The St. Louis Cardinals will look different in 2014—but not dramatically different.
The pitching staff will see some juggling, but for the most part you’ll be watching the same guys. They may be in different roles or coming off of the disabled list, but the changes to the pitching staff were minimal.
The changes on defense, however, are quite dramatic for a team that was two wins shy of hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy.
In the end, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and possibly Allen Craig are the only players who avoided the shake-up.
Kolten Wong, the Cardinals' middle infield prospect from Hawaii who was the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year, will likely take over at second base to start the season. If he struggles, expect to see Mark Ellis play an expanded role up the middle.
Free-agent acquisition Jhonny Peralta will be the starter at shortstop with Daniel Descalso or possibly even Pete Kozma seeing some time at the position to give Peralta some occasional rest.
Matt Carpenter will shift back to his natural position at third base, taking over for the recently traded David Freese.
Peter Bourjos will, in all likelihood, take over at center field with Jon Jay moving to the bench.
The coming season should also give St. Louis its first look at the highly touted Oscar Taveras. Coming off of surgery for a 2013 injury, Taveras is expected to be ready for spring training.
In the event Taveras struggles, Craig could easily be moved to right field and Matt Adams slipped to first base from the bench.
All in all, the lineup looks good for the coming year, but what does it mean for the batting order?
Matt Carpenter will retain his role as a leadoff batter. This one is a no-brainer at this point.
Batting second, I expect to see Taveras. Given that the team seemed to like Beltran batting second, it seems like a natural place to move him.
Batting third will in all likelihood remain Matt Holliday’s place, even though the next two batters (and the one above) may one day make a run for the spot.
Allen Craig, with his high RBI totals and power capability, will likely bat fourth in 2014.
Batting fifth, expect to see Yadier Molina again. He’s not quite in a position to hit third or fourth but does give the Cardinals a significant threat in the middle of the lineup.
Batting sixth is where the new guys will come into play. Expect to see Peralta at this position, giving the Cardinals an upgrade over Freese’s 2013 numbers.
Batting seventh will be the Cardinals' center fielder, Peter Bourjos. Of course, this is also where Jon Jay would probably be batting in this lineup if he’s playing, so I think it would be safe to allot the 7-slot to the center fielder all around.
Batting eighth, for the time being, will probably be Kolten Wong. Wong has the ability to be a top-of-the-order hitter but will first need to prove himself at the major league level.
In the end, it seems like a pretty solid lineup for the coming year—every bit as solid as 2013.
1. M. Carpenter LH
2. O. Taveras LH
3. M. Holliday RH
4. A. Craig RH
5. Y. Molina RH
6. J. Peralta RH
7. P. Bourjos RH
8. K. Wong LH