2013 Cardinals Season Preview
By TIM WEBER
The St. Louis Cardinals entered 2012 having endured a painful offseason that included the loss of a future Hall of Fame first baseman, manager and pitching coach – and they responded by coming within one win of a second consecutive World Series appearance. By contrast this offseason seemed relatively quiet, up until about a month ago when some key injuries to veterans threatened to derail the best laid plans of Redbird management.
By most accounts, the Cardinals organization boasts one of the premier farm systems in baseball and 2013 may be the season when those long-term assets become near-term necessities.
The Cincinnati Reds remain the strongest competition in the National League Central, with the Cubs and Brewers still rebuilding. The Houston Astros have transitioned to the American League, so 10 guaranteed wins a season have to be scratched off the Cardinals schedule as well.
Overall, the Cardinals are poised to contend for a division title again and seem to be a lock on paper for a wild card berth at least. They may have the most formidable offense in the National League, but are going to have to rely on some young guns to continue their streak of going deep into the postseason.
The Cardinals were so confident in their roster and farm system strength that their only significant free agent acquisition was left-handed reliever Randy Choate. While certainly not a flashy acquisition, Choate shored up the only glaring weakness the Cardinals had that they did not have an internal solution for. Choate is a quality lefty specialist, and his real impact is that he instantly makes incumbent lefty Mark Rzepczynski more effective.
Other additions include journeymen infielders Ty Wigginton and Ronny Cedeno.
Wigginton is a bit of head scratcher as it seems his best days are behind him. He does add a bit of right-handed power off the bench and is a serviceable corner infielder.
Cedeno is a decent glove in the middle infield, but has never hit very much at all. He was signed as an insurance policy and given the recent Rafael Furcal news, the Cardinals are going to need to cash in that policy.
Officially the Cardinals need to mark Lance Berkman down as a departure for this year, but in reality the affable veteran was a non-factor already in 2012.
Hometown favorite Skip Schumaker has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a bag of baseballs and a minor league shortstop. In the coaching ranks, Mark McGwire, also left for the Dodgers.
The Cardinals are also struggling to replace Kyle Lohse in the starting rotation.
The most critical departures to hit the Cardinals came in the form of season-ending injuries to Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal. Both veterans failed to recover from issues that plagued them last season, and this potentially could end both of their careers.
Furcal is undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair a ligament in his throwing arm. The result of this is that former No. 1 pick Pete Kozma is now projected as the starting shortstop. Kozma has been consistently disappointing in the minors, but did flash some of his potential at the end of 2012.
Carp never recovered from the nerve damage that plagued him last season and is mulling retirement. The effect of this injury is two-fold. First, it opens up a spot for one of the Cardinals’ young pitchers in the rotation. Second, and of more concern, is that it places increased importance on the return of Jaime Garcia to the rotation. Garcia has great stuff, but some question his durability and mental makeup.
The most intriguing position battle of the new year will be for the fifth starter spot in the pitching rotation. It looks like the battle is between Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller, both of whom were impressive in 2012. Miller has more upside than Kelly, but is a bit younger and may be sent down to Memphis for contractual reasons.
The final spot in the bullpen is also up for grabs, and is shaping up as a battle between Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez and possibly Joe Kelly if he does not secure a spot in the rotation.
Second base, as always for the Redbirds, is another interesting battle. Matt Carpenter, who impressed with his bat last year as a role player, is being given the opportunity to compete for the second base gig against incumbent Daniel Descalso.
Beyond needing the contribution of some younger players, the Cardinals will need to see their core veterans enjoy continued success.
Yadier Molina enjoyed a breakout 2012 season, and is now viewed as the best all around catcher in baseball. Matt Holliday seems to be perennially underappreciated by Redbird nation, but every year puts up strong, consistent numbers. Carlos Beltran needs to stay healthy and would benefit from being less streaky than he was last year.
For the pitching staff, Adam Wainwright assumes the role of staff ace following the injury to Chris Carpenter. Wainwright got stronger as the year progressed last year and is poised to resume total dominance in 2013.
Jason Motte did an outstanding job in his first full season as the Redbirds closer, but has had a shaky spring thus far.
Jake Westbrook is a consistent middle rotation starter who needs to continue to eat up a bunch of innings this year.
2013 Individual Projections
Adam Wainwright (P): 18 wins, 3.00 ERA
Jaime Garcia (P): 10 wins, 4.00 ERA
Jake Westbrook (P): 14 wins, 4.25 ERA
Lance Lynn (P): 16 wins, 4.00 ERA
Shelby Miller (P): 10 wins, 3.25 ERA
Jason Motte (P): 25 saves, 2.50 ERA
Edward Mujica (P): 3.00 ERA
Mark Rzepczynski (P): 4.00 ERA
Randy Choate (P): 2.50 ERA
Mitchell Boggs (P): 2.00 ERA
Fernando Salas (P): 4.50 ERA
Trevor Rosenthal (P): 2.50 ERA
Yadier Molina (C): .280, 15 HRs, 75 RBI
Allen Craig (1B): .280, 25 HRs, 90 RBI
David Freese (3B): .260, 15 HRs, 75 RBI
Daniel Descalso (2B): .240, 5 HRs, 40 RBI
Pete Kozma (SS): .250, 10 HRs, 40 RBI
Matt Holliday (LF): .320, 28 HRs, 100 RBI
Carlos Beltran (RF): .280, 25 HRs, 85 RBI
Jon Jay (LF): .290, 10 HRs, 40 RBI
Bench: Matt Carpenter, Ronny Cedeno,
Shane Robinson,Ty Wigginton and