26 million annually for five years. He will still play 2019 under his $14.5 million arbitration agreement, and the extension will keep him from hitting the open market following the season. The Cardinals locked up their superstar for his age 32-36 seasons and hope to surround him with the core to get that coveted ring.
2B – Kolten Wong – 28
2018 Stats: 407 PA, .249/.332/.388, 9 HR, 97 OPS+, 19 DRS, 3.5 bWAR
Kolten Wong had one roller coaster of a season in 2018 at the plate. In April and May, he posted an OPS of .587 and .546, respectively. He started to find his stroke later in the year, posting an OPS of .823 after the All-Star break. His home run power has all but disappeared. He’s only hit 18 home runs over the last three seasons combined, so that 20/20 potential that was predicted has all but vanished. In the field, that is a whole different story.
In this same article prior to 2018, I wrote the following:
“On defense, he seems to botch routine plays far too often, but then make challenging plays look routine with relative ease.”
That all changed in 2018. He became not only one of the best defenders at second base, but one of the best defenders in all of baseball. He posted a magnificent 19 DRS at second base and was robbed of a Gold Glove. Despite putting together a mediocre overall season at the plate, he still posted a 3.5 bWAR. I expect much of the same from Wong in 2019.
SS – Paul DeJong – 25
2018 Stats: 490 PA, .241/.313/.433, 19 HR, 102 OPS+, 14 DRS, 3.8 bWAR
Paul DeJong came crashing back down to Earth last season. After posting an outstanding rookie year at the plate, he slumped for much of his sophomore campaign. He came out of the gates hot, posting an .866 OPS, similar to that of his rookie year. After a wrist injury sidelined him for a month, he returned and couldn’t seem find his stroke, posting a .721 post All-Star break OPS. His high swing and miss tendencies are hard to sustain, yet not impossible. He will never be high OBP guy, but his power will help him remain a commodity at the plate, posting 44 HRs over his first two seasons.
After having a relative down year at the plate, maybe the biggest surprise for the Cardinals in 2018 was DeJong’s fielding. He turned himself into an elite defender last season, something almost nobody expected from the natural 3rd baseman. He posted 14 DRS last year after being in the negative for his rookie season. Uneven performance at the plate coupled with elite defense put him at a 3.8 bWAR, actually a tick higher than his breakout rookie season at 2.7.
Albeit unlikely, if DeJong can recapture his 2017 form at the plate, plus his 2018 fielding, he will become an elite shortstop next season. I expect his hitting to improve next season, and post another very good season overall.
3B – Matt Carpenter – 33
2018 Stats: 677 PA, .257/.374/.523, 36 HR, 143 OPS+, 2 DRS @ 3rd base, 4.9 bWAR
Matt Carpenter posted the best season of his career last year at age 32. The first and last month of the season, he was a very poor hitter, slugging under .300 in both months. The middle four months, he was ungodly-hot at the plate. From May 16th through August 31st, he posted an other-worldly 1.097 OPS with 32 home runs in just 356 ABs. He was the front runner for NL MVP heading into September. Once he went cold, so did the rest of the team and he couldn’t get back in a grove in time to make the playoffs.
Despite posting positive metrics last season at third base, it’s hard to argue that he is an above average fielder at the position. At the risk of sounding “old-school”, he really doesn’t pass the eye test as a fielder. Some fans are very worried about Carpenter moving back to manning the hot corner. I am not one of those people. His range is little to none and his arm is similar to that of a cooked spaghetti noodle. That being said, if he gets to a ball, he’s going to make the play. His sure-handedness is enough to warrant him playing third. In addition to that, acquiring a fielder the quality of Goldschmidt at first base helps to mask some of Carpenter’s deficiencies in the field.
I don’t know which Carpenter we’ll see in 2019, but I’d put money that he comes out hunting for blood out of his oh-so-natural leadoff spot.
LF – Marcell Ozuna – 28
2018 Stats: 628 PA, .280/.325/.433, 23 HR, 106 OPS+, 8 DRS, 2.9 bWAR
I’m starting to lose faith in Ozuna, if we’re being honest.
After the Cardinals acquired “Big Bear” in December 2017, his season was that of extremes. In the months of April, May, and July, he posted an OPS of .601, .694, and .564, respectively. Then, in June, August, and September, his OPS was .951, .862, and .906, respectively. He just couldn’t seem to find his stroke for long periods of time. Despite having a down season statistically, his underlying metrics were still quite promising. When looking at his Statcast metrics such as Exit Velocity (90.7 to 91.5 MPH), Launch Angle (10.1º to 10.8º), Barrel % (9.3% to 9.7%), and many of his “expected stats” (xOPS, etc) went up, yet his production dropped drastically. There is still hope for him to regain his breakout 2017 form.
Where I lose faith is basically everywhere else. Ozuna reportedly had a nagging shoulder injury that bothered him all season in 2018. He couldn’t throw out your 90 year-old grandma from left field last year. He had surgery on that shoulder in October 2018 and was supposed to be a full-go by Spring Training. Upon arriving to Jupiter, FL for camp, he had not yet thrown a ball with his newly repaired shoulder.
To add onto that, he looked overweight reporting to camp in February. He trained all offseason in his home country of Puerto Rico, not with the Cardinals’ staff (more on this later).
I have absolutely no idea which Ozuna we can expect in 2019. He will be a free agent after this season, players often put up career numbers in a walk year. I would be very surprised if Ozuna is a Cardinal in 2020. Only time will tell.
CF – Harrison Bader – 24
2018 Stats: 427 PA, .264/.334/.422, 12 HR, 106 OPS+, 19 DRS, 3.8 bWAR
Harrison Bader might be a budding superstar. Harrison Bader might flop at the plate. He had a couple elite months, a couple “meh” months, and a few putrid months. Inconsistency is expected with a young player like him.
His fatal flaw to this point are his platoon splits. Bader rakes against left-handed pitching, posting a .292/.370/.517 line. Right-handed pitching is a totally different story, putting up a measly .251/.317/.378 line. Bader needs to figure out right-handed pitching if he wants to stay an above average hitter.
Lucky for Bader, he can get by with league average offense. He is already one of, if not the, best defensive outfielder in all of baseball. All of his defensive metrics are off the charts: 20 Outs Above Average (third in all of baseball), 19 DRS (fourth in all of baseball), 10.7 Ultimate Zone Rating (fourth in all of baseball).
Bader’s calling card is his glove, but a 20/20 season is definitely not out of the question on offense with the raw power and speed he possesses.
RF – Dexter Fowler – 33
2018 Stats: 334 PA, .180/.278/.298, 8 HR, 59 OPS+, -5 DRS, -1.4 bWAR
I just published a piece last month on what to expect from Fowler in 2019, so I’ll just use a small excerpt from that. Read the full piece with the link above.
“His story is well documented from last season. He posted an abysmal .576 OPS, which was good enough to be T-276th out of 278 players with at least 300 PAs. His fielding deteriorated immensely last year, even after the move to right field from center. This lead to a magnificent -1.2 fWAR on the season, good for T-1374th out of 1379 hitters to take an at-bat last season. Despite all of this, he is still slotted to be the starting right fielder heading into 2019.
Recency bias has come into play here, big time. Many fans are citing his woeful 2018 season as reason enough, but they are forgetting just how good he was in 2017. In his first year in the Lou, he posted a very good .264/.363/.488 line with a career high 18 HRs and a 121 wRC+. Plug 2017 Fowler into the second spot of this Cardinals lineup and you have an elite “1-2-3-4″ with Carpenter, Goldschmidt and Ozuna.”
I would rather see either of José Martinez or Tyler O’Neill starting here, but I feel in due time, they will get their share.
C – Matt Wieters – 32
2018 Stats (With Washington): 271 PA, .238/.330/.374, 8 HR, 86 OPS+, 37% CS%, 0.6 bWAR
Wieters was brought into a spot that not many players have been willing to accept over time: Yadier Molina’s backup. Molina has the knack for taking very few days off. After offseason knee surgery and father time coming for Molina, Wieters was brought in to keep Yadi fresh. Wieters was once billed as one of the best catching prospects ever back when he was drafted in 2007, but never lived up the hype. He has put together a few solid offensive seasons, but none recently. He is a leader from behind the plate and will give Molina some much needed rest in order to keep him fresh for the stretch run and playoffs.
1B/OF – José Martinez – 30
2018 Stats: 590 PA, .305/.364/.457, 17 HR, 124 OPS+, -11 DRS, 1.5 bWAR
José Martinez is a pure hitter. He strokes the ball to all fields like few others can, as he lead the MLB in opposite field % last season. The Cardinals gave him consistent ABs for the first time in his major league career and he rewarded them with an outstanding season at the plate.
He is a liability in the field, that’s no secret. With the Goldschmidt acquisition, there is no time to be had at 1st base for him, so that relegates him to a pure outfield role. He’ll likely get around 400 ABs, but he should be a full time player somewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cardinals ship him off mid-season, similar to Tommy Pham. A player of Martinez’s caliber doesn’t deserve to ride the bench. An AL team will see him as their DH and run with it.
IF/OF – Yairo Munoz – 23
2018 Stats: 329 PA, .276/.350/.413, 8 HR, 109 OPS+, -11 DRS, 0.2 bWAR
Yairo Munoz made the team out of camp last season, then was promptly demoted less than a month into the season after failing to show any prowess at the plate. He returned and posted a very solid season for a rookie 23 year-old bench bat. His on-base skills are always an asset, no matter where they come from. He struggled defensively at numerous different positions but his flexibility is crucial for his bench role.
IF/OF – Drew Robinson – 27
2018 Stats (With Texas): 125 PA, .183/.288/.294, 3 HR, 53 OPS+, -7 DRS, -0.5 bWAR
Robinson was acquired from the Rangers in December 2018, and he was expected to go back and forth between AAA Memphis and St. Louis as positional depth. His power has shown up big time in the minors but has never translated to the majors. He has a lot of swing and miss but could provide some much needed left-handed pop off the bench. Robinson can play every position on the diamond except pitcher and catcher, a luxury every team would like to have on the bench.
OF – Tyler O’Neill – 23
2018 Stats: 142 PA, .254/.303/.500, 9 HR, 115 OPS+, 6 DRS, 1.4 bWAR
Growing up as the son of a champion Canadian body builder, O’Neill has as much raw power as anyone in baseball. He destroys baseballs. Period. His plate discipline could definitely improve, but he’s not a developed player yet. He is actually a good fielder at all three outfield spots, something he doesn’t get enough credit for. O’Neill won’t get as many at-bats as he should this season, but I see him as the clear successor to Ozuna in left field next year, assuming Ozuna isn’t extended.
I am a firm believer that seeing is believing. Therefore, MANY GIFs will be included to provide examples.
RHP – Miles Mikolas – 30
2018 Stats: 200.2 IP, 2.83 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 1.071 WHIP, 8.3 H/9, 1.3 BB/9, 6.5 K/9, 4.3 bWAR
I also just wrote an article detailing the extension given to Mikolas, so an excerpt from that will do until 2019 starts.
“Mikolas had a magical 2018 season. After being signed in order to give the rotation flexibility and depth, he had basically no expectations heading into the year. He exceeded even the wildest projections by posting a 2.83 ERA in 200.2 innings, en route to a sixth-place NL Cy Young finish.
He isn’t a big strikeout guy, only posting 6.55 K/9, which leaves many people skeptical that he can continue his success. The Cardinals say “blasphemy” to that. No qualified starting pitcher threw a higher % of pitches for strikes than Mikolas at 69.27%. He also had the sixth-highest ground ball rate (among qualified pitchers) at 49.3%. Among a field of pitchers that throw 100 MPH with filthy breaking pitches, Mikolas stands out as a “pitch-to-contact” stud.”
Check out my original Mikolas article for many more beautiful gifs of The Lizard King.
RHP – Jack Flaherty – 23
2018 Stats: 151 IP, 3.34 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.106 WHIP, 6.4 H/9, 3.5 BB/9, 10.8 K/9, 2.6 bWAR
The hype is growing.
Flaherty is one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball following his rookie year in which he put up elite strikeout numbers as a 22 year-old. People are finally starting to realize just how good he was last season and the incredible potential he boasts. As fellow Diamond Digest writer Mick Callahan proclaims: If the Cardinals had made a playoff run, people would be talking about Flaherty just as much as Walker Buehler, the fan-proclaimed next ace of the decade.
Flaherty sports an electric repertoire, featuring an absolute wipeout slider that is already one of the best pitches in baseball. To go along with his slider, Flaherty also possesses a change-up that is down-right filthy, and reminiscent of the change-up that former-Cardinal Marco Gonzales relies on quite heavily.
Watch Flaherty dice up his new teammate Goldschmidt from last season.
Not that fooling Javier Baez at the plate is overly difficult, but here is another fantastic overlay of Flaherty.
I am absolutely ecstatic to see Flaherty pitch this year, I can’t wait to see what the youngster can do in a full season’s work.
RHP – Michael Wacha – 27
2018 Stats: 84.1 IP, 3.20 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 1.233 WHIP, 7.3 H/9, 3.8 BB/9, 7.6 K/9, 0.9 bWAR
Wacha was well on his way to borderline All-Star caliber season last year before his recurring shoulder injury flared up again, which has been the story of his career. After looking like a future ace in the early stages of his career, he suffered a stress fracture in his shoulder and he’s never been the same pitcher.
When healthy, he produces . The problem lies with his health. It’s anyone’s guess as to how many innings he’ll throw this year, and the quality of those innings is also up for grabs. He took a no hitter into the 9th inning last season, but posted an ERA over 5.00 in 2017. He’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
He still has one of the more dangerous pitches in baseball in his changeup.
And a very nice complimentary Cutter to go off that.
Wacha is an unrestricted free agent following this season. REGARDLESS of how Wacha pitches this season, I don’t see him wearing a Cardinals uniform again next year. Even if he wins the Cy Young, he is as good as gone for 2020. Ownership has proven time and time again that they will not pay starting pitchers with long-running health issues.
RHP – Adam Wainwright – 37
2018 Stats: 40.1 IP, 4.46 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 1.463 WHIP, 9.1 H/9, 4.0 BB/9, 8.9 K/9, 0.0 bWAR
I really want to be positive in this section since this is probably Waino’s last season, I really do. He’s one of the most genuine people in the franchise’s history and has given his all to this team and community for the past 14 seasons.
I just don’t see how Wainwright will able to put forth a productive season in 2019. After posting five consecutive Cy Young caliber seasons, Waino was well on his way to a sixth in 2015 until he suffered an Achilles tear WHILE HE WAS BATTING (UNIVERSAL DH, PLEASE). He has never been back to form in the three years since.
Wainwright has seen diminished velocity on his fastball since then, often struggling to hit 90 MPH this spring. His curveball lacks the bite that made it his signature pitch from his years as an ace. He has attempted to adapt to this by adding more pitches to his repertoire to try to make one final run this season, including a splitter that could be dangerous, given his build and that of other premier split-finger-throwing pitchers.
If Wainwright struggles early in the year, he will have a very quick hook in the rotation. Since the team has an abundance of options for the rotation, he will have to have his best stuff right out of the gate.
His curveball not be what it used to be, but it’s still a beauty.
RHP – Dakota Hudson – 24
2018 Stats: 27.1 IP, 2.63 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.354 WHIP, 6.3 H/9, 5.9 BB/9, 6.3 K/9, 0.5 bWAR
Hudson appeared out of the bullpen at the tail end of last season, and the results were mixed. He showed a serious lack of command, posting 18 walks compared to just 19 Ks. Not good. That being said, he somehow was able to prevent runs and posted a solid overall ERA.
Hudson came into Spring Training this year competing for a bullpen spot, but an injury to Carlos Martinez opened a rotation spot for the taking. When the situation arose, Hudson wasn’t making room for competitors.
In his 21.2 Spring Training innings, he posted a phenomenal 1.25 ERA while putting up a much improved six walks to 20 Ks. He locked up a rotation spot to start the year and is one of the X-Factors for this heated NL Central race this year.
Hudson works with some filthy pitches, featuring his trademark sinker that induces a whole lot of ground balls.
Along with a much improved Slider that he tunnels exceptionally well.
RHP – John Brebbia – 28
2018 Stats: 50.2 IP, 3.20 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 1.164 WHIP, 7.6 H/9, 2.8 BB/9, 10.7 K/9, 0.5 bWAR
Brebbia has quietly been one of the best pitchers on the Cardinals over the last two years. His constant trips between St. Louis and AAA Memphis are the opposite of the Front Office’s “best 25-man possible” that they preach. There is no doubt he deserves to be in the bullpen, and he finally gets to start the season with a spot.
Brebbia’s K numbers went up last season, but so did his BB numbers from 2017. I expect nothing but a solid season’s work from Brebs this season.
He’s got some serious heat in his arsenal, and he can put it wherever he needs to, when he needs to.
He also has a pretty filthy slider that is his main punch-out pitch.
RHP – John Gant – 26
2018 Stats: 114 IP, 3.47 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 1.298 WHIP, 7.2 H/9, 4.5 BB/9, 7.5 K/9, 0.6 bWAR
Gant ended up pitching decently well from the rotation last year, making 19 starts. He, like teammate Hudson, prevented runs well, despite walking a lot of batters and not striking out many. Gant was the other contender for the fifth rotation spot, but his comically low 4.8 K/9 this spring showed he wasn’t ready to take on a full season’s work.
Gant will be another guy that will travel between Memphis and St. Louis this season in order to free up more space in the bullpen. He will have to make the most out of his opportunities if he ever wants to start again.
Gant has one of the best changeups in baseball, using it as a strikeout pitch, or a ground ball machine depending on the situation.
RHP – Jordan Hicks – 22
2018 Stats: 77.2 IP, 3.59 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 1.339 WHIP, 6.8 H/9, 5.2 BB/9, 8.1 K/9, 0.3 bWAR
Jordan Hicks got a lot of hype last season, but he really wasn’t that good. His mediocre ERA left a lot to be desired. His high walks and low Ks leave a lot of room for improvement heading into 2019.
It’s cliché, but Hicks is the guy I’m second most excited to see in 2019 (behind Flaherty). Before his call up in 2018, the highest level he’d pitched at was A+ ball, and he was a starter there. With a full offseason of refining his craft with a spot on lockdown in the major league bullpen, he will be able to harness the incredible raw potential in his arm. Working with major league coaches all offseason and preparing as a reliever make a huge difference over the 162-game grind that is the MLB.
There are quite literally too many amazing Hicks GIFs, so I’ll link my favorites. If you want to see more CLICK HERE to see all of Pitching Ninja’s Jordan Hicks GIFs.
If Jordan Hicks GIFs don’t get you excited for the season, then you just don’t like baseball.
RHP – Dominic Leone – 27
2018 Stats: 24 IP, 4.50 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 1.458 WHIP, 10.1 H/9, 3.0 BB/9, 9.8 K/9, -0.1 bWAR
Leone was acquired last offseason in the trade that sent Randal Grichuk to Toronto, and Leone underwhelmed during his first season in The Lou. He failed to repeat his breakout 2017 performance that saw him put up a 2.56 ERA and 10.6 K/9. I honestly don’t know what to expect from Leone in 2019, in terms of both quality or quantity.
RHP – Mike Mayers – 27
2018 Stats: 51.2 IP, 4.70 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 1.432 WHIP, 10.3 H/9, 2.6 BB/9, 8.5 K/9, -0.3 bWAR
I honestly don’t know what it is, but I am a big believer in Mike Mayers. I have no concrete numbers to back it up. Maybe it’s the classic “eye-test”, but I really believe in Mayers this season. His stuff his very good and his velocity hit triple digits a number of times last season.
After a disastrous start to his career as a starter, he has new life as a reliever. His walk rate is very low and his K rate will increase this season with another season as a full-time reliever under his belt. I really think Mayers could raise some eyebrows this season.
LHP – Andrew Miller – 33
2018 Stats: 34 IP, 4.24 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 1.382 WHIP, 8.2 H/9, 4.2 BB/9, 11.9 K/9, 0.2 bWAR
I will once again use another excerpt from my article detailing the Miller signing back in December:
“Andrew Miller was an absolute stud from 2014-2017 out of the bullpen for the Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, and most recently, the Indians. Over the span of 261 innings, he posted a 1.72 ERA along with a 1.83 FIP. He added 14.52 K/9, while posting just 2.31 BB/9. Outside of a David Ross HR in the 2016 World Series, he was utterly dominant during the Indians 2016 postseason run. Over 19.1 innings on baseball’s biggest stage, he posted a 1.40 ERA with 13.97 K/9.
The Cardinals signed Miller on a dime, right? One of the elite relievers in baseball for $11 million per year? This signing would be a sure thing if 2018 didn’t happen. Last season, Miller struggled like never before from the bullpen.
The most worrisome thing about Miller isn’t his poor season. His down-tick in velocity is almost always a sure sign of a pitcher starting to decline. In previous seasons, Miller’s fastball sat in the 96-97 MPH range, while 2018 showed it was more in the 93-94 MPH range. While a few MPH may not seem like a big deal, it almost always equates to waning success in the big leagues.”
Miller will likely split the middle between his injury riddled 2018 season, and his prior dominance. As the only lefty in the bullpen as of now, he will take a huge role in retiring key lefties in opposing lineups, especially with his brutal slider that is revered as one of the best in the game.
Andrew Miller also has too many good GIFs to link them all, CLICK HERE to see all of them.
RHP – Alex Reyes – 24
Career MLB Stats: 50 IP, 1.44 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 1.220 WHIP, 6.5 H/9, 4.5 BB/9, 9.7 K/9, 2.3 bWAR
Finally, the man of the hour.
I don’t want to say that John Mozeliak read my article back in November where I advocated for Reyes to be used out of the bullpen, but he just may have with this decision. I know, it only seems logical that he would come out of the ‘pen this season, but for a while, it wasn’t always this obvious what the plan with the talented youngster was.
Reyes can unleash his 100 MPH fastball, paired with his disgusting curveball and developing changeup. I love his potential as a starter, but given his 2 season ending injuries, I would settle for the best closer in baseball. A Hicks-Reyes 1-2 punch out of the bullpen could create one of the most lethal combinations in the sport. I said he should start the year out of the bullpen last year, and he got hurt in his very first start.
The goal of this season for Reyes is to make it through the season healthy. Even if that means putting a strict innings cap on him into the postseason.
Major League Players to start the season on the Injured List:
RP – Brett Cecil – 32
2018 Stats: 32.2 IP, 6.89 ERA, 6.28 FIP, 1.959 WHIP, 10.7 H/9, 6.9 BB/9, 5.2 K/9, -1.0 bWAR
RP – Luke Gregerson – 34
2018 Stats: 12.2 IP, 7.11 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 1.579 WHIP, 9.9 H/9, 4.3 BB/9, 8.5 K/9, -0.4 bWAR
Why are these guys even on the team still? I know they are both signed to somewhat substantial contracts (relative to relievers) but there is basically zero reason to believe either player will be a productive pitcher again, especially on a team full to the brim with pitching options. Cut your loses and keep the best players on the field.
IF – Jedd Gyorko – 30
2018 Stats: 402 PA, .262/.346/.416, 11 HR, 108 OPS+, 5 DRS, 2.0 bWAR
Gyorko is a luxury that many teams would love to have. Despite all of the hate that he gets from Cardinals fans, having a starting caliber player on the bench is something not many teams have. Gyorko had a down season compared to his first two years in St. Louis last year, but he still provides a lot of pop off the bench.
The ability to play all four infield positions is an added bonus, even playing third base at an above average level.
Gyorko was limited to just ten plate appearances this spring because of the calf issue. He should be ready to join the Cards’ bench sometime in April. When he returns, one of the pair of Robinson or Munoz will return to AAA, most likely based on who is hitting better. Hot stick stays in the majors.
SP – Carlos Martinez – 27
2018 Stats: 118.2 IP (18 starts), 3.11 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 1.348 WHIP, 7.6 H/9, 4.6 BB/9, 8.9 K/9, 1.8 bWAR
Carlos was supposed to form one of the strongest trios in all of baseball with Mikolas and Flaherty this season.
Instead, here we are. Starting the season on the Injured List.
CMart didn’t train with the Cardinals staff this offseason following an injury-laden season, he chose. After just a few throwing sessions in Spring Training, he was shut down with another shoulder injury, the same ailment that plagued him last season and forced him to pitch from the bullpen down the stretch.
Obviously, I’m not a doctor. But I would be very inclined to believe he did not follow his plan laid out by the team. More on that situation HERE.
His focus over the offseason was reportedly focus itself. Coming to the park everyday ready to carry the team on his back. Not taking days off, showing up on time, and being the best teammate he could be. This shows he still has a long ways to go.
It’s unclear how long Martinez will be out right now, but I would assume no later than May/June until he rejoins the rotation. When he gets back, there is no telling where the season will be, but he’d better be at his best because frustration among the front office with him is mounting.
On the field, Martinez still has as dominant of an arsenal as anyone in baseball.
He’s got a wicked fastball that can touch triple digits:
An absolute beauty of a slider:
A changeup that every youth baseball player should try to emulate:
His cutter isn’t too shabby either:
Wow, I wish he was healthy… Check out all of his pitching GIFs HERE.
I could see the Cardinals finishing anywhere from first to fourth in the NL Central, that’s how competitive the division is this year. If I had to put money on it, I’d bet on them finishing second and pushing for a Wild Card spot. As always, injuries are a major key and as long as they stay relatively healthy, they should be able to approach 90 wins this season.
I’m as excited for this year as I have been in a long time.
Thoughts? Let me know on Twitter @reed_zahradnik5
Featured Image by Jeff Curry/USA TODAY