Predicting the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup
St. Louis Cardinals' 2014 Opening Day Lineup Prediction
For fans of most teams, losing the World Series in six games would probably be good enough. For the St. Louis Cardinals, however, their fans expect more. The proud MLB franchise is the owner of 11 World Series titles, and they are surely going to win several more. With the roster they currently have, it wouldn't be a surprise if they win one or two in the next five seasons.
The Cardinals' offense was outstanding in 2013, with everyone in their lineup contributing on a consistent basis other than weak-hitting shortstop Pete Kozma. Even in his mid-30s, Carlos Beltran was still able to produce at an extremely high level. Defensive-minded catcher Yadier Molina had one of his best seasons at the plate. Even little-known first baseman Matt Adams broke onto the scene with a huge power season.
Despite being the best team in the National League last season, the team did still have a few weaknesses. Small weaknesses, of course, but weaknesses nonetheless. For instance, even though Kozma was terrible at the plate, he was very good defensively. He saved eight runs on defense and had a 6.7 UZR for the Cards. Even though he didn't help on offense, he still contributed on defense. To make up for that slight disadvantage from the shortstop position, the Cardinals signed the best free agent on the shortstop market, Jhonny Peralta.
Centerfield was a bit on an issue for the Cardinals in 2013, with Jon Jay struggling mightily down the stretch on defense. He was actually slightly better than average at the plate for the Cardinals, but they clearly needed to find a defensive upgrade. In true Cardinals' fashion, they found a great upgrade. The team traded under-performing third baseman David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels for one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball, Peter Bourjos.
Even though the Cardinals didn't make a ton of moves this offseason, they certainly got a lot better. They were a team with very few weaknesses, and all of their weaknesses were fixed. A great team in 2013, the Cardinals managed to get to the World Series. With how complete the team will be in 2014, there is no reason to believe they can't finish the job this time.
1. Third Baseman Matt Carpenter
There wasn't a better second baseman in baseball last year than Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter. Carpenter became a true breakout star in 2013, hitting .318/.392/.481 with a 147 wRC+. Despite being very average defensively, Carpenter managed a 7.0 fWAR in 2013.
2. Center Fielder Peter Bourjos
As I already mentioned, the Cardinals traded for Bourjos over the offseason. Bourjos only appeared in 55 games for the Angels in 2013, but he provided plus-defense and offense in his little time on the field. He hit .274/.333/.377 with a 103 wRC+. He has nice speed and good instincts on defense. Bourjos is certainly an upgrade over Jay in the outfield.
3. Left Fielder Matt Holliday
For some reason, Matt Holliday continues to be one of the most underrated hitters in baseball. On defense, he is, to put in nicely, less than stellar in left field. In 2013, Holliday put up numbers that prove he should still be one of the most feared hitters in the NL, hitting .300/.389/.490 with a 148 wRC+.
4. Right Fielder Allen Craig
Like most of the Cardinals last season, Allen Craig was unsustainably good with runners in scoring position in 2013, leading to 97 RBIs in just 563 plate appearances. On a stacked team, Craig was one of the best hitters on the Cardinals, hitting .315/.373/.457 with a 135 wRC+.
5. First Baseman Matt Adams
When given the opportunity, Adams absolutely crushed opposing pitchers. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it took a Craig injury to force Adams into the lineup. Adams quickly made Cards fans forget about Craig though, hitting 17 home runs in only 319 plate appearances. He hit .284/.335/.503 with a 136 wRC+ in just 108 games.
6. Catcher Yadier Molina
Remember when Yadier Molina used to be a primarily defensive catcher? Yeah, me neither. It's been three seasons since the last time Molina had a wRC+ of less than 100. In 2013, Molina hit .319/.359/.477 with a wRC+ of 134. To go along with his outstanding offense, Molina is still a stud behind the plate, proving to still be one of the best defensive catchers in the game. Thanks to his all-around efforts in 2013, Molina compiled a 5.6 fWAR.
7. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta
Even with the PED suspension in 2013, the fact that I could include Peralta as the seventh hitter in this lineup just shows how scary the Cardinals could be in 2014. Before his suspension, Peralta was hitting .303/.358/.457 with a 123 wRC+ in 448 plate appearances. Despite the idea that Peralta isn't a good defensive shortstop, he actually was decent with his glove in 2013.
8. Second Baseman Kolten Wong
Shield your eyes, Cardinals fans! There is a hitter in your lineup that isn't a great offensive player. It's true, Kolten Wong hit just .153/.194/.169 with an atrocious -1 wRC+ (100 is average) in 2013. However, he received just 62 plate appearances at the MLB level last season. He has a track record of hitting very well in the minor leagues, so expect his numbers to increase by a lot in 2014. Wong's arrival will likely move Carpenter to third base.
9. Right Handed Pitcher Adam Wainwright
One of the best pitchers in baseball, Adam Wainwright is actually one of the better hitting pitchers as well. In 81 plate appearances last season, the Cardinals' ace hit .211/.208/.268. Believe it or not, that was actually a down year for Wainwright; he is a career .205/.232/.301 hitter.