The St. Louis Cardinals are introduced on Opening Day at Chase Field against the Arizona Diamondbacks, April 1.
Baseball is in the air. The first pitch is history. Now, it’s an all-out race to October.
With a potent and lethal lineup, a starting five featuring Adam Wainwright and a stout bullpen full of power arms, expectations are high for the Cardinals in 2013.
The Cardinals find themselves in a good predicament; their core players—Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday and Jason Motte—remain in tact for years to come. Down on the farm, young birds—Oscar Taveras, Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha and Carson Kelly—are beginning to spread their wings.
As the first week of the season continues to fly by, I’ll provide you with a bold prediction for every player on the Cardinals 25-man roster.
Adam Wainwright began the 2013 season with a loss to the Diamondbacks.
With a new five-year, $97.5 million contract extension behind him, staff ace Adam Wainwright can focus his attention on pitching every fifth day. Last season—his first since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011—Wainwright went 14-13, with a 3.94 ERA. Though, he managed to work over 198 innings.
Prior to Tommy John surgery, Wainwright was one of the more dominant pitchers in baseball from 2009-2010. In 2009, Wainwright tied for the league lead in wins, 19, and finished third the next season with 20. Not to mention, Wainwright had a podium finish for the National League Cy Award balloting over that stretch.
With co-ace Chris Carpenter out of the picture for 2013, it’s Wainwright’s turn to head the Cardinals to the Promised Land.
Expect Wainwright to have a big season for the Cardinals. When it’s all said and done, Wainwright wins 20 games, while heading the Cardinals to their third straight postseason appearance.
Jaime Garcia notched his first and the Cardinals' first win of the 2013 season Tuesday night against the Diamondbacks.
2012 proved troublesome for Jaime Garcia. The 26-year-old lefty was just 7-7 in 20 starts, and was plagued by a left shoulder injuries and emotional standstills.
Over the last three years, Garcia—one of the more promising young Cardinal pitchers—has struggled to find a consistent rhythm on the road. In 43 starts away from Busch Stadium Garcia is just 15-12, with a 3.83 ERA. What’s more glaring is Garcia’s alarming trend of giving up home runs. In his 43 starts, opposing hitters have taken Garcia deep 22 times.
Expect Garcia to improve his road woes this season. He notched his first win of the season Tuesday against Arizona at Chase Field—an early sign of confidence in the young left-hander.
When the calendar flips to late September, Garcia will have won 15 games, and will be a solid No. 2 pitcher behind Wainwright in the rotation.
Jake Westbrook throws a pitch in a Feb. 28 spring training game against Miami.
Jake Westbrook amassed a record of 13-11, and a 3.97 ERA last season. He was a reliable ground-ball pitcher for the Cardinals. But he had trouble pitching effectively at Busch Stadium last season, going just 8-5 with a 4.04 ERA. He also lacked enough juice to keep opposing hitters on their heels. According to Fan Graphs, the opposition batted .312 off Westbrook on batted balls in play last season.
Westbrook also dealt with an oblique injury in September. It’s crucial for the veteran to remain healthy and effective for the Cardinals this season.
I’ll give Westbrook a 15-win season behind his dominant cutter.
Lance Lynn throws a pitch against Arizona Wednesday night. The Cardinals lost 10-9 in 16 innings.
Lance Lynn’s first year as a starter proved encouraging and puzzling.
The hard-throwing righty assembled a mark of 18-7, with a 3.78 ERA in 29 starts for the Cardinals last season.
Lynn was dominant before the All-Star break, racking up a record of 11-4 with a 3.41 ERA in 11 starts. The second half of the season, however, proved alarming. The 25 year old went 7-3, with a 4.32 ERA in 12 starts.
Perhaps the workload proved too burdensome on the big guy.
No matter, with a season in the rotation under his belt, Lynn should be even more effective for the Cardinals in 2013.
Lynn will notch his second All-Star Game appearance, while turning in a 17-win season.
Shelby Miller throws a pitch in Game Two of the NLCS against San Francisco last season.
Shelby Miller is one of a vast assortment of young power arms the Cardinals boast. Baseball America touted the 22-year-old Miller as the sixth-best prospect in all of baseball.
Now, it’s Miller’s turn to show what he’s made of. The Cardinals named Miller their fifth starter.
Despite the promotion, there are concerns. Last season at Triple A Memphis, Miller was just 11-10, with a 4.74 ERA.
However, it appears Miller has found his groove. In spring training, he was a perfect 2-0 in three starts, with 13 strikeouts to just five walks.
I expect Miller to experience a few growing pains, especially late in the season. Nonetheless, Miller will be a staple in the Cardinals' rotation this season.
Third-base coach Jose Oquendo congratulates Yadier Molina after smashing a home run against Arizona, Wednesday night.
Molina is the best in the industry at his position. He’s won five consecutive Gold Glove Awards, and was named to his fourth-straight All-Star Game in 2012. He’s led the majors in putouts three separate times. In 2006 and 2010, he finished with 79. Last season, he finished with 88.
The Cardinals’ backstop continues to be a bright spot in the batting order. Last season was a career one for Molina. He posted a .315 average with 22 home runs and 76 RBI.
Opposing runners don’t dare to steal on Molina. He threw out 35-of-38 base stealers last season, third best in all of baseball.
Molina will continue to dominate behind the dish and at the plate for the Cardinals in 2013. I expect his home run and RBI totals to further increase this season.
Allen Craig locks in a fly ball in right field against the Diamondbacks on April 2.
With a new five-year, $31 million contract extension intact, the emerging Allen Craig will hold down the fort at first base under the Arch for years to come.
Craig had a breakout season in 2012, posting a .307 mark, while blasting 22 home runs and driving in 92.
The 28 year old symbolizes a core bat in the Cardinals’ lineup, and he will continue to prosper as he gains more experience.
I expect Craig to have a better season this time around. Last season was his first full major league stint. The sky is the limit for him in 2013.
Cardinals' second baseman Daniel Descalso gets the force out against the Diamondbacks on April 3.
Daniel Descalso enters his third full season with the Cardinals. Over his short major league career, he has been utilized across the infield, spending time at shortstop, second base, first base and third base.
The 26-year-old Descalso managed a bleak .227 average with 83 strikeouts to just 37 walks.
His offensive numbers will need to improve in 2013, and I expect they will under first-year hitting coach John Mabry.
Cardinals' shortstop Pete Kozma throws out a runner at first on Opening Day against the Diamondbacks.
After Rafael Furcal underwent reconstructive elbow surgery, the Cardinals turned to the young and rather green Pete Kozma to solidify the shortstop position.
Yes, Kozma lacks experience at the major league level. But that’s not to say he’s incapable of getting the job done.
Kozma has a bright future with the Cardinals. After Furcal went down with a strained ligament in his elbow, Kozma stepped in and filled the void. Kozma hit .333, with a pair of home runs and 14 RBI. He also managed to notch three triples.
In 22 starts at shortstop last season, Kozma committed three errors. That can attested to his youth and freshness.
I expect Kozma to improve both offensively and defensively for the Cardinals this season. He’s young and full of potential. Not to mention he smashed his first home run of the season against Arizona Tuesday night. He also added an RBI single in Wednesday night’s 16-inning loss.
David Freese walks back to the dugout in the NLCS against San Francisco.
David Freese had a taxing spring training. He was hampered by inflammation in his back, which forced him on the disabled list to begin the season.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, manager Mike Matheny is being cautious with Freese’s progress. It was expected that Freese would make his season debut during the Cardinals’ home opener against Cincinnati next week, but that scenario remains a mystery.
When healthy, Freese is another staple to the Cardinals’ offense. He managed a healthy .293 mark, with 20 home runs and 79 RBI last season. I’d expect him to improve those numbers when he’s up and running.
Matt Holliday goes down in the zone and hits a home run against Arizona on April 2.
Holliday enters his fifth season with the Cardinals, and has flourished in the middle of the lineup. Last season, Holliday launched 27 home runs and 102 RBI. His ability to extend the strike zone and gulf out home runs is second to none.
The veteran right fielder will continue to be an important component to the Cardinals success in 2013.
Jon Jay dives for a ball in center field in a game against Arizona, April 3.
Jon Jay is perhaps one of the most underrated center fielders in the major leagues. He managed a steady .305 average, with four home runs and 40 RBIs in 117 games last season.
More importantly, his glove was stellar. Jay was one of three center fielders in all of baseball that didn’t commit an error last season. He led the National League in that category. Moreover, Jay tied for the seventh-best range factor among center fielders (2.65). He ranked third in the National League in that category last season.
Jay will continue to flash his glove and speed in the outfield, as well as his productivity at the plate in 2013.
Carlos Beltran hones in on a pitch against Arizona, April 2.
Carlos Beltran had a notable first season in St. Louis in 2012. He hit .269, with 32 home runs and 97 RBI. Prior to the All-Star break, Beltran hit .296, with 20 home runs and 65 RBI.
However, following the mid-season break, the veteran slugger stumbled. In the second half of the season, Beltran managed a .236 mark, with 12 home runs and 32 RBI.
Beltran will continue to be productive at the plate for the Cardinals this season. He must remain healthy, too.
Tony Cruz takes an at-bat against Miami in a spring training game on Feb. 28.
Tony Cruz offers youth and energy when called upon to spell Molina behind the plate.
Last season, Cruz hit .254, with a home run and 11 RBIs. Not known for his power, Cruz is capable of eating up innings and taking on a reasonable and steady workload.
Look for Cruz to be a solid backup this season.
Ty Wigginton takes an at-bat in a spring training game against Miami on Feb. 28.
Wigginton signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Cardinals over the offseason—a move that addressed the club’s desire for a right-handed bat off the bench.
However, Wigginton hasn’t hit since 2008 as a member of the Houston Astros—the season that saw him hold a steady .285 average, with 23 home runs and 58 RBI.
The Cardinals will lean on Wigginton to pinch-hit in late-game situations. But Wigginton has struggled as a pinch hitter over his career, going just 24-for-103.
It’s hard to fathom Wigginton producing off-the-bench this season considering his past failures.
Aside from bringing experience into the clubhouse, I don’t expect Wigginton to play a big role offensively or defensively for the Cardinals this season.
Ryan Jackson takes infield practice before Opening Day against Arizona on April 1.
Ryan Jackson made the club out of spring training, and will serve as a bat off the bench, and as a utility infielder.
Jackson was just 2-for-17 in 13 games last season for the Cardinals.
I expect the youngster to improve offensively and be a reliable backup in the field when called upon by manager Mike Matheny.
Shane Robinson takes an at-bat in a spring training game against Miami on Feb. 28.
Shane Robinson serves as the Cardinals' fourth outfielder, and will be able to spell Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and John Jay over the course of the season.
Robinson, 28, appeared in 102 games last season, and posted a mark of .253, with three homers and 16 RBI.
Look for Robinson to come through every now and then at the plate, but don’t expect too much.
Matt Adams rounds the bases in a game against Arizona on April 2.
With Matt Adams on the bench, the Cardinals boast a power bat from the left side of the plate.
Adams, 24, flexed his power last season, hitting a pair of home runs and driving in 13. He was sent down to Triple A Memphis last season, where he amassed a .329 average with 18 home runs and 50 RBIs.
The power hitter made his regular season debut Wednesday against Arizona, and went 3-for-6, with a run scored.
The Cardinals will certainly utilize Adams in key situations this season, and it’s plausible to expect the slugger to come through at the plate.
Matt Carpenter crosses home plate in a game against Arizona on April 2.
Matt Carpenter has filled the void at third base left by the injured Freese.
Last season, Carpenter managed to hit six home runs with 46 RBIs, while maintaining a healthy .294 average.
Carpenter is capable of playing all infield positions, and has proven he can produce in clutch situations.
Look for Carpenter to get key at-bats in crucial situations.
Mitchell Boggs celebrates with Yadier Molina after recording his teams' first win of the season against Arizona on April 2.
Serving as the de facto closer in the absence of the injured Jason Motte, Boggs brings both power and movement on the mound.
Last season, Boggs was 4-1, with a 2.21 ERA in 78 games. He held opponents to a promising .211 average against him.
Expect Boggs to continue mowing down hitters in the later stages of games.
Cardinals newly signed left-handed reliever Randy Choate.
The Cardinals signed Randy Choate to a three-year, $7.5 million deal in December.
Choate will accompany fellow lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski out of the bullpen.
With two left-handers available, Matheny now has the option of choosing between the two, instead of relying solely on one.
Choate, 37, brings both wisdom and experience to a rather young core of relievers.
Last season, Choate tied for the major league lead with 80 appearances in stints with Miami and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Expect Choate to be a reliable arm against left-handed hitters this season.
Joe Kelly fires a pitch in Game Five of the NLCS against San Francisco.
Joe Kelly can do it all. Start, relieve and close. You name it, Kelly can do it.
As a starter last season, Kelly was 5-7, with a 3.53 ERA in 16 starts. However, he did make seven postseason appearances, where he worked 7 2/3 innings, with a 2.35 ERA.
Kelly serves as a power-arm in the bullpen.
I expect Kelly to build upon the success he had late last season.
Edward Mujica throws a pitch in Game Three of the NLCS against San Francisco.
Since being traded from Miami, Edward Mujica has been a superb addition for the Cardinals.
In 29 appearances with the Cardinals last season, Mujica established a microscopic 1.03 ERA in 26 1/3 innings of work.
Expect Mujica to shut down opponents in the sixth or seventh innings this season.
Trevor Rosenthal fires a pitch home in Game Five of the NLCS against San Francisco.
Want power? Just watch the sizzle off Rosenthal’s right hand.
Serving as the Cardinals’ eighth-inning man, Rosenthal is capable of mowing down hitters with his heater.
In 22 2/3 innings of work last season, Rosenthal racked up 25 strikeouts to just seven walks. Opponents couldn’t touch him, managing a slim .175 average.
According to Fan Graphs, Rosenthal’s fastball averaged 97.4 mph last season. So far this season, his fastball has averaged 98.1 mph.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz believes Rosenthal should be utilized in the ninth inning.
“Trevor Rosenthal has the pure closer’s stuff,” Miklasz wrote. “The 100 mph fastball, a pretty good curve, the 100 mph fastball with movement, the 100 mph fastball that’s tracked by NASA, the 100 mph fastball that he could throw for strikes while blindfolded and strapped to a gurney, the 100 mph fastball that turns hitters into garden gnomes, and the 100 mph fastball that not only strikes out the hitter—but strikes out the hitter’s entire family.”
Talk about bringing it.
Rosenthal will have no trouble dominating hitters when relieving this season.
Marc Rzepczynski throws home in a spring training game against the New York Mets.
Marc Rzepczynski offers stability from the left side of the bullpen. Last season, he established a tremendous 1.85 ERA against left-handed hitters.
Look for more of the same from Rzepczynski this season.
Fernando Salas fires home in an NLCS game against San Francisco.
Last season proved challenging and troubling for Fernando Salas. He went just 1-4, with a 4.30 ERA in 65 games before being sent down to the minors to develop consistency and confidence.
If Salas can get a grip on his psyche, then he’ll be an important component to the Cardinals’ bullpen in 2013.
Jason Motte throws home in a spring training game against Washington on March 15.
Jason Motte and the Cardinals avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $12 million deal in January.
But Motte began the season on the disabled list after suffering a “mild strain” in his right elbow, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Motte tied for first in the National League with 42 saves last season, and his return to the bullpen remains up in the air.