2012 Record: 88-74
Randy Choate (0-0, 1 SV (with Marlins), 20 HLD, 0 BLSV, 3.03 ERA, 1.216 WHIP), Ronny Cedeno (2012- .259/.410/.741), Ty Wiggington (2012- .259/.410/.741)
Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA, 1.090 WHIP), Lance Berkman (2012- .259/.381/.444, 2 HR, 7 RBI), Chris Carpenter (Injury) (0-2, 3.71 ERA, 1.118 WHIP)
1. Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94 ERA, 198.2 IP, 184 Ks, 1.051 WHIP)
2. Jaime Garcia (7-7, 3.92 ERA, 121.2 IP, 98 Ks, 1.364 WHIP)
3. Lance Lynn (18-7, 3.78 ERA, 176 IP, 180 Ks, 1.318 WHIP)
4. Jake Westbrook (13-11, 3.97 ERA, 174 IP, 106 Ks, 1.391 WHIP)
5. Shelby Miller (1-0, 1.32 ERA, 13.2 IP, 16 Ks, 0.951 WHIP)
6. Joe Kelly (if needed) (0-2, 2.78 ERA, 0.926 WHIP)
7. Trevor Rosenthal (if needed) (0-2, 2.78 ERA, 0.926 WHIP)
Where will the Cardinals finish in the NL Central?
C: Yadier Molina
1B: Allen Craig
2B: Matt Carpenter
3B: David Freese
SS: Rafael Furcal
LF: Matt Holliday
RF: Carlos Beltran
CF: Jon Jay
Closer: Jason Motte (R) (4-5, 42 SV, 7 BLSV, 2.75 ERA, 0.917 WHIP)
Setup: Mitchell Boggs (R) (4-1, 34 HLD, 3 BLSV, 2.21 ERA, 1.050 WHIP)
Edward Mujica (R) (0-3, 2 SV (with Marlins), 3.03 ERA, 1.041 WHIP)
Randy Choate (L) (0-0, 1 SV (with Marlins), 20 HLD, 0 BLSV, 3.03 ERA, 1.216 WHIP)
Marc Rzepczynski (L) (1-3, 4.24 ERA, 1.350 WHIP)
Joe Kelly, Jr. (R) (5-7, 3.53 ERA, 1.383 WHIP)
Trevor Rosenthal (R) (0-2, 2.78 ERA, 0.926 WHIP)
Fernando Salas (R) (1-4, 4.30 ERA, 1.415 WHIP)
Sam Freeman (L) (0-2, 5.40 ERA, 1.350 WHIP)
Scouting the Starting Pitching
In 2012, despite being without ace Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals pitching was a major highlight for the team. Lance Lynn did a stellar job of filling in for Carpenter. Then Joe Kelly came along and did the same thing when Garcia, and later Lynn, went down.
Among the six main starters for the Cardinals in 2012, all recorded sub-4.00 ERAs on the season. Four pitchers threw more than 174 innings and three recorded in excess of 140 strikeouts.
The Cardinals will begin 2013 much like 2012–with unanswered questions.
Can Jaime Garcia stay healthy? This is a key question for the Cardinals. If Garcia is healthy and pitches like he did in 2011 that will take a huge load off of Lynn and Westbrook. However, if his 2012 struggles continue into the next season, there could be problems. Garcia has looked good in side sessions, but until he takes the mound in a game situation it will be hard to tell.
Will Lynn be able to match last year’s marks? In his first season as a major league starting pitcher, Lynn managed to put together a record that many veterans would be excited over. If he’s able to even get near that mark in 2013, the Cardinals rotation should be in good shape. With his new leaner physique, the hope is that he will not show the signs of wear later in the season.
Who will fill the role of fifth starter? Three pitchers are currently in the running for the fifth starting pitcher slot: Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly. Kelly has more experience at the big league level and could be a logical choice. Miller projects to be a long-term anchor in the Cardinals rotation, but he hasn’t had sufficient experience at that level to know if he’s ready.
That determination will be made before Opening Day. Rosenthal, the flame-throwing right-hander, has the ability to be a starter, but as with Miller, they still haven’t determined whether it is time to make that jump yet. Either way, it’s a good crop of pitchers to have fighting for the same spot in the rotation.
If the pitching holds up, which it should, the numbers should look a lot like they did in 2012 – which is a good thing for Cardinals fans.
Scouting the Bullpen
Unlike the Cardinals starting rotation, the bullpen should feature the same names it did at the end of 2012.
The end game trio of Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte solidified the bullpen late in the season. The Cardinals are set for innings 7-9.
The winner of the battle for fifth starter will largely determine how the remaining slots will shake out. Kelly saw success both as a long reliever and as a late inning alternative to Boggs or Motte. He has a lot of value to the team in that position.
The Cardinals also signed left-handed reliever Randy Choate in the offseason to take some of the pressure off of Marc Rzepczynski. By having Choate to handle left-handers exclusively, they will still have Rzepczynski available, who is quite consistent between left and right-handed batters.
Scouting the Hitting
Much like the bullpen, the Cardinals won’t see many changes in their batting lineup.
One of the main changes will be that the addition of Matt Carpenter to the lineup on a day-to-day basis should give the Cardinals added depth in the batting order. The team worked hard to get his bat in the lineup in 2012, but most times it was at the expense of another bat.
This way, the Cardinals can have Carpenter’s bat as an addition to what is already in place.
If the injuries can be kept to a minimum, the lineup has potential to be stronger than in 2012. With a healthy David Freese, Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran, they would have one of the strongest lineups in the National League.
Adam Wainwright is poised to be the Cardinals pitching stud of 2013. He made huge strides in his return from Tommy John surgery in 2012 and now with another full season removed, we should get to see the real Wainwright again. Expect him to reach the 200 inning mark again and for his strikeout and WHIP numbers to get back in line with the Wainwright of old.
This season has the potential to be the year Allen Craig officially owns his place in the lineup. After two injury marred season, Craig has another shot to play a full season. In 119 games in 2012, he hit 22 home runs, 92 RBIs and a healthy 35 doubles. Add a third to each of those totals and you’ll have an idea of what he could do in a full season (29-30 HR, 120 RBI.)
That’s definitely enough to solidify his role for the long-term future. Of course, this all depends on health.
Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay put on an impressive defensive show in 2012 that got him mentioned in Gold Glove conversations during his first season at the position. With a career batting average of .300, Jay has shown he belongs in the big leagues. Last year he showed he can even handle being a leadoff hitter.
In his return to center field with a full season of experience under his belt, we should see a more mature player at the position. His biggest weakness in the outfield has been his arm strength. He can make the gorgeous catches, but to make the jump from good to great at the position he will have to be able to make the big throws as well.
He’s a workhorse and with some up and coming competition for his position, expect to see Jay at his absolute best in 2013.
Prospect to Watch
Hands down, Oscar Taveras will be the name at the tip of every Cardinals fan’s tongue in 2013. While it’s unlikely that he will make the team straight out of Spring Training, fans can expect to see him in St. Louis sooner rather than later. He should make the active roster soon enough to have an impact on the big league club. It also wouldn’t hurt for him to spend a little time with Carlos Beltran while he is still a member of the team.
In conclusion, the Cardinals have what it takes to not only be competitive, but still win the National League Central Division. There will be several elements that must fall into place for that to happen, the most crucial of them all being health. If manager Mike Matheny’s “A” lineup is on the field for at least 140 games each and he can get around 30 starts out of his top three pitchers, there’s nothing to keep them from playing deep into October for the third straight season.
Projected Record: 90-72
Links to other team previews:
National League Central
American League Central
National League East
American League East
National League West
American League West