The St. Louis Cardinals are a team that everyone takes seriously, and for good reason. They have won at least 86 games in each of the past 8 seasons and have won the World Series twice in the past 10 years. They're a beacon of success in baseball and they do it without having to spend gobs of money year in and year out. Some might say that the Cards were a little quiet this off-season after losing their top WAR player (6.5 WAR) Jason Heyward and John Lackey, but they were able to pick up Jedd Gyorko, Mike Leake, and Ruben Tejada - all of whom look to be smart pick-ups in positions of need.
Jedd Gyorko, Brayan Pena, Mike Leake, Seung-hwan Oh, Ruben Tejada, Matt Bowman, Eric Fryer, Jayson Aquino, Juan Gonzalez, Michael Heesch
Jason Heyward, John Lackey, Jon Jay, Steve Cishek, Mark Reynolds, Pete Kozma, Randy Choate, Carlos Villanueva, Matt Belisle, Travis Tartamella, Cody Stanley, Ed Easley
Biggest Strength - Winning atmosphere and well rounded team
The Cardinals always find a way to win. The management put a great product on the field, the fans understand the game and show up to help make the atmosphere great, and the players put victories in the record books. They know how to develop in house talent and seem to never need to look for outside help to win. Last season the Cards won 100 games for the first time in the history of the franchise, but it still feels like a bit of a lost season when you talk to St. Louis fans as the team is expected to make the World Series every year. The fact that the signing of Mike Leake this off-season is the largest pitching free agent that the Cards have ever signed is saying a lot about how this franchise is run. Last season, the Cards were amongst the best of all time in run prevention even though they were missing Adam Wainwright the entire season and Lance Lynn was pitching through a serious injury down the stretch. This is the type of thing that can sometimes go overlooked nationally because St. Louis does this year in and year out. It should be expected that they will win every year, this year isn't an exception.
Biggest Weakness - 1st base
Matt Adams is clearly not a long term answer to the first base position and Brandon Moss feels like the red headed step child that the Cards only wanted for their playoff run last year. Because of this, Matt Holliday has actually been getting reps at first base because the idea of Tommy Pham being in the lineup might sound more attractive than either Adams or Moss. Another option they could go with is Stephen Piscotty, who can apparently play anywhere. Piscotty will be in the lineup no matter what, so if he plays it will mean that Pham is in the lineup again and Holliday would play outfield as well. Not only is first base the biggest need for this team currently, but the Cardinals haven't really hit many home runs in recent years either, so it's an interesting opportunity for them to fill both needs with one player if they can pick up a good first baseman over the course of the season sometime.
Something to keep an eye on - Starting Pitching Depth
While Cardinals pitching is typically elite, there have been serious injury concerns recently from their staff. Adam Wainwright shouldn't have anything going on with his arm, but he sat out almost all of last season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, so there could be some concern there. Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez both seem a little more fragile than what the Cardinals would like to admit. And of course Jaime Garcia is always hurt. Last season Garcia threw 100 innings for the first time since 2012, so who knows how many innings to expect from him. Luckily, St. Louis always has a ploethra of pitching ready to go in their system. They can always call on guys like Tyler Lyons and Tim Cooney to pick them up if they lose a guy or two early. As for long term options, Alex Reyes looks like he is a straight up stud and the same can be said about Junior Fernandez, but he is still a few years away. So while there might be some health question marks in the current rotation, the Cardinals should be fine depth wise with their pitching staff.
Projected Lineup - Lefties* - Switch Hitters^
- Matt Carpenter* - 3B
- Stephen Piscotty - RF
- Matt Holliday - LF
- Matt Adams* - 1B
- Randal Grichuk - CF
- Yadier Molina - C
- Kolten Wong* - 2B
- Ruben Tejada - SS
Brayan Pena^, Brandon Moss*, Greg Garcia*, Jedd Gyorko, Tommy Pham
Projected Rotation - Lefties*
- Adam Wainwright
- Michael Wacha
- Mike Leake
- Jaime Garcia*
- Carlos Martinez
Trevor Rosenthal - Closer, Kevin Siegrist*, Jordan Walden, Seung-hwan Oh, Jonathan Broxton, Seth Maness, Tyler Lyons*
Injured to start the season
Jhonny Peralta, Lance Lynn
Fantasy Bargain - Randal Grichuk
Feels like this guy is a little too far under the radar still. In 2015 Grichuk was 3rd in the entire MLB in average exit velocity behind only Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Cabrera. He only got 350 plate appearances, but he still managed 17 homers and managed an OPS over .850. If he is able to play the entire year in 2016, he should expect to hit near 30 bombs with good percentage stats to compliment the power numbers. At the end of the day, this 24 year old is probably the best hitter on this team and will likely hit in the middle of the lineup the whole year and for years to come. He could easily be a 100 RBI 100 run guy.
The team is solid yet again. It's hard to say that they will win the division again though because of how good the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates are right now as well. The departure of Jason Heyward and Jon Lackey hurt the team and the fact that they both ended up with the Cubs doesn't make it feel any better. The injury to Jhonny Peralta will open the door for either Ruben Tejada or Jedd Gyorko to get a lot of at bats this season, and that could be a bit of a regression for this team as well. Overall, the Cards should be expected to win about 92 games, which will probably only get them a wild card birth in a tough NL Central.