Saturday, April 1, 2017

2017 Pre-Season Profile: St. Louis Cardinals


In 2016, the St. Louis Cardinals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.  In 2011, the Cardinals won the World Series.  Will they have the same luck in 2017?

My 2016 Predictions
3rd in NL Central
Matt Holliday ends the 2016 season as a bench player.

2016 Results
86-76, 2nd in NL Central
It didn't feel right when we hit October in 2016 and the Cardinals were not a part of the postseason ride.  The Cards have been declining for several seasons, and the talent level finally caught up with them.  As for my Fearless Prediction, Matt Holliday may have still been a starter by the end of the season, but he did have a good season as he put up a 0.3 WAR.

Additions / Subtractions
The Cardinals are always active in the offseason.  Their big move heading into 2017 was returning a favor to the rival Cubs.  Before 2016, the Cubs signed Jason Heyward out of St. Louis.  So before 2017, the Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler out of Chicago.  Outside of this move, the only other significant moves were subtractions, losing Jaime Garcia to a trade and the aging Matt Holliday to free agency.

Most Important Hitter
Aledmys Diaz
The Cardinals were not sure what to do at the start of 2016 when they knew Jhonny Peralta was going to miss the first chunk of the season due to a PED suspension.  Little did everyone know that Aledmys Diaz was going to emerge as an All Star shortstop.  The year ended with Diaz being listed with the rest of the outstanding young shortstops in our game today.  When a guy comes out of nowhere like that, there is always a sense that it might be a fluke season.  However, the Cardinals can't afford that.  They need Diaz to come out and play at an elite level again and prove that he deserves the hype that is now surrounding him.

Most Important Pitcher
Mike Leake
Mike Leake was one of the prizes of the 2016 offseason for the Cardinals.  However, his production did not match his paycheck as he went 9-12 with a 4.69 ERA.  They were hoping Leake would be able to solidify the top of their rotation.  He is entering the season at the bottom of it, and another season like last year might have him out of the rotation completely.  Mike Leake needs to re-establish himself as dominant starter so the Cardinals can once again have a dominant rotation.

Player to Watch
Luke Weaver
No one is ever happy when the words "Tommy John" are attached to a pitcher.  However, if anyone had any joy about them when it was announced that Cardinals' top prospect Alex Reyes was going to miss the season with Tommy John surgery, it was Luke Weaver.  Weaver is the Cardinals' #3 prospect and is also poised for a big league impact this season.  With Reyes down, Weaver moves up the list of pitchers ready to take a spot in the rotation if the big club needs it.  Watch for Weaver to be the next big arm to burst on the scene for a team that seems to have a limitless supply of pitchers.

2017 Predictions
2nd in NL Central
It is always a certainty that the Cardinals will compete the entire season.  Expect them to be in it all season long, if not in the division race, the Wild Card race for sure.  I have them coming up just short again this year.  Their roster lacks the pop it has sported in the past when they have made their deep postseason runs in recent years.  They could easily make their way into the playoffs, and probably make a deep run if they do (they are the Cardinals).  This just feels like another year where they will be just short.

Fearless Prediction
Carlos Martinez will be the NL starting pitcher in the All Star Game.
I have been a fan of Carlos Martinez for several years.  His arm is electric, and he has shown over the last few seasons that he should be considered one of the best young arms in the game.  I see him taking the next step in 2017 and being a superstar.  This would be fully realized with him being named the starter in Miami for the Mid-Summer Classic.

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