The 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals were unable to repeat that same success in 2012, but they did manage to have a great season without Albert Pujols in the lineup for the first time in a long time.
That transition went about as smoothly as possible with the team managing to win 88 games and sneak into the second wild card spot. They then beat the Atlanta Braves in what was essentially a play-in game.
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After advancing to the National League Division Series, they rallied in game five to eliminate the Washington Nationals, before facing the San Francisco Giants in what become a great NLCS series. With the Cardinals up three games to one, poised to return to the World Series for a second straight year, the Giants stormed back to win in seven games.
Despite the heartbreaking finish, the St. Louis Cardinals had a great season.
They remained quiet during the offseason and decided to stand pat with what they have. We’ll see if that will come back to hurt them, or if some of the young players will mature quickly, helping the St. Louis Cardinals return to the postseason.
St. Louis Cardinals position players
As I said, not much has changed with this lineup from the previous season. Their starting lineup from game seven of the NLCS could very well be the exact same starting lineup for the 2013 opening day.
Pete Kozma will have to step up at shortstop this year with Rafael Furcal out for the season. The Cardinals hope to get a full year from Allen Craig at first base. Other than that, this offense is still stacked with guys like Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and David Freese. This lineup finished second in the National League in runs and average last year, and I don’t expect that to change much in 2013.
St. Louis Cardinals pitching
Pitching is where things get a bit shaky for the Cardinals. Losing Kyle Lohse to free agency (possibly, he’s still a free agent as of March 22) and Chris Carpenter to injury, the St. Louis Cardinals are hoping some of their young prospects can fill the void.
Adam Wainwright will most definitely lead this rotation, although he is not far removed from surgery himself and has yet to really prove he’s the ace he was before the surgery. Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn will likely grab two more spots.
A lot will depend on how well Jamie Garcia comes back from injury. If he can get back to being a number-three starter this team suddenly looks a lot better.
The battle for the fifth spot is between 22-year-old Shelby Miller and 24-year-old Joe Kelly. Both pitchers’ numbers have been identical through 11 spring innings, except for Miller has a much higher strikeout total.
The Cardinals pitching staff could take a big jump back this year, and there are a lot of uncertainties. It’s clear the offense leads this team, but the pitching will need to step up if they’re going to have a shot at the division and the playoffs.
St. Louis Cardinals opening day lineup
- Jon Jay CF
- Matt Carpenter 2B
- Matt Holliday LF
- Carlos Beltran RF
- Yadier Molina C
- Allen Craig 1B
- David Freese 3B
- Pete Kozma SS
St. Louis Cardinals prospect watch
This one is pretty easy. The Cardinals have one of the best farm systems in baseball, and they also hold one of the top prospects in all of baseball in Oscar Taveras. The 21-year-old outfielder has registered over 1,200 at-bats in the minor leagues compiling a .321 average with 40 home runs — 23 alone in 2012.
He finished the 2012 season in double-A and was invited to spring training, where he has 16 hits in 58 at-bats. The Cardinals clearly want to take a good, long look at this kid to see if he’s major-league ready. The corner outfield spots are secure with the big-league club, but Taveras can play center. If an injury occurs during the season, don’t be surprised if this kid is brought up.
I don’t believe this pitching staff is good enough to keep up with the Cincinnati Reds. I believe they’re a safe lock to finish second in the National League Central; although the Milwaukee Brewers could be clipping at their heels.
Despite the struggles with their pitching, I’d be surprised if their great offense didn’t help them win at least 85 games. I don’t know if that’s enough to get them a wild card spot, but the St. Louis Cardinals will definitely be in contention at the end.