2014 Record – 90-72, 1st NL Central
Jason Heyward, Mark Reynolds
Oscar Taveras (R.I.P.), Justin Masterson, Pat Neshek, Shelby Miller
Projected 2015 Lineup
- RF Jason Heyward
- 3B Matt Carpenter
- LF Matt Holliday
- 1B Matt Adams
- C Yadier Molina
- SS Jhonny Peralta
- CF Jon Jay
- 2B Kolten Wong
Projected 2015 Starters
- Adam Wainwright
- Lance Lynn
- Michael Wacha
- John Lackey
- Carlos Martinez
Unfortunately, this team and the baseball world lost one of the best prospects in the game in a tragic car wreck. There clearly is plenty more to think about with the loss of Oscar Taveras’s death, but from a cold, on-field perspective, the Cardinals acquired a good replacement in Jason Heyward.
After finishing 2014 with 90 wins, St. Louis is still in the driver’s seat in the NL Central. It isn’t as secure as it has been in recent seasons, but the Cardinals are the best on paper and tend to find a way to the top of the division by the end of September. When it comes to this division, the Cardinals are champions until proven otherwise. On paper, the upstart Cubs are certainly a reason, but they aren’t any better than this Cardinals team, they’re just competitive with them.
X-Factor – Carlos Martinez
Ah, the ever-interesting, diminutive (for a professional athlete) starter that has top-end reliever written all over him. The thing is, these types of guys have so much talent, you want to be PROVEN wrong before wasting them away in the bullpen. Guys like Yordano Ventura, Sonny Gray, and in the recent past, Tim Lincecum. In 2014, Martinez only started seven games and pitched 89 innings to the tune of a 4.03 ERA and a 91 ERA+ (9% worse than average).
If Martinez can take his first major step forward as a starting pitcher in the bigs, then this team will be better capable of handling the loss of Shelby Miller to gain Heyward. Not to mention having a starter that has some of the most electric stuff in baseball.
Most To Prove – Jason Heyward
What is he? Some thought he might be one of the next great power hitters. A power/speed combo guy. A .300+ hitter. A defensive maven. So, what is he? All and none of these things. He’s a five-tool athlete that worked. None of the tools seems to be out of this world, but all of them help make him a 4-6 WAR player most years according to Baseball-Reference.
Last year may have been inflated a bit by some outstanding defensive stat totals. While he may have had that good of a season in the field, I get a little scared off by outliers on both side of defensive statistics. Should he have the most to prove? Probably not. But on a new team and an impending free agent, Heyward has the most to gain, or lose, from proving it to everyone this year that may underappreciate him.
2015 Impact Prospect – Marco Gonzalez – LHP
I’m a sucker for a good changeup. I love to watch hitters try to wait on it and then swing early and, if it’s a good changeup, over the top of the pitch. Well Gonzalez might have the best changeup in the minors and got his cup of coffee in 2014. He only pitched 34.2 innings and had mixed results allowing 32 hits and 21 walks, but also striking out 31 batters.
Gonzalez will likely start the season either in the minors or in the bullpen, but if this team’s x-factor, Carlos Martinez, doesn’t put it together, or in the eventuality of a pitcher injury, this should be the first call up or swing man to get the next available start.
Why They’re Worth Watching
They’re a perennial NL contender and have been lording over the NL Central for just two years, even though it has felt much much longer. Over the top fans aside, this is one of the single best run franchises in all of American sports. I don’t know how else to say…they’re just worth watching.
It’s formulaic at this point,but the hitters hit and the pitchers pitch. This team doesn’t seem to have 100 win potential, but few teams do on paper. I think their best case is closely in line with their likely record. 91-71
If Heyward has a poor transition to St. Louis and a rough contract year, this team will have to make up for that offense. They’re another year older and have lost Shelby Miller. This is an unproven in some spots and deteriorating in other spots rotation, boom or bust. If it busts, they’ll struggle to stay around .500. 81-81