Previewing the 2021 St. Louis Cardinals

Previewing the 2021 St Louis Cardinals
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The 2021 St. Louis Cardinals have a lot to prove. The Cardinals failed to repeat as NL Central division champions in 2020. But, in the afterglow of the blockbuster trade that landed Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals are NL Central favorites heading into the season. A new baseball year brings renewed hope for the Cardinals, who have a third consecutive postseason appearance on their wish list. St. Louis has the pieces on defense with a hope that the offense will return to form. The pitching has some question marks and the bullpen looks like it could be one of the deepest in the majors. 

Here is a complete breakdown of the Cardinals roster heading into the new baseball season.

Breaking Down the 2021 St. Louis Cardinals Roster

Projected Lineup

  1. Tommy Edman, 2B
  2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
  4. Paul DeJong, SS
  5. Dylan Carlson, RF
  6. Yadier Molina, C
  7. Tyler O’Neill, LF
  8. Harrison Bader, CF
  9. Pitcher

Bench: INF Matt Carpenter, INF Edmundo Sosa, C Andrew Knizner, OF Austin Dean

The Cardinals’ offense has been mediocre in recent years. In 2019, they finished 10th in the NL in runs scored, 11th in OPS, and 12th in home runs. Last season, they were 12th in runs per game, 14th in OPS, and last in homers. The addition of Arenado will help the offense make up for those stats in 2021. But, the on-going development of Dylan Carlson is essential.

His stint in the majors was a disaster as he was hitting .162 with a .458 OPS. The Cardinals optioned him to the alternate training site in early September then returned two weeks later. There were signs of life after the 22-year old Carlson came back to the Cardinals lineup. He would post a .278/.325/.611 slash line over his final 12-regular season games. He was even batting in the heart of the lineup in the postseason. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if Carlson outperformed his projections this season. If he can do so, the Cardinals would have an improved offense to complement a pitching staff that proved it can be the best in the NL.

Projected Rotation

  1. Jack Flaherty, RHP
  2. Adam Wainwright, RHP
  3. Daniel Ponce de Leon, RHP
  4. Carlos Martínez, RHP
  5. John Gant, RHP

Jack Flaherty will look to put his dismal 2020 behind him and return to being a true ace. Adam Wainwright is still capable of getting outs, and Kwang-Hyun Kim showed promise in his first season stateside. After that, the back end of the rotation is less than certain. Daniel Ponce de Leon and John Gant have spots in the starting five due to Miles Mikolas’ shoulder injury and Kim’s back tightness that slowed his spring training progression. Kim won’t have enough time to start the season to be on the roster. The Cardinals don’t want to put him into the bullpen as he builds up his pitch count and endurance.

Ponce de Leon struggled last season who had a 4.96 ERA in nine appearances. For Gant, the rotation role is his first opportunity to start in the majors since 2018. He went 5-6 with a 3.61 ERA in 19 starts for St. Louis. The Cardinals believe that both pitchers have the stuff to become more consistent.

Projected Bullpen

  1. Alex Reyes, RHP
  2. Jordan Hicks, RHP
  3. Andrew Miller, LHP
  4. Giovanny Gallegos, RHP
  5. Ryan Helsley, RHP
  6. Génesis Cabrera, RHP
  7. Tyler Webb, LHP

The bullpen has the makings to become a powerhouse. With big arms loaded, they can provide the swing and miss lacking in the starting rotation. Even though the bullpen saw no changes, there is one reintroduction to the bullpen. Jordan Hicks, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019 and a 2020 season opt-out, has been impressive this spring. The Cardinals is a strong suit and one that will likely take on an essential role in 2021, especially considering their starters’ health.

One thought about the bullpen is who will be the closer to start the year. The Cardinals aren’t concerned at the moment since some of their middle-inning candidates could be closers if they were on other rosters. That’s how much depth this bullpen has. 

Outlook for the 2021 St. Louis Cardinals Season

The 2021 St. Louis Cardinals will fight with the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers for the NL Central crown. St. Louis has emphasized offense since its third-worst scoring lineup last season is unacceptable for a full 162-game schedule in 2021. It’s not just the offense who needs to step up; it’s the pitching too. The bullpen will be able to cover innings depending on the starter’s performance. Nevertheless, the club has a good amount of Gold Glovers across the field to impact defense, something that will help the team win games this season.

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Players Mentioned

Alex Reyes, Jordan HicksAndrew MillerGiovanny GallegosRyan HelsleyGenesis CabreraTyler Webb, Jack FlahertyAdam WainwrightDaniel Ponce de LeonCarlos MartínezJohn Gant, Matt Carpenter, Edmundo Sosa, Andrew Knizner, Austin Dean, Tommy EdmanPaul GoldschmidtNolan ArenadoPaul DeJongDylan CarlsonYadier Molina, Tyler O’Neill, Tommy John, Miles Mikolas and Harrison Bader.