Photo courtesy of STLtoday.com
By Brian Cranston
The St. Louis Cardinals are coming off a disappointing 2017, finishing 83-79, missing the playoffs for the 2nd straight season. This is new territory for the Cardinals, as they have been a consistent powerhouse in the National League for the past decade. Nonetheless, the Cardinals still have a talented team, and a good enough team to compete in the NL Central, an all of a sudden very solid division.
The Cardinals key move in the offseason was trading for outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna was acquired in the Marlins fire sale this winter, and in my opinion, he is one of the most underappreciated players in the league. Ozuna put up monster numbers in 2017, hitting .312, with 37 homeruns and 124 RBIs. Other than that addition, the Cardinals kept the core of their guys of a season ago. However, they were still a solid team that missed the playoffs by just 4 games. With a lineup that includes Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham, Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, and Yadier Molina, the addition of Ozuna is very solid. An outfield of Fowler, Ozuna, and Pham is amongst the best in the MLB. However, a key for the Cardinals is that Pham and DeJong, who both brokeout last season, repeat their performances in 2018.
Pitching wise, the Cardinals are little weak towards the back end. Martinez is a stud at the top of the rotation. Wacha hasn’t been great the last two seasons, posting an ERA above 4.00 in both seasons. Wainwright is turning 36 this year, and has had back to back very poor seasons. Wainwright posted an ERA of 4.62 in 2016, and 5.11 in 2017. Lance Lynn and Mike Leake filled the other two rotation spots in 2017, but the Cards let Lynn walk, and traded Leake to the Mariners. However, Leake and Lynn accounted for one-third of the teams starts last season. Sliding into those spots in 2018 are Miles Mikolas, who is returning to the Majors after a three-year stint in Japan, and one of the Cardinals' young rising starters. Luke Weaver, who shined for the Cardinals late last season.
In the bullpen, the Cradinals feature guys like Luke Gregorson, and Alex Reyes, a former top prospect who is returning from Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals will also boast a lot of velocity in the bullpen. Figuring to crack the Opening Day roster are Bud Norris, Dominic Leone, and Sam Tuivailala, who are all hard throwers.
I think the Cardinals are more of a wild-card hopeful team this season, as I don’t think they are as good as the Cubs, or even the Brewers who had a surprisingly good season in 2017 and improved greatly by adding Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich.
All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com
Follow @Nosebleed_MLB for more!