General Sports: May 7

So before I get into General Sports, I just want to say that my blogs will likely be a little more inconsistent. As I mentioned a little while back, my family got a new puppy. I finally got a chance to meet her and while she is an absolute angel, she’s still a baby and is going to need a lot of attention. So I’ll not only be having to take care of her, but also returning to work at the liquor store, which I resume on Thursday. So for a while I might struggle to post everyday. With that said, let’s get to General Sports.

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-Gleyber Torres is off to quite the start to his big league career. The former top prospect in all of baseball, Torres was acquired by the Yankees as a minor leaguer and the centerpiece of the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs in 2016. Torres missed most of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John midseason but was able to return healthy enough to participate in Spring Training. He began the season in the Minor Leagues and was called up on April 22. Since then, he’s hit .327 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI. In fact, that second home run is the one that enticed me to give an update on him since it was a walkoff shot against the Indians. Here it is below.

The kid’s got a good-looking compact swing that looks very well controlled and he’s got pretty good size for a second baseman at 6’1 200 pounds. Second base has been an issue for the Yankees since letting Robinson Cano walk in free agency prior to the 2014 season as they haven’t been able to consistently get a consistent contributor at the position. Starlin Castro was solid but you never got the sense that he was going to be the guy for the next 5 years. Torres has the talent to be a fixture at the top of this dangerous Yankees lineup for the next ten years.

-Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is going to miss a month for groin surgery after taking a foul tip to the nuts. Now, of course, being a catcher, he was wearing a cup. I just wanted to type that. But apparently he felt something was off and was diagnosed with a “pelvic injury with traumatic hematoma.” I’m not quite sure what that means, so I’m just going to say that Yadi got hit so hard in the balls that he’s out a month. Molina is 35 years old but was putting up a decent line of .274/.292/.456. Not MVP numbers by any stretch but solid for a catcher of his age. The injury has one positive note to it, though. The Cardinals will get a chance to give one of their top prospects, Carson Kelly, a shot to see if he has what it takes to be Molina’s successor. But Molina is going to be a tough guy to replace as it doesn’t get much better behind the plate or with handling a pitching staff. Currently the Cardinals are sitting atop the NL Central Standings and if Kelly struggles too much, they might lose their grip on the division and could fall too far behind the Cubs and Brewers, who can get hot at any moment.

-There may be more trouble in Seattle brewing. The Seahawks lost both of their starting pass rushers in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril along with their superstar corner Richard Sherman this offseason. Now it looks like Earl Thomas may hold out for a new contract. He hasn’t been attending voluntary workouts and Pete Carroll admitted he has no idea when Thomas is going to report. Thomas’ contract is up at the end of the season so the desire for a new deal appears to be the motivating factor. Now in all fairness, Thomas isn’t breaking any team rules at the moment, as mandatory workouts don’t begin until June. However anytime a player entering a contract year isn’t attending certain team workouts it becomes worrisome for the player’s current employer. So for now I will say for any Seahawks fans out there, I wouldn’t be too concerned yet. However if he’s not showing up to OTA’s, then there may be cause for concern. Just something to keep an eye on during this NFL offseason.

-Clayton Kershaw is hitting the DL with a bicep tendinitis in his pitching arm. It’s only the 10-day DL so perhaps he’ll only have to miss a start or two. However this makes back-to-back seasons where Kershaw has dealt with injuries. Kershaw is pitching below his LOFTY standards this season, but below standards for Kershaw is still an All Star-caliber season, as he’s currently carrying a 2.86 ERA and striking out over 9 batters per 9. But considering his career ERA is 2.37 (which is absurd) and his career K/9 is around 10, could that suggest that Kershaw is heading towards a bit of regression in his age-30 season? Perhaps. We’ll have to see how he recovers from the injury.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Opening Day Recap

 

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It was a glorious Opening Day and baseball could not have returned with a bigger bang than it did on Thursday. While we were robbed of the “everybody opens at the same time” thing by rain in both Cincinnati and Detroit (and Bloomington, Indiana. Rained all day and when you have to walk as far as I do to and from class, you tend to loathe the rain), we still got some great baseball. So let’s get to some thoughts I had about what I saw (and didn’t see because of the goddamn technology ban in both my classes).

-Can’t start a season much better than the Cubs did. Their game against the Miami Marlins was the first game on tap so the first pitch of the season would be to a Cubs hitter. Leading off the season was Ian Happ. So how did the season’s first pitch go?

This was the first time since 1986 that the first pitch of the baseball season went yard. Dwight Evans did so for the Red Sox. Boston went on to lose the World Series in heartbreaking fashion (“BEHIND THE BAG! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER! HERE COMES KNIGHT AND THE METS WIN IT!”) so we’ll have to see if the Cubs can avoid that same fate.

-Speaking of the Red Sox, what a freaking choke job. They led 4-0 heading into the bottom of the 8th after an absolutely dominating performance by Chris Sale (6 innings, 9 K’s, 1 hit) and I’ll put how that 8th inning went with this: Joe Kelly’s ERA is 108.00. Just an absolute waste. However it is Game 1 out of 162 and the Red Sox lost Opening Day in both the 2004 and 2007 seasons, both of which ended with World Series victories. There were some positives from this game, though. Xander Bogaerts looked really good, getting 3 hits including 2 doubles. Eduardo Nunez hit the first Opening Day inside-the-park home run by a Red Sox player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1968. In fact, counting the postseason, the Red Sox have back-to-back games with an inside-the-park home run, as Rafael Devers hit one in the 9th inning of the Sox’ Game 4 ALDS defeat at the hands of the Astros. Here’s the play in question.

-The Chicago White Sox scored 14 runs on the Royals. Wait, that’s a typo, right? The same White Sox team that many people are picking to be the worst in baseball? Again, it’s Game 1, but you have to be excited about the future if you’re a White Sox fan. DH Matt Davidson was the star as he hit 3 home runs, the 4th time someone has ever done so on Opening Day. Also something to note with this game, the Royals got out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning and the White Sox didn’t score a single run until the 4th, where they scored 5, then added on 3 more in the 5th, nothing in the 6th, then 3 in both the 7th and 8th inning. So when the White Sox scored, they scored in bunches.

-The Baltimore Orioles won via walkoff on Opening Day for the second consecutive season. A number like that is just unprecedented to me. Here’s the play.

It was a pitcher’s duel throughout between Dylan Bundy and Jake Odorizzi, which is surprising considering the fact that starting pitching appears to be the weakest part of both teams. I only caught the first couple innings of this one but I did notice that Manny Machado looks good to start the season. His first at bat he hit a laser over the right fielder’s head and coasted into second with an easy double.

-Offensively the Mets looked really good. I sporadically changed my feed between this game and the O’s-Twins for a little while and basically every time I watched, the Mets were compiling hits and scoring runs, which was great for them because Noah Syndergaard fell into some tough luck. He struck out 10 batters but gave up 4 runs, including a 2-run homer against Yadier Molina on a really nice pitch that you really can’t do anything about. I said before in their 30 Clubs in 30 Days, but I think the Mets are going to be a lot better than they were last year.

-If you weren’t terrified of the Yankees before, you should be now. Giancarlo Stanton homered twice in his Yankees debut, the second to ever do so (the first was Roger Maris). Here’s his first at bat as a Yankee.

His other homer also went to the opposite field. So you’ve got both Judge and Stanton who have stupid power to all fields. The Yankees cruised to a 6-1 win over the Blue Jays, who were honoring the late Roy Halladay before the game.

-Nick Markakis got his first career walkoff home run out of the way on Opening Day.

Gotta feel great for the 34 year-old. However Phillies fans were pretty bent out of shape by Gabe Kapler’s managerial decisions in his debut. He pulled Aaron Nola after just 68 pitches, 5.1 innings, and only a run allowed. The bullpen promptly imploded, allowing 6 runs after the 7th inning. So a rough debut for Kapler.

-I mentioned how Ian Happ homered on the season’s first pitch. Well George Springer was jealous that Happ’s game started first.

It is the second consecutive season that Springer led off his teams’s season with a home run, the only man ever to be able to say that. And last time the Astros had a guy homer to start Opening Day, they won the World Series. Just sayin’.

-Shohei Ohtani singled on his first at bat in the States, which has to be encouraging because he had a MISERABLE spring training. He went 4-for-32 at the plate and on the mound he gave up 9 runs in 2.2 innings. He DH’d and hit 8th for the Angels and will be the starting pitcher on Sunday against the A’s. Speaking of the A’s, they won on a walkoff as well on a Marcus Semien single in the 11th inning. The A’s were also able to absolutely shut down Mike Trout, who went 0-6 in a game for the first time in his career.

-Clayton Kershaw got outdueled by Ty Blach of all people. Kershaw traditionally is INSANE on Opening Day, as he entered the game with a career 0.99 Opening Day ERA. He was great again, as he only let up 1 run on a solo shot by Joe Panik that barely stayed fair and collected 2 hits of his own at the plate, but Blach didn’t let up a thing, going 5 innings and letting up just 3 hits.

It was a Hell of an Opening Day and I think we’re in for a great season. Let me know what you think Opening Day 2018 in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 MLB Season Preview

Thank you all once again for sticking with me and reading my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Now is the part it’s all been leading up to: the 2018 MLB Season Preview. In this preview I’m going to use what I wrote in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series to paint a picture of how this season is going to go. This will range from player rankings to World Series predictions and everything in between. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

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Season Predictions:

Here’s the compilation of the regular season standings from the projected records I did for each team. An asterisk (*) represents the teams that I predict will win the Wild Card spots.

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

So based on this information, we can see which teams are ready for success in 2018. Now let’s take a look at my postseason predictions even though game 1 out of 162 hasn’t been played yet.

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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Congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on your 2018 World Series victory. In my predictions, the Tribe exorcise their postseason demons from the last couple seasons and win their first World Series since 1948 and third overall. For the Dodgers, their first title since 1988 continues to elude them as they fall in the World Series for the second year in a row. It is also worth mentioning that this matchup is between the two previous World Series losers, as the Indians lost to the Cubs in 2016 and the Dodgers lost to the Astros in 2017.

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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Gotta put the reigning champs atop the initial Power Rankings. Plus, they lost virtually nothing in the offseason while getting even stronger with the addition of Gerrit Cole to a pitching rotation that already features two former Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. I also have to put the Marlins as the worst team in baseball simply for how much they gave up in the offseason. I also don’t think they will be any good for at least another 3 or 4 years, maybe even 5 because of the generally weak prospect pool they received for their troubles. I still can’t believe Giancarlo Stanton didn’t warrant a return of everything the Yankees had in their farm system. The guy hit 59 home runs and was NL MVP last season. Now let’s get into the positional rankings for this season.

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

And now onto the preseason awards where I award people for things they haven’t done yet and may not even do at all.

American League MVP: Aaron Judge-RF-New York Yankees

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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American League Rookie of the Year: Willy Adames-SS-Tampa Bay Rays

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National League Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna-OF-Atlanta Braves

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American League Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia-Anaheim Angels

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National League Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

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And finally, on to my bold predictions for the 2018 MLB season. Some will be as harmless as saying “I don’t think the Yankees are going to hit as many home runs as everybody says they will,” and others could get me fired if I had a real job. So let’s get to some predictions.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw will show slight signs of slowing down now that he’s 30 years old, will post an ERA over 2.50, something he hasn’t done since 2012. People will freak out and panic accordingly.

Prediction: The Yankees’ season will be filled with peaks and valleys en route to 98 wins. Considering Judge and Stanton strike out as often as anyone in baseball, this could lead to some rough slumps at times for the two and their team as a result. However, when they’re on, nobody will be able to beat the Yankees.

Prediction: The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado to a contender at the trade deadline. The Orioles won’t be super competitive in 2018 and Machado’s contract is up at the end of the year. The smart thing to do would be to trade him to a contender and load up on top prospects. Predicted landing spot? Uhhhh…how about the Brewers? I would say the Yankees but the Orioles’ brass has made it clear they’d prefer not to trade Machado within the division.

Prediction: The Yankees will not break the team home run record. This is mainly because I think teams are going to try and pitch the Yankees a little more carefully this season. Knowing the type of power this team possesses, I doubt they’re going to get great pitches to hit. This may lead to higher walk rates for the team, though.

Prediction: The Marlins won’t be nearly as bad as people think. But let’s be honest, the opinions of the Marlins’ talent can’t be much lower at the moment. However every season there’s a team that everyone thinks is going to be the worst and yet somehow they find ways to be just bad, not historically bad.

Prediction: The American League’s home run king will be an Oakland Athletics player. I can envision this happening, considering the power Khris Davis and Matt Olson showed last season. Matt Chapman could also be a sneaky home run threat as well.

Prediction: Mike Trout will finish outside the top 2 in AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season. This isn’t to say that I think Trout will struggle this season. Far from it. Last season was the first time in Trout’s Major League career (since 2012) that he didn’t finish in the top 2 in AL MVP voting and I think it’s going to happen again. As you saw in my awards predictions, I have Aaron Judge taking home top honors and Trout will have to compete with the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, and many, many more.

Prediction: Don Mattingly will be out as Marlins manager before June. This won’t be Mattingly’s fault, nobody can succeed with this roster. However new ownership has pretty much let go of everyone else and Mattingly just logically seems to be the next domino to fall, especially when the Marlins inevitably struggle.

Prediction: Pace of Play will continue to be a topic of discussion and the new mound visit rule will be hated by catchers even though we could probably count the number of issues this rule causes on one hand. The new mound visit rule limits non-pitching-change mound visits to 6 per 9 inning games. There have already been players such as Willson Contreras who are outspoken against this, however if you think about it, catchers don’t really visit the mound all that much, especially if their guy is pitching really well. I don’t think this will cause nearly as many problems as some guys think it might.

Prediction: The newly-signed pitchers (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) will struggle. Darvish has had injury problems throughout his Major League career and Arrieta has been trending downward since winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. Im predicting both guys finish with ERA’s in the low-4’s.

So that’s going to do it for my MLB 2018 season preview. Words can’t express how excited I am for Thursday’s Opening Day to roll around, when all 30 teams will be opening on the same day for the first time in over 50 years. Let me know how you think this season’s going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: St. Louis Cardinals

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.

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2017 Results:

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

Depth Chart:

C-Yadier Molina

1B-Matt Carpenter, Jose Martinez

2B-Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia

3B-Jedd Gyorko

SS-Paul DeJong

LF-Marcell Ozuna

CF-Tommy Pham, Harrison Bader

RF-Dexter Fowler

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

Coaching Staff:

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

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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.

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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.

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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.