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  • The Cardinals uncharacteristically missed the playoffs again in 2018, so they acquired Paul Goldschmidt. Is he the answer in a tough division?
By Matt Martell
March 27, 2019

2018 record: 88-74, third in NL Central

SI's predicted 2019 record: 87-75, second in NL Central

Key additions: 1B Paul Goldschmidt, C Matt Wieters, LHP Andrew Miller

Key departures: RHP Tyson Ross, RHP Bud Norris

Projected Lineup:

1. 3B Matt Carpenter

2. SS Paul DeJong

3. 1B Paul Goldschmidt

4. LF Marcell Ozuna

5. RF Dexter Fowler

6. C Yadier Molina

7. 2B Kolten Wong

8. CF Harrison Bader

Bench

C: Matt Wieters

INF: Jedd Gyorko

INF/OF: Yairo Munoz

OF: Jose Martinez

Projected Rotation

RHP Miles Mikolas

RHP Jack Flaherty

RHP Adam Wainwright

RHP Michael Wacha

RHP Dakota Hudson

Bullpen

RHP Jordan Hicks (closer)

LHP Andrew Miller

RHP John Brebbia

RHP Dominic Leone

RHP Mike Mayers

RHP Alex Reyes

Injured List: RHP Carlos Martinez, RHP Luke Gregerson

Movin On Up! Jack Flaherty finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last season after posting a 3.34 ERA and 182 strikeouts, but the Cardinals are expecting the 23-year-old to be even better in 2019. If spring training is any indication, Flaherty’s sophomore campaign will be just fine. As of this writing, he has a 2.77 ERA in four games and he’s struck out 19 batters in 13 innings.

Sell! After Dexter Fowler posted a 116 OPS+ from 2012-2017, it’s hard to imagine a sharper decline for the outfielder than what happened in 2018. Last year, Fowler slashed .180/.278/.298 over 90 games in an injury-filled campaign. It’s unlikely Fowler will repeat that performance again, but entering his age 33 season, his best playing days are well behind him.

Appreciate This Man! Jose Martinez definitely has his shortcomings, and the failed experiment to play him at first base last season was uncomfortable to watch, but there’s no questioning that he can hit. In 152 games last year, Martinez slashed .305/.364/.457 with a 124 OPS+. Those numbers are no fluke either––if anything, they should be even better. Martinez’s expected batting average was almost identical to his actual performance, while his expected slugging percentage was .512 according to Statcast. Back for another year in a better lineup and not trying to learn how to play first base, expected another great year at the dish for Martinez.

A Modest Proposal From Joe Sheehan: The difference between the Cardinals making the playoffs the last two years and not has been Alex Reyes’s inability to contribute. Reyes, a top-ten prospect heading into 2017, underwent Tommy John surgery that February and, returning in 2018, threw just four innings in the majors before tearing a tendon in his right lat muscle, ending his season. Reyes would have been a boon to the Cardinals last season in a relief role, as their bullpen struggled down the stretch. While they’ve improved the pen by adding Andrew Miller, a healthy Reyes has an upside few pitchers on this staff can match. He could be a dominant reliever for three months and then move into the rotation—and become its best starter—in the second half. Reyes’s health is the biggest factor in the Cardinals’ attempt to chase down the Cubs and Brewers.

MLB.TV rating: 8.4

Something about Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt in the same lineup screams must-watch television. Harrison Bader’s combination of speed, power and impeccable defense makes him the most exciting Cardinals’ centerfielder since Jim Edmonds. Miles Mikolas and Flaherty at the top of the rotation should satisfy most fans who love the art of starting pitching, and watching Jordan Hicks consistently top 100 mph with such electric movement is simply amazing.

Keep an Eye Out For...: Tyler O’Neill is an impressive corner outfielder with tons of power, someone who could change the game with one swing as a pinch-hitter or provide more depth to the lineup on days when he starts. With the uncertainty surrounding Fowler in right field and Martinez’s defensive woes, there will be plenty of at-bats for O’Neill, who hit nine homers in 61 games last season. A few years ago Alex Reyes was the Cardinals’ hottest pitching prospect. In 2016, he went 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 12 games before Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the entire 2017 season. He made his return on May 30 of last year, pitched four shutout innings and injured a tendon in his right lat, requiring another season-ending surgery. If he’s healthy, Reyes could be a key contributor for the Cards this year. Dakota Hudson went 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA in relief last season, and he pitched well enough this spring to earn a spot in the rotation. He had a 1.25 ERA over 21 2/3 innings in six spring training games (four starts). And despite his big league experience as a reliever last season, Hudson has developed through the minors as a starter. Hudson went 13-3 with a 2.50 ERA in 19 starts with Triple-A Memphis last season while pitching in the offense-heavy Pacific Coast League.

Scout's Takes

A rival scout analyzes the 2019 St. Louis Cardinals

What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?

It’s probably the back end of the bullpen. Jordan Hicks is supposedly their closer. And you’ve got to wonder if Andrew Miller is going to stay healthy all year. Can Hicks handle the pressure of moving to the ninth?

Who is the most overrated player on the team?

Overrated, overpaid, I’d say they’re the same: Brett Cecil has been a totally bad contract since they signed him. The next contract would be Dexter Fowler, who’s also not been very good. They’re absolutely going to give him a chance in right field ahead of José Martínez. And he’s played better in the spring.

Who is the most underrated player on the team?

Jack Flaherty. He’s got good s*** and he keeps you in the ballgame because he knows how to pitch. He’s a name you sort of don’t hear about because you’ve got Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright, and then you hear about Carlos Martínez who is always hurt. With Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas around him, Flaherty just flies under the radar. And they’ve got Alex Reyes, who’s always hurt. He’s not going to make it back for opening day, I don’t think.”

What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?

 They don’t really have one. You could throw [Carlos] Martínez or Reyes on here because they’re not healthy, but that’s kind of tough.

Who gets the most out of his talent?

 Matt Carpenter. You just look at him, and it’s not like you think nothing of the guy, but s***, you turn around and he’s got 30 home runs. With two strikes, he fouls the s*** off all day long. He’s absolutely a pain in the ass (to face), his at bats wear you down.

Who gets the least out of his talent?

Unless you put Dexter Fowler here, I don’t see anybody who stands out as an answer. Jedd Gyorko, maybe? But his numbers are still pretty good and you know what you’re getting. You’re going to get some strikeouts, you’re going to get some home runs and you’re going to get some average defense.

Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?

 They’ve got a few of them here. You can go with Jordan Hicks because he throws 105 mph. And if Martinez is healthy, he’s pretty electric, too.

Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?

Yadier Molina and Carpenter. Carpenter’s a smart player. He does the little things on the basepaths. Paul Goldschmidt is in the conversation, too.

Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?

 Marcell Ozuna. Now, Goldschmidt can do it, too, but when he wants to, Ozuna can play with the upper deck all day long. Plus he’s got incredible bat speed and can put it all over the park.

Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for?

 There’s probably more than two. I would take Goldschmidt and I’d probably throw Flaherty in there, too. He’s a sleeper and he’s a guy who’s going to win.

Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?

Carpenter is the guy I’d want, though they’ve got a couple guys you could choose from, Goldschmidt included.

Who don’t you want in that situation?

Probably Gyorko of the group that’s going to play every day. I wouldn’t want Cecil either.

Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?

 Tyler O’Neill is having a great spring, though I don’t know if he’s really under-the-radar. Harrison Bader isn’t under the radar anymore.

Is the current manager one that you would hire to run your club?

 I don’t know, only because he has only done a half-season. I don’t know his X’s and O’s, I don’t know how the players play for him throughout the course of a full season. I don’t think he’s been there long enough to have an opinion. Not to kill him already, but if I’m a GM, he’s probably not my first choice.

What is the ceiling for the team this year? What about the next three years?

 This year, if the pitching stays healthy, they can hang in there, they’ll be right in the mix. Three years down the road the big keys are going to be the long-term health of the team and Reyes and Martinez. Some of their position guys are getting older.

Emptying the notebook:

Andrew Miller has looked good. The velocity was close to the same, he threw a lot of sliders. He looked healthy, but it’s just one inning. His velocity was 93-95, and that’s where he’s going to pitch at. It looks like his delivery’s a little bit more condensed, so that might help him stay healthy. He’s thrown a lot of stressful innings over the last few years. … I don’t think Miles Mikolas will repeat what he did [last season]. They paid him like he will, though. He’s done a great job of transitioning himself into a pitcher. I saw him when was in Double-A, and he couldn’t throw strikes. I saw him in San Diego, he couldn’t throw strikes. He goes to Japan, and they do something right over there. Now he’s a strike-throwing machine on both sides of the plate. … They’ll do a little bit of everything with José Martínez. They’ll play him in the outfield and at first. He’s a pretty good, versatile player. … I think Paul DeJong is a better fit for the bottom half of the order. He’s got a middle of the road average with some home runs and he can go out there and play solid defense. You can always move him to second or third depending on what happens down the road. … The Cardinals have always played the game the right way. That’s what always keeps them in the hunt. They’ve always been a fundamentally sound team. They’ve always won games because they do the little things, but their defense wasn’t nearly as solid as it’s been in the past.

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