Predicting St. Louis Cardinals 2013 Team Award Winners
For most teams, Game 1 of 2013 is in the books.
After a 6-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, we know that Matt Carpenter has the St. Louis Cardinals' first hit. Matt Holliday has the first RBI. And, of course, Adam Wainwright owns the first strikeout. But each of these are singular plays that will combine to form a marathon, 162-game season.
As the season progresses, stars will emerge and each player's role will become defined. Who will be the team's best rookie? The biggest presence on the field? The MVP?
Looking at every player's performance in both recent years and in spring training, I've tried my hand at predicting who will lead the Cardinals in many of the major awards categories. Take a look!
Biggest Surprise: Pete Kozma
There's been a lot of talk about Pete Kozma in this offseason.
When we found out Rafael Furcal was going to be benched for the entirety of 2013, fans started wondering what shiny new toy the front office would find to replace him. But the answer lay within the club.
There may still be skepticism about the shortstop, but he put some critics to rest with his impressive spring training numbers: a .359 average, 15 RBI and 3 homers.
And let's not forget the fact that he helped carry the Cardinals to the playoffs and beyond last year with his late season addition to the lineup and his NLDS heroics.
Amidst rumors of trades for Troy Tulowitzki and Jurickson Profar, I see no reason why Kozma won't continue to make an impact this season as the everyday shortstop. And maybe one day, fans will recoil at the thought of him not being in the lineup.
Honorable mentions: Shane Robinson, Marc Rzepczynski.
Best Call-Up: Oscar Taveras
If you know anything at all about the 2013 Cardinals, you probably know two things: they've already been plagued with injuries, and they have the No. 3 prospect in baseball.
Carlos Beltran will start the season playing with a fractured toe, and his knee was an issue in 2012. It seems likely that the 35-year-old will have to be benched at some point this summer.
If that happens for a prolonged period of time, you can bet Taveras will get the call.
The outfielder could certainly be blasting his way onto the scene if his .321 batting average and his 23 homers in Double-A Springfield last season have anything to say about it. And then there's the 10 RBI he had with the club this spring.
His much-anticipated debut could have Cardinals fans salivating for more and looking toward an exciting future.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha.
Best New Addition: Randy Choate
The 2012 Cardinals were hard-pressed for lefty relievers. With the struggling Rzepczynski being the only southpaw out of the bullpen, it was clear this would be General Manager John Mozeliak's first priority in the offseason.
And so, he went out and found Choate, who brings 12 years of experience and a 4.02 career ERA. He's also held left-handed batters to a .167 average over the past four years.
Sometimes it only takes one missing piece to turn a bullpen around completely. Last season, the late addition of Edward Mujica helped settle the seventh-inning problem.
Choate will help take some pressure off of Rzepczynski, and fill the other 2012 void, making him an extremely valuable edition.
Honorable mentions: None.
Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Wainwright
Yes, I'm very much aware that Wainwright made his comeback from Tommy John surgery last season and not in 2013. But his 14-13 record wasn't exactly up to par with his pre-surgery, Cy Young-contending form.
One year later and Wainwright has had that much more time to heal. And after signing a five-year, $97.5 million extension, he's hungry to live up to expectations.
The last 16 starts of 2012 saw him trending much closer to the numbers he put up in his prime. A 3.16 ERA and 1.16 WHIP aren't too far off from his 2.42 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 2010.
If the ace has been improving as he gets farther removed from his surgery, we can only assume this year will be big for him.
Honorable mentions: Marc Rzepczynski.
Mr. Gold Glove: Yadier Molina
Perhaps the most obvious of all the awards in this article, how could I pass up a chance to mention the often touted "best catcher in baseball"?
Molina is not just the Cardinals' "Mr. Gold Glove," but he probably holds this title for all of MLB, because in 2013 he will campaign for his sixth straight Gold Glove award.
Last season, he threw out 44.8 percent of runners who dared to test his arm, and he finished with a fielding percentage of .997. In my opinion, there are not enough words of praise to describe the value of his place behind home plate.
Get used to lots of shaking heads and whispers of, "Don't run on Yadi," from the stands this year. He's not going to stop his winning ways now.
Honorable mentions: Jon Jay.
Rookie of the Year: Shelby Miller
Last week, it was announced that Miller had earned the coveted fifth spot in the Cardinals rotation after pitching 16 innings of spring training baseball and posting a 3.94 ERA. And Rookie of the Year predictions promptly started to reflect his success.
With so much conversation about Miller becoming the NL ROY, it's a no-brainer that he would at least fill that role on his own club.
Not only has Miller impressed in the minor leagues, but he contributed to the Cardinals' postseason push in 2012 and made his debut as a starter, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning.
History suggests that Miller is primed to have a huge year.
Honorable mentions: Oscar Taveras (should he get the playing time).
MVP: Allen Craig
The Cardinals are a unique club in that they have a stacked lineup full of players who could potentially be the team MVP. So first, I'm going to give you my...
Honorable mentions: Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, David Freese.
But then I'm going to bypass all the huge names, go out on a limb, and pick Craig.
The first baseman has been considered "underrated" for a while now, but he's starting to get the recognition he deserves. In 2012, he hit .307 with 22 homers and 92 RBI, finishing 19th in the NL MVP voting. All the while, his season was plagued with a hamstring injury.
I can only assume that 2013 will be an even bigger year, as he is starting off healthy and in top form. This spring, he had a .283 average with 13 RBI. And due to his position in the lineup this season, he'll be racking up RBI and bringing all of those names I listed above across the plate.
Craig's explosive bat could be the main event as the Cardinals make a run for their third straight postseason appearance.