5 Questions St. Louis Cardinals Must Answer During Spring Training
Spring Training Questions for the St. Louis Cardinals to Answer
Coming off a National League Championship a year ago, the St. Louis Cardinals are poised to be one of the best teams in baseball again. General manager John Mozeliak continues to draft and develop young pitchers that keep them atop the rest of the NL Central. Churning out strong, electric arms each year not only makes it tough on the division, but it ensures St. Louis is a threat to the league every season.
When it comes to the offense, the Cardinals have also been effective in sliding around young players and veterans into positions of need. When they decide to let an aging player move on, a near-equal almost always appears ready to take his spot.
This season, the Cardinals are at it again. After getting some productive years out of Carlos Beltran, he left to sign with the New York Yankees. Into his spot moves Allen Craig, a career .306 hitter with an .850 OPS in four seasons. While shoddy in the outfield, if he stays healthy, (and that’s a big if) his bat is just as dangerous.
They also felt David Freese was past his peak, so they dealt him to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and slid Matt Carpenter over to the hot corner. They could do this because youngster Kolten Wong was deemed capable of taking over at second. However, just in case, the Cards covered themselves by adding veteran Mark Ellis to the fray.
As well positioned as St. Louis is, there are always questions to be answered during spring training. Sometimes it's a matter of how well a player adjusts to being an everyday player, while other seasons it's deciding who your best five starting pitchers will be. Both of those are relevant to the Cardinals in 2014.
5. Will Jason Motte Be Effective in His New Role?
Reliever Jason Motte, who led the NL in saves in 2012, comes back from elbow surgery that cost him all of 2013. He'll be behind in his regular throwing schedule in spring, but still believes he'll be ready. Getting past the mental hurdle of the injury is part of the battle, as is recovering his form and effectiveness. Even if he is ready to go, his overall impact in the seventh or eighth inning is a question mark.
4. Can Matt Adams Be a True, Everyday First Baseman?
No one doubts Matt Adams' raw power and hitting ability, but some question how good he will be over the course of an entire season. First base is his for now, so he needs to hit lefties or end up in a platoon. In very limited MLB plate appearances (73) against southpaws, Adams owns a .208 average and ugly .594 OPS. Supporters believe experience will help, while detractors think he should stick to only facing right-handed pitchers.
3. Will Peter Bourjos Be the Starting Center Fielder?
Acquired in a trade, Peter Bourjos is a terrific center fielder. His offensive skills, outside of stealing bases, are below-average, but he makes up for it on defense. If the Cardinals are truly committed to improving their outfield defense, he's hands down the choice over Jon Jay. The biggest threat could be hot prospect, Oscar Taveras. If Taveras shows he's ready for the big stage, they may be quick to install him in center, especially if Bourjos struggles to get on base.
2. Is Mark Ellis a Better Fit at Second Base Over Kolten Wong?
It would be unfair to judge Kolten Wong on his 62 plate appearances last season and subsequent .153 average. At the same time, with a team that is ready for a World Series, a consistent veteran like Mark Ellis is extremely valuable. Wong has the inside track, but it may not take much for Ellis to step in. Ellis won't be great at anything, he'll just do everything well.
1. Which Pitcher Won't Be in the Rotation?
The Cardinals have the greatest problem every team wants: too much pitching. Adam Wainwright is a lock. Assuming Jamie Garcia is healthy, he'll be in the rotation and Michael Wacha has earned his spot as well. That leaves Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller as favorites for the final two spots. Some in the organization got down on Miller at the end of last year, but he has the highest ceiling. If they all come up short or get hurt, St. Louis has even more arms to fill in effectively.
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