Team Preview #28: St. Louis Cardinals

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On to the preview!

Last Year

2018 Record: 74-88, 3rd Place NL Central, 7 Games Back

After 2017 saw the Cards miss the postseason for the first time in league history, most fans in the Gateway to the West figured they’d right the ship and make it back in 2018. It never materialized as a slow start couldn’t be overcome and the Cards only barely avoided 90 losses. Can the boss of the NL Central get back the top spot in 2019?

Key Additions

SP Jarrod Parker (FA)
RF My Friend Yasiel Puig (FA)
LF Chih-Hsien Chiang (Waivers)
C James McCann (NYY via Trade)
RP Josh Lueke (TB via Trade)
SP Zach Potter (TB via Trade)

Key Losses

1B Alex Dickerson (BOS via Trade)
CF Jackie Bradley Jr (Waivers)
1B Prince Fielder (NYY via trade)
CL Huston Street (FA)
RP Drew Storen (FA)
RF Jay Bruce (FA)
LF Justin Upton (TB via Trade)

Lineup/Rotation Projection

The Cards had a mediocre offense in 2018 – pretty much middle of the pack in the NL in most stats, a bit of pop, a bit low in batting average, but overall right in the middle. The offense starts with the keen eye of 3B Evan Longoria (.267, 121 BB, 19 HR). Surrounding him in the lineup is power 2B Cedric Rutherford (22 HR, 27 SB) and RF Christian Yelich (.325, 12 HR). Over at short is a 23-year-old with a great glove in Juan Espinoza (16 HR). 24-year-old leader John Gilliam (.281, 15 HR in AAA) should start behind the plate and be joined by fellow rookie Ronald Guzman (.297, 26 2B in AAA) at 1B. The rest of the outfield will be well-traveled Donnie Webb in LF (.816 in AAA last year) to start the year until Trayce “Don’t call me Klay” Thompson (17 HR in 227 PA) returns in the early going. Cuban free agent with a big mouth and a bigger bat, Yasiel Puig will start in RF where he could win a Gold Glove and hit 20-25 HR.

On the mound is where the Cards really faltered in 2018. They were bottom third in ERA and WHIP and weren’t helped by a porous defense that allowed the 2nd highest BABIP in the NL. Clayton Kershaw (3.59 ERA, 233 K’s) is the unquestioned ace of the staff and is followed by a pair of great young lefties, Jeffrey LeBlanc (10-6, 2.72) and Dave “Mr. X” Smith (3.20 in 4 GS). Rounding out the rotation is former Pirate Jarrod Parker (4.08 ERA) and 25-year-old Dan Dukes (2.73 ERA in 5 GS). Waiting in the wings for a late-season push is former Ray Zach Potter (8-7, 3.20 ERA). After a solid setup season, Austin Adams (23 Hld, 12.4 K/9) takes hold of the closers job and it will be up to Hector Santiago (1.92 ERA, 26 Hld) and Casey Mulligan (3.54 ERA, 17 Hld) to get the ball to him. Manning the middle innings are Mark Montgomery (2.63 ERA), former Ray Josh Lueke (4.97 FIP) and Cesar Aguilar (10.1 K/9).

 

Outlook

I think after being humbled in 2017 and 2018, the Cards are back with a vengeance in 2019. They have the ace (who is healthy) to lock down big wins, a potent offense with some youthful vigor and likely just enough bullpen to eke out the close ones. I see them back on their perch at the top of the NL Central, ever so barely, at 84-78. Their post-season return will be short-lived though, as they’ll drop the NLDS.