By Nolan Silbernagel on March 12, 2014
The St. Louis Cardinals are coming off a season in which they owned the best regular season record in the National League and earned a trip to the World Series for the 19th time in team history. However, they fell short of their ultimate goal of winning the title by falling to the Red Sox in six games. Here are the players, some familiar and some new, who will try to bring championship number 12 to St. Louis.
Pat Neshek appeared in 45 games for the Cardinals last year and did a solid job out of the bullpen, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.35 ERA. He has been even better this preseason, as he has a 2.08 ERA so far in Spring Training and has struck out seven batters in only 4.1 innings. Expect him to appear in even more games in 2014.
Sam Freeman enters this roster with the least big league experience as he only appeared in 13 games for the Cardinals last year, but he did find success in the opportunity that was given to him as he posted a 2.19 ERA, and batters only had a .182 average against him. His numbers are not what he wants them to be in Spring Training, but if he can lower his 4.50 ERA to under 4.00, then he should make the Opening Day roster.
Kozma has gotten a good amount of at-bats so far in Spring Training and has posted five hits and three RBIs in only eight games. He appeared in 143 games last year for St. Louis, but that could be severely decreased this year with the arrival of fellow shortstop Jhonny Peralta. However, if he continues to perform well when given opportunities, then he should make the 25-man roster.
Randy Choate has only pitched 3.2 innings so far this Spring Training, but he has been masterful in them as he has not only allowed zero runs this preseason, but he has yet to surrender a hit as well. Choate put up great numbers in his first season as a Cardinal as he appeared in 64 games and posted an ERA of 2.29 and a WHIP of 1.05. Expect him to help out the bullpen again in 2014.
A catcher should not expect to see much playing time when he is on the same squad as Yadier Molina. Yet even the all-star catcher will need some days off and that is where Cruz will come in. He has struggled this preseason by only posting a .091 batting average in 11 at-bats, but he is seeing the second most action as a catcher and figures to be the Cardinals' backup once the regular season starts.
Jon Jay currently leads the Cardinals in at-bats with 21 despite struggling at the plate by only boasting a .143 average and hitting only one extra base hit(a double). However, St. Louis must like what they see in Jay since they keep giving him opportunities and add into the equation that he appeared in 157 games for the Cards last year makes him a virtual lock to make the Opening Day roster in 2014.
The young gun Kolten Wong is projected to be the starting second baseman for the Cardinals this year, but Mark Ellis provides as a valuable backup player to have at the position. He brings 11 years of experience to the position and should provide as a good mentor to Wong. HIm hitting .333 in 18 at-bats so far this Spring Training does not hurt his chances of making the roster either.
Siegrist has only pitched in two innings so far this preseason and has allowed zero runs during that time. That should come as no surprise as he was a dominant force from the bullpen in 2013 in which he went 3-1 in 45 games and posted a minuscule 0.45 ERA and struck out 50 batters in only 39.2 innings. Look for him to be an anchor again on this 2014 squad.
Descalso was a pretty familiar face for the Cardinals as he appeared in 123 games for them in 2013. Similar to Kozma, the Peralta signing will probably take away a fair amount of playing time from this shortstop, but he is still a valuable commodity to have on an Opening Day roster as seen in his .412 batting average so far in Spring Training.
Martinez has had one of the heaviest workloads on the Cardinals pitching staff so far in Spring Training as only Zach Petrick has pitched as many innings as him. He has done solid work so far with it as opponents only have a .150 batting average against him and he owns an extremely low WHIP of 0.67. He only appeared in 21 games in 2013 but expect him to see a lot more action this upcoming season.
With the departure of 2013 closer Edward Mujica, the Cardinals turn to Trevor Rosenthal to become the new guy to close out games. Rosenthal had an excellent season last year as he led the team in holds with 29 and showed off his amazing talent by striking out 108 batters in only 75.1 innings of work. Look to him to not only make the 25-man roster on Opening Day, but to be one of the key members of it.
Joe Kelly entered Spring Training as the projected sixth best starter for a very good St. Louis rotation. However, the preseason has not helped his cause as he has been slammed for seven runs and nine hits over only four innings of work so far this preseason. He went 10-5 with a 2.69 ERA in 2013 so he still has great value for this club, it just might not come right away from the rotation.
Bourjos possesses the talent to be a quality center fielder but did not see that much action while with the Los Angeles Angels because of their superstar center fielder in Mike Trout. Bourjos joins the Cardinals in 2014 as the expected starting center fielder for Opening Day and has done well so far in Spring Training, collecting four hits and three runs in only four games.
Jaime Garcia only got nine starts in 2013 but he won five of them while posting a solid ERA of 3.58. He has been a fairly consistent starter for St. Louis in the past few seasons but he enters 2014 with shoulder concerns. Even though surgery is not expected, it is definitely a concern of the Cardinals that they will monitor. If Garcia is healthy then he will round out the rotation for St. Louis.
Lance Lynn is another Cardinals starter who has struggled in the early going of Spring Training as he has allowed five runs and seven hits in only 3.1 innings. However, he is coming off a solid 2013 in which he went 15-10 and almost hit the 200 strikeout mark with 198. Even with a rocky preseason, his spot on the 25-man roster and in the rotation is pretty secure.
Matt Adams had a very productive 2013 as he slugged 17 homers, drove in 51 runs and posted a .284 average in only 108 games. St. Louis is relying on him to be a huge contributor at the first base position and he seems ready to go as he has a .350 average, a homer and five RBIs in 20 at-bats so far this Spring Training.
Michael Wacha was a very pleasant surprise for the Cardinals in 2013 as he went 4-1 in 15 games (nine starts) and struck out 65 batters in 64.2 innings while hitters only had a batting average of .219 against him. He is showing that was no fluke as he currently owns a 1.93 ERA in Spring Training and batters are only hitting .176 against him. Look out for a big year from this young pitcher.
Shelby Miller had a stellar first full season in the majors in 2013 as he went 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA and held opponents to a .234 batting average. Even though his ERA is 5.40 so far in Spring Training, he has struck out nine batters in only five innings so that could be a sign of big things to come in 2014. Not only will he make the 25-man roster but he will be a major pitcher in the five-man rotation.
Kolten Wong is expected to be the starting second baseman for the Cardinals on Opening Day despite only playing in 32 games for St. Louis in 2013. However the Cards are giving him plenty of looks in Spring Training as he is tied for second for most at-bats this Spring Training with 20 and already has a homer, two doubles and four RBIs this preseason.
Molina has established himself as one of the best catchers in the Majors as he finished third in the NL MVP voting last season and was the only player besides winner Andrew McCutchen to receive first place votes (he got two). He has become the heart of this St. Louis team and seems to have picked up right where he left off as he has seven hits in only 18 at-bats so far this Spring Training.
Peralta will make the Opening Day roster for the Cardinals but there will be some controversy to go along with it as he was suspended for PED use last year while still with the Detroit Tigers. He was having a career year by batting .303, 35 points higher than his career batting average. It will be interesting to see how he performs in 2014, but as St. Louis' big offseason pick up, he will definitely be starting at shortstop.
Matt Holiday has been one of the most consistently solid hitters in the Majors for the past eight seasons and it seems like he has no plans of slowing down as he has six RBIs in seven games in Spring Training so far and has eight hits in only 14 at-bats. Not only will he make the 25-man roster for Opening Day, but he might be the most important hitter in St. Louis' lineup.
Allen Craig has also been very solid for the Cardinals for the past two seasons as he has batted over .300 and has driven in over 90 RBIs in back-to-back years. He also has had a pretty productive preseason as he has seven hits, three of them doubles, and four RBIs in only 19 at-bats. Craig is a lock to not only make the Opening Day roster, but to be in the starting lineup as well.
Wainwright was the undisputed ace of the Cardinals staff in 2013 as he led the team in Wins, ERA and strikeouts. He needs to have a similar 2014 campaign if St. Louis wishes to make the World Series again. He has been pretty dominant in Spring Training , owning a 1.69 ERA while hitters only have a .167 average against him. He will definitely make the 25-man roster and do not be surprised to see him starting on Opening Day as well.
No one in the NL had more hits than Carpenter did in 2013 as he led the league with 199, which makes him extremely vital to the Cardinals success this year. The biggest thing for him is to make sure that he does not go through a sophomore slump and see his numbers decrease in 2014. He has been off to a slow start in Spring Training, but do not be surprised to see him bat leadoff for St. Louis on Opening Day.
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