On Sunday, the St. Louis Cardinals clinched a playoff berth and they continue to battle it out for the division title. That means it's time to start thinking about the postseason roster.
Which Cardinals players will be among the 25 to undergo the excitement, scrutiny and pressure of this year's postseason? This article predicts the roster based upon 2013 major league statistics, the roles available and postseason experience.
Read on to find out who will have a shot at greatness!
*All statistics are current on baseball-reference.com as of September 24, 2013.*
Yadier Molina, C
2013: 130 G, .315 BA, 12 HR, 71 RBI, 3 SB, .829 OPS
Molina is undoubtedly the leader of this Cardinals team. His expert handling of the pitching staff combined with his offensive prowess make him a no-brainer—if he can stay healthy.
Allen Craig, 1B
2013: 134 G, .315 BA, 13 HR, 97 RBI, 2 SB, .830 OPS
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, general manager John Mozeliak has said it is unlikely that Craig will return before the end of the season. But fans can still hold out hope for the postseason. If not Craig, Matt Adams would start at first.
Matt Carpenter, 2B
2013: 151 G, .324 BA, 11 HR, 77 RBI, 3 SB, .887 OPS
A breakout season and an MVP case make Carpenter extremely worthy of the postseason. As a leadoff hitter, when he provides the momentum, the rest of the lineup seems to follow.
David Freese, 3B
2013: 134 G, .265 BA, 8 HR, 59 RBI, 1 SB, .724 OPS
Although his season has not been ideal, the 2011 postseason hero will have a chance to add to his October resume. He will certainly bring to the table experience under pressure.
Pete Kozma, SS
2013: 137 G, .218 BA, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 3 SB, .547 OPS
It goes without saying that Kozma's offensive numbers leave something to be desired. But the everyday shortstop has been improving in recent weeks after a long slump. And he does know what it feels like to play a key part in a postseason victory after hitting a two-run single in the final moments of last year's NLDS.
Matt Holliday, LF
2013: 138 G, .298 BA, 20 HR, 91 RBI, 6 SB, .861 OPS
Holliday has been heating up at the perfect time. He's hitting .591 in the past 7 days, although he sat out Sunday and Monday's games due to back spasms. Assuming his ailment isn't serious, he'll be back and ready to dominate in no time.
Jon Jay, CF
2013: 151 G, .269 BA, 7 HR, 65 RBI, 10 SB, .712 OPS
A quiet, yet valuable part of the everyday roster, Jay provides hits in key spots and solid defense in center field.
Carlos Beltran, RF
2013: 140 G, .297 BA, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 2 SB, .829 OPS
A marquee name and a known lover of the postseason, he has 14 homers and 24 RBIs in his 34 career playoff games. He might be getting up there in age (he's 36), but he will light up the scoreboard for another chance at the ring he has yet to acquire.
Tony Cruz, C
2013: 49 G, .205 BA, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB, .535 OPS
The best option of all the Cardinals backup catchers, fans got to see Cruz step up this year when Molina was on the DL (due to a knee injury).
Matt Adams, 1B
2013: 102 G, .278 BA, 16 HR, 50 RBI, 0 SB, .830 OPS
Adams would be in the starting lineup if it weren't for Craig taking his position at first. His power has people talking and he has a penchant for late-inning homers.
Daniel Descalso, IF
2013: 119 G, .235 BA, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 6 SB, .651 OPS
Descalso is a utility-infielder—he can fill in at second base, third base and shortstop. And he might find himself starting at the latter position should Kozma not live up to his last postseason performance.
Shane Robinson, OF
2013: 93 G, .248 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 5 SB, .678 OPS
The Cardinals' fourth outfielder, Robinson has been a handy tool in manager Mike Matheny's chest.
Adron Chambers, OF
2013: 23 G, .143 BA, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB, .408 OPS
The last bench spot will go to Chambers because of his speed. Although he has no stolen bases with the Cardinals this year, he hasn't had too many opportunities. He can pinch run, and even provide a little offense—remember his walk-off against the Pirates this year? The other option for this spot would be Kolten Wong, who is a little less experienced and needs time to mature before wowing on the biggest baseball stage.
Adam Wainwright, RHP
2013: 32 G, 32 GS, 2.98 ERA, 229.1 IP, 214 H, 34 BB, 209 K
The ace of the Cardinals, Wainwright knows how to battle. He leads an example for all other pitchers and has postseason experience from 2006, 2009, and 2012.
Shelby Miller, RHP
2013: 30 G, 30 GS, 3.12 ERA, 167.1 IP, 148 H, 54 BB, 166 K
Miller is having an outstanding rookie season, and he's got the stuff to do well in October. He made a couple relief appearances in last year's NLCS, so he's felt the pressure of the postseason before.
Joe Kelly, RHP
2013: 36 G, 15 GS, 2.81 ERA, 118.2 IP, 121 H, 44 BB, 74 K
Kelly has stepped up in a big way this year. And for a while, he was the best performing starter for St. Louis. Although he's had a couple shaky starts recently against the Brewers, he has kept his team in the game and the Cards wouldn't be where they are without him.
Lance Lynn, RHP
2013: 32 G, 32 GS, 4.09 ERA, 195.2 IP, 185 H, 76 BB, 189 K
It's been a question as to whether Lynn should be in the rotation. He seems to be a magnet for runs, giving up plenty, but also receiving support from the Cardinals offense. His previous experience will put him in the final spot over rookie Michael Wacha.
*UPDATE: This article was written prior to Wacha's near no-hitter on Tuesday. This writer would, naturally, like to reconsider omitting him from the rotation. If he can continue his dominance, he would serve as a good replacement for the questionable Lynn.
Michael Wacha, RHP
2013: 14 G, 8 GS, 3.21 ERA, 56.0 IP, 51 H, 17 BB, 56 K
The future ace of the staff, Wacha has made a big impression in a short period of time and he will be headed to his first postseason. He has split time in the majors between the rotation and the bullpen, so he should fit in fine in either position or in a long relief role.
Trevor Rosenthal, RHP
2013: 70 G, 2.74 ERA, 72.1 IP, 61 H, 20 BB, 103 K
Rosenthal blew batters away last October with his fastball. As of right now, the Cardinals are going with a "fluid" situation when it comes to the closer position, due to regular closer Mujica's struggles (according to Goold). But Rosenthal is perhaps the best candidate should Mujica not improve.
Kevin Siegrist, LHP
2013: 41 G, 0.48 ERA, 37.1 IP, 15 H, 18 BB, 50 K
Siegrist provides us with an incredibly strong, yet small sample size for what he can do. Matheny has faith in him, bringing him in during key situations such as the ninth inning of Monday's one-run game against the Nationals. He'll be a strong lefty option out of the pen.
John Axford, RHP
2013: 74 G, 4.08 ERA, 64.0 IP, 72 H, 26 BB, 64 K
Mozeliak's relief trade of 2013, Axford came to the team from the rival Brewers and a change in scenery has been doing him well. He's posted a 1.74 ERA in the past month. A former closer, he is another, more experienced option to take Mujica's prior role.
2013: 63 G, 2.53 ERA, 64.0 IP, 57 H, 5 BB, 46 K
Whether he earns back the closer role or not, Mujica will be an important part of the Cardinals postseason run. He stepped up this year when he was desperately needed (after Jason Motte's injury).
2013: 64 G, 2.39 ERA, 60.1 IP, 65 H, 13 BB, 35 K
A groundball pitcher, Maness is the perfect option when Matheny needs someone to take care of inherent runners. He has made inducing the double play an art form, which should be important in close games.
2013: 61 G, 2.36 ERA, 34.1 IP, 25 H, 11 BB, 28 K
The second southpaw in the bullpen, Choate will be called upon in the late innings when Matheny needs a lefty specialist.
Carlos Martinez, RHP
2013: 17 G, 5.76 ERA, 25.0 IP, 30 H, 9 BB, 21 K
Similar to Wacha, Martinez is a young arm with a bright future. Having experience in a starting role, he will also be a long relief option.