Photo: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Cardinals
by Nolan Bruce
2021 Record: 90-72 (.556 win%, 2nd in NL Central)
2021 Payroll: $144,943,666 (12th)
Projected 2022 Lineup:
1. 2B Tommy Edman, .267 AVG/.320 OBP/.404 SLG, 2.4 fWAR
2. 1B Paul Goldschmidt, .274 AVG/.358 OBP/.487 SLG, 3.6 fWAR
3. LF Tyler O’Neill, .251 AVG/.319 OBP/.504 SLG, 3.5 fWAR
4. 3B Nolan Arenado, .262 AVG/.330 OBP/.479 SLG, 4.1 fWAR
5. RF Dylan Carlson, .250 AVG/.330 OBP/.429 SLG, 2.4 fWAR
6. C Yadier Molina, .253 AVG/.299 OBP/.382 SLG, 1.5 fWAR
7. DH Corey Dickerson, .266 AVG/.316 OBP/.428 SLG, 0.3 fWAR
8. SS Paul DeJong, .234 AVG/.315 OBP/.428 SLG, 2.5 fWAR
9. CF Harrison Bader, .246 AVG/.325 OBP/.425 SLG, 2.9 fWAR
Projected 2022 Rotation (Flaherty likely to replace Woodford):
1. Adam Wainwright, 194.0 IP/4.38 ERA/1.33 WHIP, 1.7 fWAR
2. Miles Mikolas, 149.0 IP/4.47 ERA/1.31 WHIP, 1.3 fWAR
3. Steven Matz, 164.0 IP/4.18 ERA/1.28 WHIP, 1.9 fWAR
4. Dakota Hudson, 148.0 IP/4.70 ERA/1.50 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR
5. Jake Woodford, 73.0 IP/4.99 ERA/1.46 WHIP, -0.4 fWAR
(5). Jack Flaherty, 125.0 IP/3.99 ERA/1.24 WHIP, 1.5 fWAR
Projected 2022 Top 3 Relievers:
1. Giovanni Gallegos, 76.0 IP/3.72 ERA/1.18 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR
2. Génesis Cabrera, 68.0 IP/3.66 ERA/1.28 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR
3. Jordan Hicks, 60.0 IP/3.61 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR
St. Louis let 2B Matt Carpenter, RP Luis García, SP Kwang-Hyun Kim, and SP Carlos Martinez walk in free agency, with the most important losses being García and Kim. García was a reliable bullpen arm at the end of 2021, and Kim helped fill in as a starter in 2020 and 2021 in the absence of Hudson. RP Andrew Miller was another reliable bullpen arm who will not return after his retirement this past week.
In return, the Cardinals signed RP Nick Wittgren (CLE), SP Drew VerHagen (DET), SP Steven Matz (TOR), DH/OF Corey Dickerson (TOR), and DH/1B Albert Pujols (LAD). Wittgren and VerHagen have been below average in the past, while Matz has been a very solid starter in Toronto, with a 2.0 bWAR. Expect all three pitchers to outperform their history in front of an elite defense.
Dickerson posted a 0.3 WAR as an average hitter last season in Toronto, and you can expect a similar performance from him this season as a formidable DH. Pujols obviously returns with the goal of retiring a Cardinal, with the benefit to the team being that he hits left handed pitching well in the DH spot and can fill in for Goldschmidt on rest days.
2022 Season Preview:
The Cardinals once again look to take advantage of a weak NL Central and contend for the playoffs. The Reds, Cubs, and Pirates are all in No Man’s Land, which means more bottom feeder wins for St. Louis and Milwaukee. Team icons Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina will return for one final season, joined by their longtime teammate Albert Pujols. They all have high hopes to go out on top.
The rest of the roster remains mostly intact, but the biggest question is still the consistency of the bullpen that set records for walks in the first half of 2021. Who knows whether guys like Alex Reyes and Ryan Helsley will be able to control their stuff and keep the walks and homers to a reasonable level. Even still, after an uneventful offseason, the Cardinals still have additions to make. The prospects who showed out last season who are not currently projected starters include OF Lars Nootbaar (2 OAA, 105 OPS+ in 58 games) and SS Edmundo Sosa (3.2 bWAR in 113 games). Expect to see these two in the starting lineup anytime a player is struggling or needs rest. We can expect to see Top 50 prospects LHP Matthew Liberatore and IF Nolan Gorman at times this season as well. The return of RP Jordan Hicks and SP Dakota Hudson should more than make up for the loss of Martinez and García if they return to their 2019 form.
For 2022, the Cardinals have improved their depth after last season’s injuries. The lineup that hit well during the 2021 streak is ready to go. They also will welcome contributing pitchers returning from injury, and will be able to extract more depth from their farm system. When the bullpen and gold glove defense do hold steady, this team has already shown its capability to win 17 games in a row, which makes the case that the sky’s the limit as far as the team’s potential. The upsides for the Cardinals appear to outweigh the downsides, and they look to have a legitimate chance to contend.
Record Prediction: 92-70
A weaker division and a familiar roster should pave the way for a more solid, consistent performance from the Cardinals than last season. The re-tooled Brewers roster will present a challenge, but the door is open for a 90+ win season in St. Louis. I believe they’ll get it done.
As a result of the improbable nature of their historic win streak last season, personnel improvements this offseason likely won’t result in a massive uptick in the win-column, which is why I see them gaining just 2 wins. The improvement may still be enough to win the NL Central if Milwaukee underperforms. Either way, in the new 6 team playoffs, this performance would put them in the Wild Card Round. The Cardinals will be a playoff team in 2022.
Player to Watch #1: 3B Nolan Arenado
Arenado has been the best defensive third baseman in baseball since he entered the league in 2013. That defense coupled with his elite bat, has made him a superstar. 2022 will be his age 31 season, but Arenado hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Last season, he broke into St. Louis with a 121 OPS+ and another Gold Glove performance at 3B. That’s basically become a formality for him. Now that he has had a year to get settled in St. Louis, we can expect to learn what Arenado will look like as a Cardinal going forward. Hopefully he will provide the usual highlight reel to go with it.
Player to Watch #2: LF Tyler O’Neill
At the start of 2021, many had been waiting a long time for the 25 year old ultra-muscular Canadian prospect Tyler O’Neill to live up to his potential. He fills out every bit of his 5’11 frame. Up until 2020, he had not yet used his physical strengths to his advantage posting a well below average 70 OPS+ in the shortened season. To the pleasant surprise of Cardinal fans, however, O’Neill exploded in 2021. He finally demonstrated the upside of his 5-tool potential with a 150 OPS+, 5.4 fWAR season full of elite power hitting, lightning speed, and masterful defense. Look for him to continue to wow fans as one of the most exciting young players in the game in 2022.
Player to Watch #3: SP Jack Flaherty
When he has been healthy, Jack Flaherty has been the ace of this Cardinals team. He led the NL in WHIP and H/9 in 2019, finishing 4th in Cy Young voting, but after a shaky performance in 2020 and injury problems in 2021, he has become a wild card.
Entering Flaherty’s 11th start of 2021, the Cardinals were 9-1 in games that he started. Unfortunately, he sustained a nagging shoulder injury during that day, and would not return to form for the rest of the season. His health continues to be a question mark entering 2022, with news suggesting he is dealing with inflammation in his shoulder that could prevent him from joining the rotation for a significant portion of the season. The ability of this Cardinals roster to contend for a championship, or even make the playoffs, likely hinges on Flaherty’s health through the bulk of the season.
Categories: 2022 Season Preview
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