Tough news out of Los Angeles as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced that stud third baseman Justin Turner broke his wrist when he was plunked by a pitch. You hate to see any injury happen, especially during Spring Training when the games don’t matter and they’re just there for you to get back into the swing of things. Here’s to hoping for a speedy recovery for Turner. On a happier note, it’s time for the latest edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the St. Louis Cardinals.
Record: 83-79, 9 games behind Chicago Cubs, 4 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot
Notable Offseason Additions: LF Marcell Ozuna, RP Bud Norris, RP Jason Motte, RP Luke Gregerson, RP Miles Mikolas
Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Lance Lynn, SS Aledmys Diaz, RF Stephen Piscotty, LF Randal Grichuk, RP Seung Hwan Oh, RP Zach Duke, RP Juan Nicasio, RP Trevor Rosenthal
Best Offensive Player: LF Marcell Ozuna
Best Pitcher: Carlos Martinez
1B-Matt Carpenter, Jose Martinez
2B-Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia
CF-Tommy Pham, Harrison Bader
SP-Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Luke Weaver, Alex Reyes
Bullpen-Luke Gregerson (CP?), Bud Norris (CP?), Tyler Lyons, Dominic Leone, Brett Cecil, Matt Bowman, Jason Motte
Manager-Mike Matheny (7th season with Cardinals)
Hitting Coach-John Mabry
Pitching Coach-Mike Maddux
1st Base Coach-Oliver Marmol
3rd Base Coach-Jose Oquendo
Bench Coach-Mike Shildt
No matter how untalented the Cardinals’ roster may seem to be, they always find a way to remain relevant. No more was that true than in 2017, where they went 83-79 despite their best offensive player being Tommy Pham, who had been their fourth outfielder for quite some time. Granted, Pham had an excellent season, but he hasn’t shown that he can keep that success up for a prolonged period of time. Here’s how the Cardinals are projected to line up in 2018.
1. Dexter Fowler-RF
2. Paul DeJong-SS
3. Tommy Pham-CF
4. Marcell Ozuna-LF
5. Matt Carpenter-1B
6. Yadier Molina-C
7. Jedd Gyorko-3B
8. Kolten Wong-2B
9. Pitcher’s Spot
The Cardinals made a big splash in the offseason when they acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins in exchange for prospects that included Magneuris Sierra. Ozuna had a Hell of a season in 2017 that got overshadowed by Giancarlo Stanton. He hit .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI in 159 games for a 4.8 WAR. That’s some MVP caliber hitting right there. In fact, he probably got the least press between the Marlins’ big-3 outfield that he shared with Stanton and Christian Yelich, all of whom now play elsewhere. Now that he’s the biggest star in his own lineup, perhaps Ozuna will finally get the recognition he deserves. I briefly mentioned Tommy Pham above and it’s worth talking about just how good he was in 2017. Pham hit .306 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI while stealing 25 bases and playing an excellent left field. Manager Mike Matheny is going to move him to center this season and push Dexter Fowler into right to try and put forth the best defensive lineup possible. Paul DeJong was also a breakout stud as a rookie. In 108 games, DeJong hit .285 with 25 home runs and 65 RBI. He walked very infrequently, as his 4.7% walk rate would’ve been the 11th worst in the Majors had he had enough at bats to qualify. However this performance was good enough for him to finish 2nd in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers. Jedd Gyorko has been a pleasant surprise since joining the Cardinals prior to the 2016 season. He hit 30 home runs in 2016 and despite hitting 10 fewer in 2017, he was able to bring his average up from .243 to .272. Yadier Molina is the biggest name on this roster and he is quietly continuing to be amongst the game’s very best behind the dish. Last season, Molina was an NL All Star, including hitting a home run in the game, and hit .273 with 18 home runs and a team-leading 82 RBI while continuing to be an absolute stud behind the plate. He is 35, though, and being a catcher at that age isn’t exactly easy work but Yadi hasn’t shown any real signs of slowing down just yet.
Pitching for the Cardinals is where things might get a little tricky. Carlos Martinez is an absolute stud on the mound but after him there are a lot of question marks. While Martinez carried this staff by going 12-11 with a 3.64 ERA and nearly 10 K/9, the rest of the rotation left something to be desired. Michael Wacha was inconsistent, carrying a 4.13 ERA while Adam Wainwright, their former ace, hasn’t been good since 2014. Wainwright had an ERA of 5.11, however he carried a FIP of 4.29, which isn’t great but suggests that the defense behind him wasn’t doing him any favors. This is the second year in a row that there was a pretty big discrepancy between Wainwright’s ERA and his FIP, as in 2016 his numbers were 4.62 and 3.93, respectively. Luke Weaver is a young pitcher who showed some pretty promising stuff in his first taste of big league action. In 13 appearances and 10 starts, Weaver went 7-2 with a 3.88 ERA, a 3.17 FIP, nearly 11 K/9, and a BB/9 rate of 2.54. If he takes the next step in his development, the Cardinals could have a potentially deadly 1-2 punch of him and Martinez.
The Cardinals bullpen looks pretty rough. Luke Gregerson is listed as the closer at the moment but they do have other options, such as Bud Norris and Brett Cecil. However Gregerson never really sniffed the closer’s role in Houston, even in the postseason when guys like Ken Giles were struggling mightily, which should tell you a lot about what Astros manager AJ Hinch thought of him. Bud Norris was okay as a closer for the Angels last season, as he saved 19 games and struck out over 10 batters per 9 but also carried an ERA over 4. Brett Cecil is another guy with closer’s experience in Toronto and he made the most appearances for the Cardinals last season, appearing in 73 games and posting a 3.88 ERA. The Cardinals haven’t seemed to be able to find their closer since the days of Jason Isringhausen, though and last season was real proof of that. They thought Trevor Rosenthal was going to be that guy but aside from a high strikeout rate he could never really find his command as he often walked batters to the point of giving Cardinals fans heart attacks. Seung Hwan Oh was another guy they thought would be the closer they’ve been looking for, in fact his nickname overseas translated to “The Final Boss,” which is about as perfect a nickname for a closer as you’re going to find. However he struggled mightily as the Cardinals’ closer last season, posting an ERA of 4.10. Nobody in the St. Louis bullpen is the answer, but Matheny hopes they can at least tide things over until they do eventually find that guy.
Overall, I think the Cardinals are going to be pretty good. In my opinion, they’re the best-run organization in baseball, that hacking business aside, as the team never seems to be bad. Even when they’re not great, they still find a way to make an impact on the MLB Season. In fact, when they won the World Series in 2006, they finished with a regular season record of just 83-79, the worst record ever by a World Series champion. You may also notice that that was the record they finished with in 2017 yet it landed them in third place in their division. I expect that the Cardinals are going to be solid once again this season but I don’t think the addition of Ozuna is going to be enough to put them over the top and make them a serious threat to the Cubs in the NL Central as their pitching still needs some work.
Projected Record: 85-77, 3rd in NL Central
That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Tampa Bay Rays, who pretty much blew up the entire team in the offseason yet will still probably find some way to be pesky little shits. Let me know what you think of the Cardinals’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.