The St. Louis Cardinals are aiming to reach their fourth consecutive NLCS in 2014, and after two appearances in the Fall Classic over the past three seasons, the Red Birds are staring down the barrel of a modern-day MLB dynasty.
Now, it is pretty tough to encompass the 2011 Cardinals season within any proposed dynasty, being that it was led by a different manager in Tony LaRussa, but the past two years has seen them total 185 wins (tied for second in the NL) as well as 15 wins in the postseason, which leads MLB.
There are a whole host of numbers that can be quoted to convince you of the fact the Cardinals are due for another run in 2014, but if you watched any World Series coverage, you will have seen them.
Whether it is Matt Carpenter‘s hot bat, Adam Wainwright‘s arm, or Yadier Molina just being Yadier Molina, the Cardinals are a force. The weaknesses in the Cardinals’ lineup are nearly completely covered by their rising prospects. There is the possibility that Carpenter, who came up through the minors as a 3B, could return there to replace David Freese, whose bat failed him this year.
In at 2B could be Kolten Wong, the highly-rated middle infielder who is perhaps most famed now for being picked off to end a bizarre Game 4 in the 2013 World Series. Despite that, Wong is a talent who hit .303/.369/.466 with the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in Memphis this season while also seeing 59 plate appearances in the majors.
That said, he is not the highest rated St. Louis offensive prospect. The Redbirds boast Oscar Taveres, the 21-year-old Dominican outfielder who, by Baseball America, was ranked as the third best prospect in all of baseball only nine months ago. He seems to be a natural replacement for Carlos Beltran, should the slugger leave the Gateway City via free agency this offseason.
In fact, the Cardinals have a couple of options out in right field, with Allen Craig being mulled over as the guy the fill the spot in 2014, leaving first bag open for fan favorite Matt Adams.
Those options demonstrate the strength in depth this organisation has built under GM John Mozeliak, and that is just in the lineup. Carlos Martinez, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly and Seth Maness all made their mark from the mound in 2013, but it was one rookie that came out of the season with the most plaudits.
On September 24, Michael Wacha took to the mound at Busch Stadium preparing for his eighth start. eight innings later, he walked out to raucous applause, knowing he was three Washington National outs away from a no-no. Sadly for the new star, he was to lose that honor on the last strike of the last out, but his name was on the lips of every fan and reporter across the league. He will likely make up part of a solid rotation that will once again be topped by Adam Wainwright.
At this point, if you are a Cardinals fan, you should be salivating. If you are a fan of any rival of the Cardinals, you should be worried.
The Cincinnati Reds will feel as though they missed out on a great opportunity in 2013 despite the injury issues that ace starter Johnny Cueto suffered. Their lineup was strong, and Joey Votto continued to show why he is considered a star in MLB. Meanwhile in the Steel City, the Pittsburgh Pirates will still remain bitter about their NLDS Game 5 loss to St. Louis. They will return the core of their strong unit headed by Andrew McCutchen.
It’s safe to say that the NL Central is one to watch in 2014.
The one big weakness in the St. Louis lineup appears to be at shortstop, but if the Cardinals should focus on replacing Pete Kozma as the everyday starter, they may well look at one of the players mentioned in this list of five guys who may be a Cardinals player in 2014. Could an All-Star be on his way to Busch?
There is a lot of offseason to pass us by before we preview the new MLB season, and theoretically, we are five months from any meaningful Power Rankings being published. But if you don’t see the St. Louis Cardinals in the top tier of those, then something has gone awry.