We head south to Missouri where the archway welcomes us into the Cardinals’ Busch Stadium and the back to back division champions. The Cardinals somewhat quiet of an off-season consisted of an outfield upgrade and bench help, but otherwise the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals have the same overall team under the leadership of manager Mike Matheny, who enters his fourth year at the helm of St. Louis and has done an extremely good job at controlling their clubhouse and organizing the line-up.
2015 St. Louis Cardinals Overview
First off, a memoriam is in order for outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, who was slated to be the starting right fielder for the 2015 season but died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic on October 26, 2014, not too long after the Cardinals were eliminated from the play-offs. Taveras’s death left an lasting impact on the Cardinals clubhouse and put a huge damper on their mood for success in 2015, and required general manager John Mozeliak to acquire a new right fielder while keeping the rest of the line-up in tact. He did just that and the Cardinals are primed for another impressive season, barring injuries to any of their starters.
The Cardinals didn’t go into Spring Training with non-roster invitees that had a good shot at cracking the Major League roster, besides Carlos Villanueva, who is a good bullpen option for them at this point. The big move of the off-season involved the Cardinals losing a starting pitcher in Shelby Miller and top pitching prospect in Tyrell Jenkins, but the benefit of the trade was Jason Heyward. Entering his free agency year, Heyward was a huge pick-up for the Cardinals in the sense that he can hit consistently and play right field, where an unfortunate hole developed. Jordan Walden was also part of the return package and provides a stable set-up man to closer Trevor Rosenthal. Heyward could be the Cardinals new established lead-off man, setting the table for the three Matt’s: Carpenter, Holliday and Adams.
The Cardinals line-up has a lot of depth to it, with speed, power and hitting coming from up and down the order. It is a well-balanced attack that gives them an edge in the National League Central.
He’s Here: 2B Dean Anna, P Matt Belisle, OF Jason Heyward, 1B Mark Reynolds, P Jordan Walden
Non-Roster Invitees with chance to make roster: P Carlos Villanueva
He’s Gone: 2B Daniel Descalso, 2B Mark Ellis, P Tyrell Jenkins, P Justin Masterson, P Shelby Miller, P Jason Motte, P Pat Nehsek, C Audry Perez, C A.J. Pierzynski, P Jorge Rondon
Missouri State of Mind
The Cardinals enter the 2015 season as the favorite to win their division, and for good reason: hitting and pitching. It is rare to see a team like the Cardinals nowadays, where just about their whole line-up, pitching rotation and bullpen is homegrown talent. Holliday, Heyward and Jhonny Peralta are the only outliers from that statement in the line-up; John Lackey is the only outlier from the rotation.
Led by Adam Wainwright, St. Louis has a very underrated rotation in my opinion, since Wainwright, when at the top of his game and healthy, matches up with the best of the best in the National League- Kershaw, Bumgarner, Harvey, Zimmermann and Fister- and following him is Lance Lynn, an extremely underrated starter when he’s healthy. Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia follow them, and all four of them are homegrown talent by the Cardinals from a low level or the draft, and John Lackey finishes off that list, unless Matheny wants to try reliever Carlos Martinez in a rotation spot for the upcoming season.
The lower half of the line-up, which is expected to consist of Yadier Molina, Kolten Wong and Jon Jay, may be the best 6-7-8 order in the majors, since Molina can hit consistently, Wong possesses power and Jay provides hitting and speed. All three also happen to be Cardinals draft picks from 2000, 2011, and 2006, respectively.
(Red indicates new acquisition)
C: Yadier Molina
1B: Matt Adams
2B: Kolten Wong
3B: Matt Carpenter
SS: Jhonny Peralta
LF: Matt Holliday
CF: Jon Jay
RF: Jason Heyward
Matt Adams looks to be the sleeper in this line-up, since he possesses high power, as demonstrated by his NLDS homer off of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. If Adams struggles against lefties, off-season addition and right-handed batter Mark Reynolds could see reasonable time at first base, provides a back-up to Carpenter at third base, and indirectly provides a back-up to Wong at second, just in case Wong gets injured and Carpenter has to shift over to play second.
1. Adam Wainwright
2. Lance Lynn
3. Michael Wacha
4. Jaime Garcia
5. John Lackey/Carlos Martinez
The last rotation spot is up for grabs, but the rest of the rotation seems pretty set barring an injuries, and the combination of Wainwright-Lynn at the top is underrated to most rotations in the National League.
The Cardinals did not go into the off-season looking to make any major changes to the team they had at the time. The untimely death of the late Oscar Taveras brought about a need to fill a gap in the outfield, and the skillful use of Miller and Jenkins as trade bait to the Braves for Heyward and Walden makes up for the loss of the two starting pitchers. The Pirates and Cubs both improved their ball clubs, and the Reds and Brewers are stiff competition. The Cardinals will win the division in 2015, somewhere around 89-92 wins, but it will be a close call with either the Cubs or the Pirates.
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