John Supowitz | March 18th, 2020
The reigning National League Central Champions will try to win back-to-back divisions since the 2014-15 seasons. There have not been many turnovers going into this season; the biggest change is losing outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who had 52 home runs and 177 RBI in his two seasons with St. Louis.
The big questions will be the pitching staff. There are some injuries, and some key players will miss significant time, who will step up and replace them?
Make sure to check out our other Team Previews here.
The Cardinals’ infield will not have any competition and will remain intact from the 2019 season. Holding it down behind the plate for his 17th season will be Molina. Matt Wieters will likely serve as his backup, but the number four prospect Andrew Knizner could be someone to look out for later this year. Goldschmidt had a solid first year in St. Louis and will continue to bring his Gold Glove quality play to first base. Kolten Wong had a stellar 2019 with a career-best in OBP and SLG and his first Gold Glove at second. To Wong’s right, Dejong had a career-best 30 home runs last year and made his first all-star team. Carpenter is coming off a rough year where he batted a career-low .223, he’ll look to bounce for the Cards at the hot corner.
With Marcell Ozuna signing with Braves in the offseason, there’s an open spot in the outfield. Tyler O’Neill has the big league experience by appearing in 121 games over the last two seasons, but Dylan Carlson had the more impressive spring.
Flaherty was the best on that staff, finishing fourth in the National League Cy Young race. Hudson was also great in his first year moving into the rotation with 16 wins an 3.35 ERA. Long time Cardinal Wainwright signed a one-year deal in the hope to make a run at one more title before calling it a career. Mikolas had a down year in 2019 with 14 losses and 4.16 ERA, to make matters worse, he will start the season on the IL, the question is, who gets his spot? Carlos Martinez has had ups and downs throughout his Cardinals career, just last year he had a problem with shoulder weakness leading him to be demoted to the bullpen, but came to spring training in better shape and has earned himself some consideration. Daniel Ponce de Leon is another player that started for the red birds last year and has a shot, he’s been lights out with 0.83 ERA this spring.
The Cardinals begin the season with a question, who’s the closer? Carlos Martinez was their saves leader last year with 24, but he has an opportunity to be in the rotation, and Jordan Hicks was second with 14, but he will miss most of the season as he recovers from Tommy John. They have plenty of options for the role; although he was a closer in his time with Yankees, Andrew Miller did not have a good 2019 and had a 9.00 ERA this spring. Giovanny Gallegos seems to be leading candidate thanks to his 2.31 ERA in 2019 (lowest amongst Cardinal relievers) and 11.3 K’s per 9. Ryan Helsley will also have an opportunity after an impressive rookie campaign. With some of last year’s relievers looking to be starters, this will give others an opportunity in the bullpen. John Brebbia, Tyler Webb John Gant will return for 2020. Brett Cecil‘s will look to come back to the mound in 2020 as he missed all of last year with carpal tunnel issues. Kwang-Hyun Kim signed with the Cardinals after spending the last 12 seasons in the Korean Baseball League. He’s been impressive in his first spring will 11 strikeouts in eight innings. A couple of young guys may have their opportunity to shine; Alex Reyes is a former Cardinals’ number one prospect who’s been plagued by injuries his whole career, will try to make his mark.
Players to watch
Andrew Knizner – Molina is in the last year of his current contract. There hasn’t been any talk of what the future holds for him after this season, but he will turn 38 this season. The Cardinals are one of the most exemplary franchises in baseball and may let me go on his own time, but it’s also a business. He may very well play beyond this year, but he’s closer than not to retirement. Matt Wieters is not the future of this team.St. Louis traded Carson Kelly a couple of years ago because they believe in Knizner. He will get opportunities to prove he can step in and try to fill the shin guards of one of the greatest Cardinals of all time.
Kodi Whitley – Whitley is someone you may not know about yet, but by the end of 2020, you will. If some bullpen guys move into the rotation, Whitley should have an opportunity to pitch in relief in the big club. In 2019, he moved through the system ending in Triple-A Memphis where he had a 1.52 ERA. He has a hard fastball mixed with that sharp slider he will rack up the K’s. Look for him to be an important piece in that bullpen this year.
Prediction – The NL Central was a competitive division last year. The Cardinals did not lock up that division until the end. The Brewers are still poised to compete, it’ll be interesting to see what new Cubs manager David Ross will do in his first coaching opportunity, while Cinncinati struggled to start the season, they improved as the season progressed.St. Louis is still one of the more balanced teams in the division; they have one of the best lineups, rotations, and bullpens. 2020: Prediction 93-69 1st in NL
Questions and comments?
Follow Us on Twitter @thescorecrow
Follow Us on Reddit at u/TheScorecrow
Follow Us on Facebook at The Scorecrow
Follow Us on Instagram at The Scorecrow
Facebook Group where you can read and post articles at The Scorecrow
Reddit Group where everyone can post without fear of being banned at The Scorecrow
Follow John Supowitz on Twitter @Imthatsupi85
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images