(Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
by Patrick Barron
St. Louis Cardinals
2017 Record: 83-79 (3rd in NL Central)
2017 Payroll: $142,821,766 (13th)
All player projections from Steamer
Projected 2018 Lineup:
- RF Dexter Fowler .259 AVG/.364 OBP/.429 SLG, 1.9 WAR
- CF Tommy Pham .267 AVG/.357 OBP/.441 SLG, 2.6 WAR
- 1B Matt Carpenter .261 AVG/.380 OBP/.453 SLG, 2.5 WAR
- LF Marcell Ozuna .294 AVG/.356 OBP/.521 SLG, 3.8 WAR
- C Yadier Molina .277 AVG/.325 OBP/.415 SLG, 2.3 WAR
- SS Paul DeJong .261 AVG/.308 OBP/.462 SLG, 2.1 WAR
- 3B Jedd Gyorko .253 AVG/.322 OBP/.453 SLG, 1.7 WAR
- 2B Kolten Wong .270 AVG/.349 OBP/.416 SLG, 1.9 WAR
Projected 2018 Rotation:
- Carlos Martinez 202.0 IP/3.74 ERA/1.30 WHIP, 4.0 WAR
- Adam Wainwright 142.0 IP/4.45 ERA/1.40 WHIP, 1.6 WAR
- Michael Wacha 167.0 IP/3.99 ERA/1.31 WHIP, 2.8 WAR
- Luke Weaver 145.0 IP/3.82 ERA/1.23 WHIP, 2.6 WAR
- Miles Mikolas 120.0 IP/4.17 ERA/1.23 WHIP, 1.8 WAR
In 2017, the St. Louis Cardinals finished 83-79, placing them 9 games behind the first place Chicago Cubs. Thus, in order to compete for the division and a wild card, they needed to make some upgrades. Their offense was led by outfielder Tommy Pham and shortstop Paul DeJong while their pitching staff was led by Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha.
Their starting rotation consisted of Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes. The Cardinals spent the offseason upgrading their outfield and bullpen, mostly. They lost 4 players to free agency: Seung-Hwan Oh, Zach Duke, Lance Lynn, and Juan Nicasio. They also released Trevor Rosenthal, since he’ll be rehabbing most of 2018 after Tommy John surgery.
Since a lot of the players lost were relievers, replacing them was one of the main focuses. They signed Luke Gregerson to a two-year, $11 million contract. They also traded Randal Grichuk for Dominic Leone, a reliever from the Blue Jays who posted a 1.5 fWAR and 3.52 K/BB after struggling for a couple seasons. They also signed Edward Mujica and Jason Motte to minor league deals for bullpen depth.
The outfield was another target for the Cardinals as they traded Magneuris Sierra and other prospects for Marcell Ozuna, a former Miami Marlins center fielder who put up a 4.8 fWAR, a 142 wRC+, 10 DRS, and a 2.8 UZR last year and has been consistently good his whole career. They also shipped Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk. Trading Grichuk was interesting but made sense given that they already had Ozuna, Pham, and Fowler as starters leaving Grichuk out of the mix. Grichuk had a lot of power hitting over 20 HRs in the past two seasons, yet he struck out about 30% of the time and walked very little. Ozuna was a clear upgrade here.
They also decided to add to their rotation by adding Miles Mikolas and signing Bud Norris who could also be part of the bullpen for rotation depth. Mikolas was a former prospect who moved to Japan and had a great deal of success there for the Yomiuri Giants. While success in foreign leagues by former Major and Minor League players should be taken with a grain of salt, Japanese baseball leagues are known for being good to hitters and tough on pitchers, which makes Mikolas very intriguing.
Here is the current Cardinals depth chart per fangraphs:
When looking at the starters, this is a good, not necessarily great team. Ozuna was a major upgrade, but most of the other moves were mostly adding depth and replacing players who left via free agency. Their depth in the field is solid, with Jose Martinez and former prospect Harrison Bader being players to watch this year. From the pitching side, the Cardinals have some very interesting depth choices in the event that age hurts Waino or Reyes, and Wacha continues to have injury problems, with Mikolas and Jack Flaherty being the first guys up. Flaherty is an interesting prospect, however, and could see some action if one player goes down. However, a lot would have to go right for the Cardinals to compete with the Cubs. Their young players need to shine and current starters need to stay healthy.
Another player to watch this year is Carson Kelly, one of baseball’s best catching prospects. With Molina’s age only getting higher, Kelly is there to back him up and be his successor. His debut was rough but hopefully he can learn from one of the best catchers of this generation and become a star.
Pecota projects the Cardinals to have an 84-78, one win above last year. The Cardinals have outperformed Pecota in the past so there is some to be optimistic about. This sounds about right for this team, but it really depends a lot on how the Brewers and Cubs perform this season. They definitely have a solid chance of winning a wild card spot and winning the NL Central is not out of the realm of possibility depending on if the Cardinals get lucky and the Cubs experience injury and/or regression.