The Cardinals currently have a nice mix of youth and experience on their roster. That combination paid huge dividends last season during their improbable World Series run.
Grizzled veterans Lance Berkman and Chris Carpenter showed their leadership and Jaime Garcia and David Freese came of age with their World Series performances.
Jaime Garcia started two games and posted a 1.80 ERA in the World Series. If you are a baseball fan at all, you will remember David Freese's performance in the NLCS and more importantly in the World Series. Game 6 will live in infamy in Cardinals lore and David Freese has what is left of his jersey enshrined in Cooperstown. Some really addicted Cardinals fans still have that game taking up space on their DVR, myself included.
Both players are under 30 and not free agents until 2016, so the Cardinals have solid pieces locked up for their immediate future. This begs the question—is David Freese or Jamie Garcia more important the Cardinals' future?
Without having completed a full season in the majors to date, David Freese is still a bit of a question mark. How will playing a full big-league season wear on Freese?
He hit .211 in May but is working his way through his first bona fide slump, starting June on a better note at a .278 clip.
Freese is no longer being replaced in the late innings for defensive purposes, and he is on a pace to drive in nearly 100 runs. He is integral in the Cardinals offense going forward. But is his presence in the lineup more important than Garcia's on the bump?
Garcia has struggled this season with consistency. His last start only produced two innings and he gave up six runs, including a home run.
But Garcia has shown flashes of his potential, pitching strong games against the division-rival Cubs and Reds and logging a strong start against the Giants. For the most part, Garcia has gotten over his history of short starts and has given the Cardinals innings.
Last season, Garcia had 13 starts where he failed to pitch out of the sixth inning, and in nine of those starts he pitched five innings or less. Garcia has lengthened his stride a bit this season, and he has pitched at least seven innings in five of his 11 starts.
With Adam Wainwright struggling since his return from Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals need Garcia more than ever. The pitching has been especially poor of late for the Cardinals, and Garcia needs to step up and blossom into the superstar he can become.
To answer my self-imposed question, I think Jaime Garcia is more important to the Cardinals' future. He has the ability to be a lights-out pitcher and give the Cardinals a chance to win every time he takes the mound. If the Cardinals don't hit, Garcia can still keep them in the game.
Additionally, the Cardinals have committed to Garcia long-term and expect him to produce on the bump for years to come.
The answer to this question could change if Freese can stay healthy for a season and be the big-time hitter he was in the postseason. Until Freese is proven, though, Garcia is the best of the young Cardinals on the roster.