St Louis (91-71) finished in 1st place in the NL Central by 2 games over 2nd place Milwaukee last season. They were 7 games ahead of 3rd place Chicago, 16 ahead of 4th place Cincinnati and 22 games ahead of last-place Pittsburgh. 2nd place Milwaukee was also the 2nd wildcard winner in the National League last year. St Louis beat Atlanta in the best of five series 3-2 in the League Division Series and moved on to play Washington in the League Championship Series where they were stunned 4 games to none.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
2B Kolten Wong (You are never going to get great numbers from Kolten, but he does have a nice combination of speed with just a touch of power to produce some runs and when it is clicking altogether like last season, you have yourself a nifty little second baseman. He hit .249 with 11 home runs, 59 rbi’s, scored 61 runs and stole 24 bases. Wong makes good contact and hits the ball hard, so unless he just gets unlucky, you can expect these types of numbers on a consistent basis)
3B Matt Carpenter (I am getting the feeling Matt’s better days are behind him. His .226 batting average was his worst since his rookie season when he only had 15 at-bats. His 15 home runs were his lowest since 2014. His 20 doubles his lowest since his rookie season in 2011, same with his 59 runs scored. Granted he did spend two stints on the IL last season and only played in 129 games, but you can just sense this is not the same guy. I hope I am wrong, I always like watching Matt Carpenter play but the Cards probably needs to start thinking about moving on from him)
1B Paul Goldschmidt (Despite his average dropping to the lowest it has been since his rookie season in 2011, Paul had a decent first year in St Louis but it was not up to his standards. He hit .260 with 34 home runs, 97 rbi’s & runs scored, 155 hits and walked 78 times. The average is not sudden. He has not hit .300 since 2015 and has declined slowly each season since. I guess once you hit 30 years old (he is 32) you sort have to expect these things to start happening, not everybody is Tom Brady)
SS Paul DeJong (Paul is in his 4th season with the Cards and outside of his batting average it was his best to date. It is hard to explain how his average keeps dropping but his numbers keep going up, but as long as those hits keep coming at the right time as suppose the Cardinals can live with it. He hit .233 with 30 home runs & 78 rbi’s while scoring 97 runs last season. He also stole 9 bases and had 31 doubles in 159 games. Those are pretty good offensive numbers for a shortstop)
C Yadier Molina (Is father time catching up with Yadier? I mean 16 years in the league and 37 years old and all with the same team. My hats off to him. To be expected, especially at his position he has played fewer games in each of the past 4 seasons and last year spent two short stints on the IL. He hit .270 with 10 homers, down from 20 in 2018, with 57 rbi’s and 45 runs scored. I think he is still capable of 15 home runs & 70 rbi’s if he can get 125/130 games played in 2020)
OF Dexter Fowler (Dexter bounced back from a horrible 2018 season hitting a career-high 19 home runs last year as well as 67 rbi’s. He hit .238 with 69 runs scored with 8 stolen bases as well in 150 games. I think last season was as good as it gets for Dexter. I don’t think after all these years he has turned the corner and is going to become some elite player. If he did not do it at Coors Field when he was younger he is not going to do it at Busch at 33 years of age)
OF Tommy Edman (After spending the first two months in the minors Tommy was called up and never looked back hitting .304 with 11 home runs with 36 rbi’s and scoring 59 runs while stealing 15 bases in just 92 games. He was impressive enough that he started in all 9 playoff games for the Cards. He has played 3B, 2B and in the OF. He has a bright future in St Louis)
OF Harrison Bader (Bader sort of get the job by default when Marcell Ozuna moved on to another team. There was a lot of hype that came with Bader but that has nearly faded away after last season’s disaster where his numbers just equaled his poor numbers of 2018 and his batting average dropped from .264 to .205 in 2019. I get the feeling with some prospects getting closer this might be Bader’s final chance to prove he is worth even keeping on the team let alone being a starter. He hit just .205 with 12 home runs & 39 rbi’s and scored 54 runs. He had just 71 hits in 347 at-bats. The best thing he has going for him is he stole 15 & 11 bases the past two seasons. This is a make or break season for Harrison in 2020)
RHP Jack Flaherty (Jack has taken over as the ace of the Cardinals. Last season he was 11-8 with a 2.75 era and a dazzling 0.97 WHIP. He struck out 231 batters in just 196.1 innings and allowed just 135 hits. It is hard to believe he was 4-5 with a 4.90 era after 17 starts. He caught fire after that going 7-3 with an incredible 0.93 era to finish out the season in his last 16 starts with teams hitting just .139 against him. Unfortunately, they ran into the Nats in the playoffs and it did not go so well for him and the Cards, but he has earned the right to be called the new ace of the staff)
RHP Carlos Martinez (Say what you will about Carlos but he has had just one losing season (2014) in the major leagues and that was his 2nd year. I am not sure of the logic behind all of this but after moving him to the bullpen to try to save his arm last season where he became a successful closer, they are moving him back into the rotation where he wants to be and has been mostly used. He has a career era of 3.36 and an average career record of 8.3 wins against just 5.7 losses. He has also always given up fewer hits than innings pitched and struck out about one man per inning pitched. The numbers are there and he is still just 28 years old, so the question is can he make the transition back to starting again)
RHP Dakota Hudson (After pitching out of the pen in his rookie season, the Cards turned him into a starter last season and it turned out to be a really smart decision. All he did was go 16-7 with a 3.35 era in 32 starts. Just for old times sake, he made one relief appearance and picked up a save. Lol. He was not a big strikeout guy, but throws a good sinker/cutter and keeps the ball on the ground to get guys out. That approach works well when you have a good defense playing behind you. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Keep it going Dakota this season and more success in 2020)
RHP Adam Wainwright (At 38 years old and entering his 15 season Adam Wainwright still has something to offer the St Louis Cardinals, and that is winning. He is giving up more hits than ever, he is striking out fewer than ever and I think there are fastpitch softball pitchers that throw harder than him how. But he is walking less, his curveball
is curvier than ever and he is getting batters out when he needs to the most. How else would you explain him going 14-10 last season with 4.19 era? He was even 5-1 with a 2.97 era in September in the heat of a pennant chase. I am not betting against this guy doing it again)
Kwang-Hyun Kim (With Miles Mikolas who was listed as the 5th starter out for the year, Kim is taking his spot. He has no major or minor league experience but how done well in Korea. Many players from Korea have come over and had success at this level and only time will tell)
CLOSER – With Jordan Hicks lost for the season it is uncertain who will be the closer and might be closer by committee unless someone stands out in the early going.
Ryan Helsley & Giovanny Gallegos are the leading candidates to take the role as closer. Helsley was a rookie last season who appeared in 36.2 innings with 1 hold and 1 blown save with a 2.95 era but had a 2-0 record. He was a starter in the minors and was considered a flame thrower reaching triples digits on his fastball.
Gallegos appeared in 67 games last year for the Cards all in relief going 3-2 with 1 save, 3 blown saves and 19 holds with a 2.31 era in 74 innings pitched. He misses more bats striking out 93 guys in those 74 innings pitched allowing just 44 hits. He sounds more ready to take the job but the other guy sounds very intriguing.
I feel like this team is getting older and this is a risky bet. Then again this team always seems to find a way to be in the thick of things in the heat of August and that is when they always play their best ball and make their push for the playoffs. From all of my future MLB selections so far I am going to say this is my weakest to date so far.
I am going to go against the grain and against the Cards and say they have a bad season. I think age is finally going to get the best of some of the aging dudes and it will take its toll on the rest of the team. The big question in the bullpen is liable to cost them some valuable wins al well. It is UNDER for me.