The St. Louis Cardinals will begin the 2015 season on the road at Wrigley Field April 5th, against the young and vibrant Chicago Cubs, under the tutelage of new Manager Joe Maddon.
The club returns with its core intact plus a few add pieces they expect to pay dividend on their run towards another division crown and World Series title. If there was any reason to pause and have concern it would be due to the health of some of their mainstays.
Guys like Matt Holiday, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina or Jhonny Peralta aren’t exactly “Spring Chicken” and have only so many more stellar performances left in them. That means the time is now for a youth movement to take place and for the talent that they have groomed to shine.
Kolten Wong, 24, the fiery Hawaiian arrived on the scene some two years ago when he was called up in August and played a part in the Cardinals’ World Series run during in 2013. Last season, he got off to a slow start, was sent down to the minors multiple times and battled injuries. When he finally returned though, he went on a tear and hit for average and power. His final stat line according to Baseball-reference.com was a .249 BA, 12 HR and 42 RBI with 20 SB. I believe he will make better adjustments and hit for a higher average, with occasional homers, extra base hits, steady defense and plenty of stolen base opportunities.
Matt Adams aka Big City, long thought to be the heir apparent to Albert Pujols has consistently struggled with injuries and hitting vs lefties. Last year he played in 142 games, yet only hit 15 HR in 527 AB’s. To Adams credit, he showcased a more patient approach, hitting 34 doubles and putting up a .288 average, but he only hit .190 against lefties in large part to swinging at pitches out of the zone. I am confident Adams can hit around .275-.290 with 20+ HR, 80+ RBI with a more well rounded and disciplined approach particularly against left handers.
Randall Grichuk, who came over with Peter Bourjos in a trade for hometown hero David Freese and Fernando Salas after the 2013 season, played well last year and could potentially take some AB’s away from incumbent Right Fielder Jayson Heyward against lefties. Despite a small sample size, Grichuk hit .242 against lefties last season, plus during the playoffs he displayed great power to all fields, including a blast off Cy Young Winner and 2014 NL MVP Clayton Kershaw during the NLDS.
He is athletic, has a nice power stroke and can play all three outfield positions. Grichuk could provide a boost off the bench, giving the club another potent bat along with Mark Reynolds.
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Who has been more impressive than Marco Gonzales? The 23-year-old southpaw, so far this spring has a 0.71 ERA with only 1 run allowed. Despite his stellar effort, he will probably start the season in Triple A to continue fine-tuning his pitches, due in part to the battle between “Baby Pedro” Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia, but he could provide a boost at some point during the season.
If the Cardinals get production out of those guys plus anything Garcia can provide and the return of Michael Wacha and the future is bright.
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Oct 7, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams (32) celebrates with teammates Jhonny Peralta (27) and Yadier Molina (4) after hitting a three-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 7th inning during game four of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports