The only St. Louis Cardinals infielder who will be starting in the same place in 2014 as they did in 2013 is the almighty Yadier Molina. Because of diverse changes this upcoming season will feature the Redbirds’ most offensive infield since 2004.
After coming down to earth during the post season, Matt Carpenter‘s 2013 did not end on a high note. Perhaps moving to his natural position of third base from his adopted second will be just what the MVP candidate needs in 2014. He batted .318 with 199 hits, 55 doubles, scored 126 runs and walked 72 times. He might not be leading off at throughout the season with faster players on the roster, but he definitely proved to be as valuable as his family name suggests. Will little Carp be a one season wonder and bat .270 in 2014? Is he going to be able to successfully readjust to his original position?
Matt Adams will be out to prove that he can be an everyday first basemen for the Cards in 2014. 2013 was a breakout year for Adams while appearing in over 100 games and only committing 2 errors. His .284 average was solid for a rookie and he slugged over .500. Will “Big City” prove that he can follow the city’s tradition of excellent cornermen? Will he look lighter in 2014 following Lance Lynn‘s dramatic example?
Future Hall of Fame catcher Yadi Molina is the rock that makes the Cardinals perennial contenders. But even granite can break. Mike Matheny and Bruce Bochy recently succeeded in protecting their MVP players by eliminating collisions at the plate. However, will the hero of St. Louis be able to finish his 2017 contract if he is catching over 1,100 innings every year like he has since 2009? Hopefully the fully capable (0 errors in 2013) Tony Cruz is going to see more frames than in the past.
The greatest achievement that John Mozeliak made in December was signing Mark Ellis for 2014. Ellis brings stability to both the second base position and the batting order. The 36 year old tallied 224 hits in 236 games in 2012-13 for the Dodgers. Kolten Wong will have the chance to the start at second, but now at least there a bona fide competitor to create tough choices for Moe and Matheny. Will second base be a platoon position where the the righty lefty game can be played? Are Ellis and Jose Oquendo the guys who could mold Wong into the best Cardinals second baseman since Fernando Vina?
It is impossible to forget the signing that shattered Cardinals stereotypes when Moe inked notorious All-Star Jhonny Peralta to a huge four year deal. The 11 year veteran is someone who has never played in the National League but has offensive attributes that make him a potent fit in the powerful Central Division. Will Peralta’s limited range be a problem in the middle infield? Is JP going to stay healthy and have a better year than Melky Cabrera did in 2013? Will his offensive production live up to the hype?
Regardless of who the utility infielders are in 2014, the Cardinals will have everyday players playing everyday, and back-ups filling in. No one will be overwhelmed like Pete Kozma was and no one has to learn a new position like Matt Carpenter did.
The infield’s progress from 2013 might not be as obvious defensively, but offensively the 2014 infield should look like Chicago style pizza compared to 2013′s St. Louis style thin crust pie.
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