Tag Archives: Jon Jay

St. Louis Cardinals 2015 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Cardinals, whose championship drought has now reached critical levels for St. Louis fans, with no new hardware since 2011. With the core of the team still intact, is it time for the Cards to reclaim their spot at the top?

Projected Lineup: 3B Matt Carpenter, RF Jason Heyward*, LF Matt Holliday, 1B Matt Adams, SS Jhonny Peralta, C Yadier Molina, 2B Kolten Wong, CF Jon Jay

Projected Rotation: RHP Adam Wainwright, RHP Lance Lynn, RHP John Lackey, RHP Michael Wacha, RHP Carlos Martinez

* new additions

A lot of people take it for granted that the Cardinals will make the playoffs every year, just because that’s the way the world works. But when you try to take a step back and explain why, it’s harder to pinpoint. It’s sort of like gravity—we all just take for granted that it works, but even some of the most highly-regarded scientists couldn’t for the life of them tell you why or how.

Most people will tell you it has a lot to do with that dude putting down the signs. But here’s the thing about Yadier Molina: while he continues to be the same unstoppable force on defense, his bat is slipping. Last season, he posted his lowest OPS since 2010, showing a significant decline in power. The now 32-year-old Molina will be valuable no matter what, but if the offensive half of his game is gone, the Cards will be hurting for runs.

To remedy their lack of offense, the Cards traded for Jason Heyward, who is more known for his great defense, but can be a source of power as well as an on-base machine. He’ll likely hit in the 2-hole, which was a black hole for the club last season, with hitters posting an anemic .680 OPS from the spot last year.

But the guy to watch in terms of a potential breakout year is Kolten Wong. Initially thought to be a top-of-the-order bat with decent speed, he added another element to his game by finding some power halfway through last season—of the twelve homers he hit, eleven came after July 1. And let’s not forget about the three additional bombs he hit in the playoffs, including the walk-off in the NLCS that showed he’s not the least bit fazed by high-pressure situations.

The bench is pretty stacked, with the most notable aspect being all the outfielders who will be fighting for playing time. The Cards have always been inexplicably insistent on starting Jon Jay, which means worthy candidate Randal Grichuk will be relegated to bench duty. Grichuk is a legit prospect who just finished tearing up the Grapefruit League with a .911 OPS. And yet, thanks to Mike Matheny’s love affair with Jay, Grichuk will probably only see starts against lefties or if someone gets hurt.

And don’t even get me started on Peter Bourjos, who at this rate will only see playing time if a lunar eclipse coincides with a Led Zeppelin reunion concert.

Adam Wainwright is the anchor of the pitching staff, but you wonder when his workload will catch up to him—in the last two seasons, including the playoffs, Wainwright has thrown 519.2 innings! For a 33-year-old in today’s game, that amount of work is not normal. And as great as Waino has been, it’s the workload that will almost certainly be blamed when he inevitably hits that decline.

Michael Wacha appears healthy, but his innings will be closely monitored this year after last season’s shoulder injury. Lance Lynn and John Lackey round out a very consistent top four.

Carlos Martinez will continue to grow as a starter after winning a spot in the rotation with a very good spring. Prior to this year, the organization had kept him in the bullpen due to having too much rotation depth. Now they’re set on letting him develop as a starter, which means he’ll have to be a different pitcher, having to rely on his secondary pitches to get outs rather than his velocity. There may be an adjustment period, but don’t freak out if he has a rough start to the season—the kid’s talent is real.

The bullpen is solid, and the one thing all the relievers have in common is that they all should have been pitching instead of Michael Wacha in Game 5 of last year’s NLCS.

(Sorry. Too soon?)

24-year-old closer Trevor Rosenthal could very well reach “elite” status this year with his electric stuff. He had a slight problem with free passes last year, with a rate of 5.4 walks per nine innings. But he appears to have fixed that issue going into this year, having only walked one batter all spring.

The Cardinals have some extra depth in rookie Marco Gonzales, who will start the year in Triple-A despite a very good spring in which he posted a 1.04 ERA working mostly as a starter. He’ll appear in some capacity on the big league club this year, either as an extra left-handed arm in the bullpen, or as a backup starter in case someone in the rotation goes down.

With an aging core, it’s anyone’s guess as to when the Cardinals will make the jump from baseball royalty to over-the-hill. And with the competition in the NL Central only getting stronger, the fall could come soon for the redbirds.

Projected Finish: 80-82, Fourth place in NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals 2014 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in the National League. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Cardinals, who want to go all the way this year; no other result will be satisfactory. After breakout performances by youngsters Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal in last year’s playoffs, the Cards have the young core in place to make another run at winning the whole thing.

Projected Lineup: 3B Matt Carpenter, RF Jon Jay, LF Matt Holliday, 1B Allen Craig, C Yadier Molina, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Kolten Wong, CF Peter Bourjos

By now, St. Louis fans are ecstatic whenever the Cardinals lose a key player to free agency. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Albert Pujols, Kyle Lohse, or Carlos Beltran; you can bet that a couple kids will come out of the woodwork, fill the vacancy, and lead the redbirds to another division title. It’s standard procedure at this point.

So let’s take a look at this year’s candidate to be the next guy who makes us all say, “Hey, this guy is leading the league in hitting, why have I never heard of him before?”

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing outfielder Oscar Taveras. He is starting the season in Triple-A, but he won’t be there for long. The man is a hitting machine, and able to handle big league pitching without question. The only real concern is that he swings at too many bad pitches—and hits home runs off them. A terrible habit that they’ll need to coach out of him. But once they do, he’ll be a more than capable replacement for the departed Beltran in right field.

Peter Bourjos also joins the starting outfield, who along with Taveras gives a brand new dimension to the defense. Last year, with Beltran and Matt Holliday manning the corner outfield spots, a lot of base hits split the gaps in the outfield. Now, Bourjos will provide the range in center to cover those gaps, Taveras brings good speed and a good glove, and Jon Jay can sub in for Holliday late in games to provide an airtight outfield defense.

What an advantage that’ll be in crucial late-inning situations, for the Cards’ young relievers to know that any ball hit to the outfield will be sucked into the vacuum of the Bourjos Patrol.

“Bourjos Patrol”—Isn’t that clever? I just made that up. I’m counting on my loyal readers as witnesses for when ESPN coins that nickname and refuses to send me my royalty checks. You heard it here first.

The Cardinals also have a surplus in their starting rotation. I mean, unless the rumors from last October are true, and Shelby Miller actually has been kidnapped by the mafia, the Cardinals enter 2014 with at least six viable starters. Seven, if you count Carlos Martinez, who absolutely deserves a spot in the rotation, but will start the year in the bullpen because there’s simply no room.

There’s the indefatigable Adam Wainwright, about whom nothing remains to be said. Michael Wacha and the presumably-still-alive Shelby Miller are each entering their crucial sophomore campaigns with high expectations.

And I mean very high expectations. If Wacha doesn’t throw a no-hitter in April, it’ll be a disappointment.

Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn should round out the rotation. And it should be mentioned, lest we forget, that Jaime Garcia is back from injury. If any of these guys falter, the Cardinals have the depth to fill the void.

The Cardinals have all the pieces of a winning team. Only a colossal setback would hold them back at this point—and we’re talking something like, say, the Gateway Arch falling down.

And to be honest, if that happened, they’d still probably win the Wildcard.

Projected Finish: 99-63, First place in NL Central