I have been very worried about our beloved St. Louis Cardinals for most of the off season. From the loss of Tony La Russa, Jeff Luhnow, and that other guy who used to wear the number 5 to the other front office moves I was concerned to say the least. I was very interested to see what Mozeliak had up his sleeve to prepare the Birds for the 2012 campaign.
While I initially had some issues with the hiring of Mike Matheny over the other quality candidates I can see a plan coming together that I couldn’t a month ago. Mozeliak and Luhnow have done an excellent job of stocking the farm and not raiding it to sign marquee players in blockbuster trades. I absolutely applaud them for that. We have some top notch talent coming through the ranks that should pay huge dividends for the organization in a myriad of ways in the near and distant future.
I think the philosophy that has guided the St. Louis Cardinal organization this off season is simple. The kids are alright. With the emergence of David Freese, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, and Jon Jay along with the pitching of Lance Lynn (Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas could be in this discussion as well). Mo is hanging his hat on them. I had fully expected the organization to sit tight and see how the season started before making any moves. I would be less than truthful if I had said I agreed with the signing of Carlos Beltran. The move is growing on me but with his propensity to be injured I would have much rather been a buyer at a 2 year $18-20 million dollar range. He CAN be a very powerful bat that could truly be an asset if he can stay healthy. All in all it was a very calculated gamble by Mozeliak. I believe the Craig situation may be worse than we know which necessitated this move. I was really looking forward to seeing what Craig could do with a full season at the plate. Hopefully we will still get a long glimpse of his ability this year and he returns as early as anticipated or earlier.
While I will never veer into sabermetrics too much, I feel some stats here will solidify the case of our young Red Birds. Craig is an intriguing player to me. When he was able to play this year he showed some pop and hit for average. In 219 plate appearances he hit 11 home runs and picked up 40 RBI’s while posting this line to boot .315/.362/.555. Hence my excitement if that is extrapolated over a full season. Maybe we will get to see that full season next year.
Daniel Descalso played much more frequently than expected this past season due to injuries to Freese. He racked up 375 at bats in 148 games batting .264/.334/.353 (Plus .333 in the post-season scoring all 3 times he reached base). I would project Descalso as the Opening Day starter at second base barring a shocking move.
Jon Jay may have benefited the most from the departure of Colby Rasmus (besides us as fans). Jay is not spectacular defensively, but he is steady. Due to a late season decline, a lackluster post-season performance and the addition of Beltran I can foresee Jay being a super sub and working in a platoon situation in the outfield. I still believe he will get a bunch of at bats and hopefully he can be exactly what we need him to be.
Everyone has heard of, or witnessed David Freese’s post-season heroics. For 333 at bats in the regular season his .297/.350/.441/.791 (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS) with 10 home runs and 55 RBI’s ballooned to a gaudy .397/.465/.794/1.258 with 5 home runs and 21 RBI’s. Along with this total performance that earned him the NLCS and World Series MVP what is sometimes forgotten is that he hit .545 in the NLCS. Hopefully he can handle his new found celebrity and rekindle that fire for the entire season and stay healthy.
I’m also very excited about what a healthy Lance Lynn can contribute when completely healthy. His playoff performance while less than stellar was steady and reliable. While I want to see his NLCS and World Series 3.27 ERA dip a little I think he has a HUGE up side.
While I am interested to see how the rest of the bullpen comes together for this season I have quite a bit of confidence in what I am seeing. The young group can form a core of talent that can carry this team easily for the next 5-7 years. That will get us through the end of Berkman’s career, Holliday’s contract, and any other crazy happenings that take place. The best news is that our farm is stocked and I think I can write an identical story in 2-3 years and just replace the names of the quality talent that is coming up through the minors at that time. I think we can breathe a little easier because our kids are going to take care of us.