Posted on March 8, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
For the St. Louis Cardinals, two seasons without a postseason appearance is a long time. As a result, they were serious about making moves this offseason. But will those moves be enough to get St. Louis back to the playoffs in one of the toughest divisions in baseball?
The Cardinals had one of the best starting rotations in the National League last season, but they face some questions heading into the season. It starts with Carlos Martinez. If healthy, he would be the team’s ace. But after being forced to finish last season in the bullpen, Martinez is dealing with shoulder issues again this spring. If he’s not healthy, the Cardinals could be in trouble given the state of their rotation elsewhere.
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The Cardinals can’t be sure what they’ll get out of 37-year old Adam Wainwright, who was limited to just eight starts last year. Michael Wacha also had an injury-plagued 2018 season that limited him to 15 starts. Also, top-prospect Alex Reyes had season-ending surgery last summer and isn’t a guarantee to come back fully healthy at the start of the season.
The silver lining for St. Louis is that Miles Mikolas far exceeded expectations last year, posting a 2.83 ERA over 32 starts. Jack Flaherty also had a breakthrough season, going 8-9 with a 3.34 ERA across 28 starts. However, if Martinez, Wainwright, Wacha, and Reyes can’t be relied upon because of their health, the Cardinals will need Mikolas and Flaherty to carry them, which could be asking a lot.
While the St. Louis rotation was strong in 2018, the bullpen was problematic at times. The Cards can only hope they did enough to address that part of their roster over the winter. The club signed Andrew Miller over the winter, but his health and performance were called into question last season, so time will only tell if he can regain the form he had a couple of years ago. St. Louis is also hoping that 22-year-old Jordan Hicks can take hold of the closer’s job and keep Miller in a set-up role
Even if Miller and Hicks perform at a high level, the rest of the St. Louis bullpen has some questions to answer. The Cardinals are hopeful that veterans Brett Cecil and Dominic Leone can bounce back after subpar 2018 seasons. Those two could be vital to the team’s success this season. The Cards also need John Brebbia and youngster Dakota Hudson to repeat their strong performances from 2018. If everything breaks well, the St. Louis bullpen should be middle-of-the-pack, but there’s also a lot that could go wrong.
In hopes of giving their lineup a boost, the Cardinals made a major acquisition this winter by trading for first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. He is one of the most impactful first basemen in baseball on both sides of the ball and will immediately change the look of the St. Louis lineup. He and Matt Carpenter, who will be the everyday third baseman, could be a potent tandem in the middle of the St. Louis lineup.
Alas, nearly every other member of the St. Louis lineup has something to prove heading into 2019. Dexter Fowler is coming off a disastrous season and Marcell Ozuna is coming back from shoulder surgery. The Cardinals need both to play prominent roles this season. Meanwhile, Paul DeJong took a step back in 2018 after a sensational rookie season in 2017. Yadier Molina is also battling Father Time, and the Cards don’t have much depth behind him. St. Louis is also going to rely a lot on young outfielders Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill, although both boast plenty of promise.
If everything comes together for St. Louis, they have a chance to improve upon last year’s 88-74 record and be serious playoff contenders. However, there is some level of uncertainty everywhere on their roster heading into 2019. Odds are, not everything works out in their favor. Look for the Cardinals to finish 85-77 this season and fall short of a playoff spot for the third straight year.