St. Louis Cardinals: Replacing the lost WAR in 2016

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Oct 10, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter (13) celebrates after hitting a solo home run during the first inning in game two of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Wild Cards

Matt Carpenter

You may be thinking, “I know all about Matt Carpenter, he’s not a ‘Wild Card'”. However, what I am getting at here is related to the news from Gammons Daily, that Matt Carpenter led the league in called strikes outside of the zone with 157.

I know that many of those led to called strikeouts for Carpenter and it led to him having a career high 151 strikeouts. Steamer does well to project the strikeouts to decrease, but robs him of 12 of his home runs from last season.

Carpenter will be entering his age 30 season, and is still considered in his prime and has had some intriguing seasons the past four years. With his fWAR and wRC+ fluctuating the past four seasons, producing a 6.9 fWAR in his first “full” season as the club’s starting third basemen.

That dropped to a 4.0 in 2014 and went back up to a 5.2 last season. Steamer projects him to finish with a 3.8 fWAR likely dependent on a slightly decreased slash across the board. This simply doesn’t compute.

Carpenter with an increased knowledge of the strike zone will be even better next season. I for one believe that the power was not a fluke for Carpenter and his season could have been better had a certain manager not removed him from the leadoff spot in the middle of his best season yet.

This sent Carpenter into a spell where he was practically robbed of everything that makes him good, he struck out at an alarming rate, and had virtually no power (doubles or home runs). I talked about this at length after the season was over and I believe that this is something the Cardinals have to look at in spring training.

Spring training is when they should start looking into moving him down in the order, not in the middle of the season when he’s hot. Baseball players are creatures of habit and routine and when you suddenly take routine/comfortability away from them, it creates chaos.

Given what we saw from Carpenter in the last two months of the season, I would project at least 20 home runs for Carpenter and way more than the 36 doubles that Steamer projects, which increases the slugging to probably closer to where it was this year at .505.

With this and a likely higher average, if he doesn’t slump for two months I would see a potential for a solid 5.0 or above fWAR. It will be higher if Carpenter clicks in the middle of the order.

Alex Reyes

I know what you’re thinking, yes he was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for marijuana for a second time. However, Reyes’ path to the big leagues could be accelerated given the Lance Lynn injury and the Cardinals’ potential inability to sign a free agent starting pitcher. Reyes is absolutely the system’s best prospect and one of the best pitching prospects in the entire league.

Reyes will likely get a chance to hone his craft a bit in extended spring training at the beginning of the season and will likely start out in AA Springfield. If he improves and gains further command of that lively fastball, he could very well skip AAA and make his debut in the rotation some time next year.

Steamer has him coming up and making three starts at the major league level and registering a 4.13 FIP and 9.04 K/9. At that level he replaces just a little above replacement value at 0.2, but with a little more success, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reyes in the 0.5-1.0 fWAR range.

Jordan Walden 

This is truly speculative and is potentially a dream scenario. However, if Walden can join the bullpen in 2015 as a healthy contributor, look out. He is a dangerous weapon in the back end of the bullpen that will serve as an excellent set up to closer Trevor Rosenthal, as is evident by his 0.87 ERA during his 12 games last year.

Walden’s potential health also allows for manager Mike Matheny to use Kevin Siegrist in a way that will allow him to not be overworked. Steamer’s projection leaves some to be desired with a 0.5 fWAR, but if you haven’t gathered that Steamer is conservative by now, then I’ve lost you.

However, that number isn’t bad when you consider he hasn’t gone over 0.8 fWAR since 2011 when he was the Angels’ closer. As a set up man the leverage isn’t as high so the fWAR goes down.

These three guys alone could be key cogs to the Cardinals continuing their run of NL Central dominance. There are more keys to the success of the team but looking at fWAR suggests these are our “wild cards” for next season.

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