The St. Louis Cardinals are coming off a 100 win season, a Central division crown, and a pitching staff that posted historic numbers. What players will be most crucial to continue success in the 2016 season?
Today, in my inaugural post for Redbird Rants, I am going to break down who will be needed to contribute most for the St. Louis Cardinals to maintain their hold on the National League Central.
Molina was almost snubbed and put at number two, but then I realized just how much I was taking the greatest defensive catcher of his generation for granted. He is the MVP of this team. Molina will be once again be relied upon to take young starters such as Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha under his arm and help them reach their potential.
How good it sounds when I hear Wainwright will get the ball on opening day. This could be the easiest decision Mike Matheny may have to make all year. Despite the small sample size numbers Wainwright put up in 2015–2-1 with a 1.61 ERA in the regular season–I don’t see him falling off even with him being on the wrong side of 30. Wainwright will prove his worth in 2016 and will arguably be the Cardinals’ MVP.
St. Louis will need a healthy Matt Holliday to repeat with 100 wins. He has been one of the Cardinals most consistent hitters in recent years belting 20+ homeruns and hitting above a .270 batting average before his injury plagued 2015 season. His bat and threat at home plate is a necessity for an improved lineup in 2016.
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Prediction: Carlos Martinez will be the Cardinals most efficient starting pitcher in 2016. He has improved each year in his short three years in the majors. Pitching his largest workload yet in 2015 with 179.2 innings, Martinez may be limited with his number of innings in 2016.
He may not reach that many innings this year because of shoulder tightness ending his season last year and a more seasoned bullpen with added depth, but Martinez will be heavily relied on to shut down Central division foes Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Overcoming fatigue will be the biggest feat for Wacha this season. Posting 17 wins last year is easily his career best along with his highest innings pitched with 181.1. Hopefully with Seung-hwan Oh added to the relief core Wacha’s innings can be watched even closer to prevent fatigue from such a grueling season.
Matt Carpenter at number six. What’s all this hype about the Cubs being so good? While being listed sixth is nothing to be ashamed about, I believe pitching will once again be the Cardinals reason for success and holding the National League Central crown, yet, once again in 2016.
Carpenter has been a different hitter almost every year. If he can raise his average closer to his 2012-2013 seasons where he hit .294 and .318 respectively, and still maintain his power he will no doubt move up on this figmental list.
Pitching his most innings in over two years sitting at 129.2, Jaime Garcia will be needed this year to eat up quality innings. When healthy, he is extremely effective posting an impressive earned run average of 2.43 in 2015. But, the most obvious question is: Can he stay healthy?
Rosenthal loves putting fans on the edge of their seats in the ninth and who cares when he gets the job done? My doctor does. Look for Rosenthal to have improved command and close with more efficiency after another year of Yadi in his ear. It will be tough for him to beat his 48 saves in 2015 and even more so if Seung-hwan Oh steals some of his chances.
It will be exciting to see what kind of season Randal Grichuk has. Grichuk showed off his power in 2015 crushing 17 homeruns in 323 at-bats. Given the opportunity as the every day center fielder, how many long balls can he produce in 2016? If last year showed us anything, it’s that the Cardinals’ lineup is much better with him in it.
Remember when Matt Holliday went down last year but it was no big deal because Stephen Piscotty hit .305 with a .359 on-base percentage? Look for Piscotty to be constantly compared with our former right fielder constantly throughout the year as far as production goes. It’s what baseball analysts do, right?
It may not be fair that I shafted Seigrist and put him behind Rosenthal with Seigrist’s amazing performance in 2015, but will he ever be that good again? In 74.2 innings pitched he posted an earned run average of 2.17. Let’s hope Seigrist can maintain his elite level of play his 2015 season brought.
Wong has been a solid second baseman. He’s had consistency issues, but despite his streaks he batted a respectable .262 and has shown flashes of power. With more experience and less pressure to perform, Wong may have one of his best years yet.
The Final Boss. What a great nickname. Oh’s job may no longer be to close the ninth but he could be counted on then when Rosenthal is unavailable. Oh has had a very successful career in Korea and Japan, and makes our bullpen stronger and more durable with added depth. He gives Matheny another quality option as a setup guy.
Matt Adams may not even win the first base battle, but if he can return to his former form in 2013 and 2014, he will make the lineup more flexible and dangerous. Adams could be a big piece to the puzzle in 2016 if he can find his swing.
These players are essential for the Cardinals to have the most success they can this year. Brandon Moss, Jedd Gyorko, and Brayan Pena may not have cracked the player power rankings list but no doubt they could be argued to be more important than some of these guys with their added depth and playing ability.
One thing is for certain, and that is our pitching must eat up quality innings just like last year if St. Louis wants to hold its dominance over the Central division. Spring training is underway and baseball is back, and while it’s great seeing the Cardinals take the field again, nothing will compare when Wainwright digs in at PNC Park April 3rd.