The St. Louis Cardinals April has wrapped up. April is a unique month for baseball fans. After months without Cardinal baseball, a handful of games can feel like a full season. But as Cardinal teams of the past have shown us, the MLB season is very much about how a team finishes and not how they start. The most important baseball is undoubtedly yet to come. With that said, there is still plenty of interesting information to be gleaned from the first month of St. Louis Cardinals baseball. Here are a few things Cardinals fans learned in April.
The Starting Pitching
Miles Mikolas came out of the gates very clearly pitching like he has something to prove. The crafty righty is the owner of a dazzling 1.52 ERA and 0.843 WHIP, and a remarkable 25:4 strikeout to walk ratio. What’s more, he has pitched to the tune of a 1.0 WAR, an impressive feat through only five starts. Look for Mikolas to continue building on this hot start in what may be shaping into an All-Star campaign for him.
Adam Wainwright and Dakota Hudson have both put together a productive first month as well, owning a 3.18 and 3.16 ERA, respectively. The Cardinals would certainly be thrilled with consistency at this pace out of Waino and Hudson for the remainder of the year. Free-agent signing Steven Matz is off to a Jekyll-and-Hyde start to 2022. Through his five starts thus far, excluding April 10 vs Pittsburgh and April 27 vs New York, Matz pitched to the tune of a 0.56 ERA with 1.1 BB/9 and nearly a K/IP. Look for Matz to try to minimize the damage on days when he doesn’t have his A+ stuff moving forward.
The Jordan Hicks experiment is off to an intriguing start. Hicks has posted respectable numbers in his handful of starts, signaling to the Cardinals that their experiment might just be panning out as planned. Cardinal Nation will watch closely as the club continues to slowly increase Hicks’ pitch count per start. If he can successfully navigate the increased workload, the Cardinals will suddenly have some serious depth at starting pitching depth upon Jack Flaherty’s return at some point this summer.
Giovanny Gallegos is 5/6 in save opportunities in his first full season as the full-time Cardinal closer. Should he maintain his current pace, expect him to be a fixture in 9th innings for years to come. Rookie Andre Pallante has continued the torrid pace he has been on since March outings in Jupiter. Making the Opening Day roster showed the confidence the front office had in the 23-year-old flamethrower. The high-leverage innings the righty has seen have further solidified that idea in the mind of Cardinal Nation. Young right-hander Kodi Whitley has also posted a quality April and is sitting on a stellar 1.17 ERA currently.
The electric Ryan Helsley has yet to allow a run in 2022 and is the owner of the hardest fastball so far in 2022 at 103.1 mph. With Helsley’s three holds, Nick Wittgren’s four holds, and Genesis Cabrera’s three holds, the middle-inning relief has been lights out thus far from the Cardinals. Lefty T.J. McFarland started the year with three scoreless innings but has given up five earned runs in a combined one inning pitched over his last three outings. Expect him to bounce back heading into the summer or be relegated to the role of inning-eater.
To state the obvious, Nolan Arenado has carried the bulk of St. Louis’ offensive load in April, even winning the NL Player of the Month award. Tommy Edman had an underrated April, with a 2.0 WAR, equal to that of Arenado. With a .894 OPS and six stolen bases, the Cardinals will need Edman to continue being a dynamic spark plug. After a mediocre first half of April, Paul Goldschmidt returned to being Paul Goldschmidt in the second half and has climbed up to a .769 OPS. Harrison Bader has provided clutch offense as well as being a stolen base threat. Expect him to get more looks in the top half of the Cardinal lineup should the rest of the offense continue to slump.
Trouble at Short
As mentioned above, outside of a handful of Cardinals, the remainder of the Cardinal offense had an overall rocky start to the season. Paul DeJong continues to despise leaving Jupiter. After a spring that got Cardinal Nation excited, DeJong once again posted a dismal April. Furthermore, Edmundo Sosa has given no significant upgrade thus far as his backup. Should their struggles continue, expect Mozeliak and Co. to make a major roster move.
Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson got off to surprisingly slow starts holding down the corners of the Cardinals outfield. While frustrating, this is likely not an area Cardinal fans or management will read too much into. There are some players that organizations are going to ride or die with for the time being. O’Neill and Carlson are those types of guys in St. Louis. Do not expect any changes to the dynamic trio of O’Neill, Bader, and Carlson patrolling the Cardinals outfield.
The designated hitter spot has been interesting thus far. Albert Pujols has demolished left-handed pitching just as advertised, to the tune of a 1.433 OPS and two homers thus far. He has even earned himself some starts against righties but has posted dismal numbers against them. Corey Dickerson has seen the lion’s share of designated hitter starts against right-handers and has struggled thus far. Should this continue, Nolan Gorman waits eagerly in the wings with some serious offensive output thus far in AAA.
Behind the Plate
Yadier Molina and Andrew Knizner have nearly equally split time down the middle thus far in 2022. Molina’s offensive struggles after a short spring training have been well-documented, although he got going in the second half of April. Yadi has a knack for clutch hits and got multiple late-inning Cardinal rallies started with base hits recently. Andrew Knizner has impressed thus far as he is seeing more playing time than in the past. His OPS of .730 is respectable, and his 0.5 WAR is only 0.1 below Harrison Bader. Cardinal Nation should be very excited about Knizner as Yadi’s successor in 2023 and beyond.
The 2021 St. Louis Cardinals had the most Gold Glove winners on a single team in MLB history with five. Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Edman, Nolan Arenado, Tyler O’Neill, and Harrison Bader all took home Gold Gloves in 2021. Defensive excellence is something the Cardinals hang their hat on year-in and year-out, and 2022 should be no different. Thus far, St. Louis is ranked tenth in the majors with 0.43 errors per game and fourth in the majors with 1.04 double plays turned per game. Also, the Cardinals’ outfield is tied with the Philadelphia outfield for most outfield assists in the NL with six each. With a stellar infield and outfield, a proven veteran in Molina, and a quality young catcher in Andrew Knizner, expect the Cardinal defense to continue to do the little things right to win tight games in 2022.
The Cardinal farm system has historically been a consistent producer of top prospects. The 2022 season is shaping up to be no different. The Cardinals have three of the top five home run leaders in all of minor league baseball. Moises Gomez (AA) has twelve, Nolan Gorman (AAA) has eleven, and Juan Yepez (AAA) had 9 before getting called up on May 4. The Cardinals also have two prospects in the top ten of batting average with Moises Gomez off to a scorching .425 start, and Masyn Winn (A+) hitting .391. Interestingly, a couple of Cardinal prospects are also in the top six of wSB, an advanced metric measuring the value of stolen bases for a team. Mike Antico (A+) and Masyn Winn have both posted a wSB of above 2.0 thus far in the young season.
Prospect Brendan Donovan already made an impact at the big-league level after his recent call up. Lars Nootbaar, a young outfielder who made an impact in 2021 and made the Opening Day roster this year, was recently sent down for further development. Pitcher Aaron Brooks was also designated for assignment, and lefty Packy Naughton was called up to the big leagues. Expect the Memphis Redbirds (AAA) to continue to provide valuable depth as the season will undoubtedly produce unexpected challenges as time goes on.
On the pitching front, St. Louis prospect Gordon Graceffo (A+) owns the fifth-best ERA among qualifying pitchers in all of the minor leagues at 0.65. Also at the A+ level, highly-touted pitching prospect Michael McGreevy owns a 1.27 ERA thus far in 2022. Interestingly, both prospects are also in the top ten in all of the minors for fewest walks per nine innings pitched. The top pitching prospect for the Cardinals, Matthew Liberatore, is off to a 3.18 ERA start with 34 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. At age 22, do not expect the Cardinals to rush Libby to the bigs unless serious depth issues arise.
The World Series is not won or lost in April. Cardinal fans know that better than anyone. Overall, the Cardinals got off to a sluggish start offensively in April. Yet they still managed to be second in the NL Central and only a couple of games behind the Brewers. St. Louis should be encouraged by the pitching staff’s hot start. If the bats get going, and if the pitching and defense can maintain their current trajectory, the Cardinals will be a massive force to be reckoned with. Manager Oliver Marmol has made it no secret that the team has its sights set on a World Series ring. Once the offense joins the defense and pitching, that goal does not seem like a fantasy whatsoever.
Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson, Steven Matz, Jordan Hicks, Jack Flaherty, Giovanny Gallegos, Andre Pallante, Kodi Whitley, Ryan Helsley, Nick Wittgren, Genesis Cabrera, T.J. McFarland, Nolan Arenado, Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Harrison Bader, Paul DeJong, Edmundo Sosa, Dylan Carlson, Albert Pujols, Corey Dickerson, Nolan Gorman, Yadier Molina, Andrew Knizner, Moises Gomez, Juan Yepez, Masyn Winn, Mike Antico, Brendan Donovan, Lars Nootbaar, Aaron Brooks, Packy Naughton, Gordon Graceffo, Michael McGreevy, Matthew Liberatore, Oliver Marmol