While this week is all about love, candy hearts, and overpriced flowers; for me this week is about the return of baseball. Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby once said “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring”. I tend to fall right in line with The Rajah. In St. Louis baseball is religion and never really quite goes away. However nothing quite warms the heart like these four words “Pitchers and Catchers Report”.
This year the 2017 Cardinals are looking to find their way back into the playoffs. After missing the postseason for the first time since 2010, the Cardinals look to find their way back in the “tournament”. As a Cardinals fan I won’t hand the Cubs the division title just yet – it does however look like the Cardinals best chance at advancing will be earning one of two wildcard spots. This years team will look quite different than last year’s version.
General Manager John Mozeliak has opted to cut some of the power (Hazelbaker, Holiday,& Moss hit more than 25% of the teams bombs in 2016) and looks to field a more athletic team that’s better defensively. New addition Dexter Fowler looks to help the Cardinals in a number of ways by filling an outfield vacancy, being a leadoff hitter (moves Carpenter into a middle of order spot), and helping the outfield defense while moving Randal Grichuk into LF. Third base seems to be the only real battle of spring training pitting Jhonny Peralta against Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko who led the team with 30 HR last year might be better suited at being the super utility guy if almost 35 year old Peralta can stay healthy and turn back the clock to 2015 after a disappointing injury riddled season last year.
Carlos Martinez and his new contract should be the ace of the pitching staff. Lots of question marks round out the staff with Lance Lynn coming back from an injury, Adam Wainwright & Mike Leake coming off disappointing seasons, and Michael Wacha seeing if his shoulder can hold up for a starter’s workload. Young stud Alex Reyes is one of the best pitchers on the team, however the Cardinals may look to limit his innings by starting him in the bullpen. However with news coming out today about Reyes having an MRI on his pitching elbow that brings his immediate availability into major concern. With a potential loss of Reyes for the season it makes Luke Weaver even more valuable than what he was a week ago (organizational depth). I was torn on whether I wanted to see Reyes as a starter or reliever. I just hope we get to see him sometime in 2017. Will “Trevor Rosenthal for Starter” be something that now grows legs? Will the Cardinals look to sign a veteran starter? Over the next few weeks this cloudy situation should come into focus. The bullpen welcomes new face Brett Cecil as the team’s main addition to offset the loss of Zach Duke (offseason arm surgery) to be another lefty along with Kevin Siegrist. Seung-hwan Oh will be the Cardinals closer again as he returns in the last year of his contract. Rounding out the bullpen should be Matt Bowman, Jonathan Broxton, Wacha/Reyes, and Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal, who is being stretched out for use as a possible multi inning reliever after he rescued the Cardinals on the last Saturday of last season (3IP 2H 4K).
I feel like the key to the Cardinals season will be their starting rotation. If Adam Wainwright can bounce back from last years disappointing year along with having better luck (his BAbip, batting average on balls in play, was .334 when league average is around .300), Stephen Piscotty can put 2 halves together (batted .295 in the first half and just .247 in the second half), and the Cardinals can stay healthy (Injured Cardinals spent 1,411 combined days on the D.L. last year) I like their chances at competing for the division along with being one of two N.L. wildcard teams.