The St. Louis Cardinals fell short of a magical feat last season when they won 100 games during the regular season only to lose to their divisional foe Chicago in the first round. The team, which has not had a losing season in their least eight years, has won at least 90 games five times in that stretch and is predominantly run by the team’s youth, which seems to get better and better each year.

Projected Lineup:

  • Matt Carpenter 3B
  • Stephen Piscotty RF
  • Matt Holiday LF
  • Jhonny Peralta SS
  • Matt Adams 1B
  • Randal Grichuk CF
  • Yadier Molina C
  • Kolten Wong 2B

Not only did the Cards take a huge blow from the Cubs during the playoffs but they also lost one of their best hitters (Jason Hayward) to the Cubs in the off-season. Despite, the loss the Cards are going to look towards their youth to help guide them in the right direction, and that starts with a healthy Matt Adams back to the lineup. Adams provides some nice pop in the middle of the lineup with 33 HR over the two seasons in which he played more than a 100 games, but he is often injured and has failed to play a full season of baseball in his early career.

The heart beat of this new young offense, Matt Carpenter (139 wRC+), Randal Grichuk (137 wRC+) and Scott Piscotty (133 wRC+) led the team in wRC+ for those with more than 100 plate appearances and all remain with the team. Carpenter should fit in nicely in 2016 as the team’s permanent lead off hitter as he played significantly better in that role than anywhere else with a .312 average in just over 300 at bats and fewer than .225 every where else in the lineup. Grichuk went through sports hernia surgery this past off-season, but he is expected to be back and good to go once the season kicks off, which bodes well for the Cardinals. Randal had a solid season with 17 homers and a .370 wOBA so the Cardinals are going to need him to be available when the season kicks off in April.

Jhonny Peralta (33), Yadier Molina (33) and Matt Holiday (36) round out the veteran leadership in the Cardinals lineup. Peralta had a nice year in 2015 with 17 homers, 71 RBIs and a .275 average, but overall his wOBA and his SLG were less than stellar numbers. Molina had his own issues with injuries last season, which forced him to play in only 136 games, up from the 110 he played in 2014. But he has taken a major dip in his production over the last few seasons because of the continued time away from the field. Holiday is still trying to hold on to that everyday piece he once was in his career, but in 2015 he failed to play in 120 games for the first time, pointing to the beginning of the end for the veteran outfielder.

Projected Rotation

  • Carlos Martinez
  • Adam Wainwright
  • Michael Wacha
  • Mike Leake
  • Jaime Garcia

Although Adam Wainwright has been the consistent cog in the machine that is the St. Louis Cardinals rotation for many seasons, his age and injury history tends to provide us with a look into his future. Wainwright, who went down with a torn Achilles in 2015, had previously missed a large chunk of his career with Tommy John. While neither of those injuries have any relation to one another, one would believe that his body is being to catch up with his age. Despite the injury concerns, nothing is pointing to a decline in his overall ability once on the field, just that he may have some trouble staying on it. He is still the same guy that has posted an ERA in the 2.00s in four of his last five full seasons and started off well with a 1.61 ERA in four starts prior to going down last year.

Carlos Martinez looks to be the franchise’s future and that should start to be evident this season. While many pundits have Wainwright the opening day starter (and based on loyalty and tenure that is probably the case) Martinez should become the ace the Cards will need for the next few seasons. Martinez was given a full time starting role last season for the first time and finished with a 14 – 7 record and a 3.01 ERA, more than a run lower than his previous seasons. Michael Wacha also came into his own last season posting a 17 – 7 record in 30 starts with a 3.38 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 181 innings. Wacha may not be a strikeout master but his 1.22 WHIP, 0.9HR/9 and his .87 GB/FB ratio all point in the right direction for a long term starting pitcher.

Mike Leake may be the unknown in this rotation purely because he is new to the squad, but don’t let that fool you. Leake’s career winning record, 3.88 ERA and 1.1 HR/9 despite pitching predominately in one of the league’s most hitter friendly parks make us believe he will do just fine as the teams fourth starter. Finally, Jaime Garcia should round out the top five in this rotation, which is puzzling to say the least because of his track record. Garcia has had over a 3.60 ERA just twice in his career but the concern for injury is great as he has only started in more than 20 games twice in his career. However, when he is on the field there is no doubt he can get the job done and for that kind of talent as your #5 the Cardinals shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

The Pen

The closer role in St. Louis is as locked down as about any team in the game. Trevor Rosenthal is only 25 years old and has now compiled at least 45 saves in back to back seasons. His 2.10 ERA last year was his best in his four year MLB career, and he has had a K/9 rate above 10 in three straight seasons with a 9.93 in the only year he failed to reach that mark.

But if it’s late inning strikeout potential you are looking for, look no further than Kevin Siegrist who hurled his way to 10.85 K/9 in 2015 in 81 innings pitched.

What’s on the Farm?

It will be difficult for anyone to predict what impact any of the Cardinals farm players will provide to the big club this season. Most of their young bats like Piscotty, Tommy Pham, Kolton Wong, and Grichuk are all up and on the Major League roster as it is, and their rotation is so solid that it will be difficult for the likes of Tim Cooney or Alex Reyes to break though.

Cooney played well in his six starts last season to the tune of 29 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 31.1 innings pitched before being put on the shelf due to an appendectomy.

Reyes on the other hand, hasn’t been out of AA yet in his short career and at only 21 years old still has his entire career ahead of him. However, Reyes had a 3.08 K/BB ratio and a 2.49 ERA in 101.1 minor league innings pitched at three different levels. With 151 strike outs in that span, the hard throwing Reyes is foaming at the mouth waiting for his opportunity, which could come at some point this season if he can continue to progress into AAA.

Season Outlook

One of the most consistent teams in all of baseball recently, the St. Louis Cardinals should have absolutely no problem finding their way to the post season for the seventh time in eight seasons, but they will need a combination of healthy veterans and continued production from their youth to do it. Unfortunately, at this point the Cardinals are in that space between too much youth and too old a crew of veterans where if either side begins to hit the rails it could spell disaster. In the end this organization knows what they are doing and they should be prepared for another great year.

Look for Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia to return to form in the rotation while Piscotty, Grichuk and Carpenter all provide a huge boost to the club’s offensive output.

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