The 2016 St. Louis Cardinals season begins on Sunday in the less-than-friendly confines of Pittsburgh. Let’s take a look at some bold predictions that I think are potentially likely to occur this season.
I am filled with excitement as the winter of our discontent comes to a close and baseball returns to all of our lives on this first high-socks-Sunday of the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals season. I know that I am not alone in this excitement and know that there are many fans counting down the hours until the first National Anthem is played.
I know too that there are many lingering questions as the Cardinals exit spring training. With these questions in mind, and in reaction to the myriad of changes faced this spring, I will venture to propose the following predictions for 2016.
Prediction: Matt Holliday will appear at first base more than left field
We know now that the Matt Holliday experiment at first base showed success and that he can manage this position. A question that remains, however, is whether he can manage this position without Jose Oquendo‘s presence.
Moving to the positive of Holliday at first, this option allows for other players to appear in the outfield in his spot thus growing their talent and adding speed to the club that severely lacks it. I’ll get to these players later but for now let’s relish in the fact that this option exists.
Prediction: The Cardinals will pick up Holliday’s option and he will remain with the Cardinals to end his career
Moving Holliday to first opened the real possibility that picking up his option may well happen. I feel the move to first will give him an opportunity to maintain his health while keeping him in the lineup.
I feel that this is critical for his option year as is his defensive production at first base. Picking up his option (something Holliday himself has voiced an interest in) makes sense only if he creates options for the team and remaining singularly in left field reduces options rather than creates them.
Picking up his option (something Holliday himself has voiced an interest in) makes sense only if he creates options for the team and remaining singularly in left field reduces options rather than creates them. Moving to first, then, allowed for other players- other options- to open and, therefore, opens the conversation more naturally for his option year. Too many options??
Prediction: Jeremy Hazelbaker spells the end of Tommy Pham as a Cardinal
Jeremy Hazelbaker was probably nowhere near the conversation of impacted players when the Cardinals began the thoughts of Holliday at first. In these initial conversations, I’m certain that Tommy Pham was the slated option to replace Holliday in left field. While this still seems to be the first option, Pham should be concerned and should definitely keep an eye open over his shoulder.
Hazelbaker had an outstanding spring enough so that he has made the opening day roster. This was certainly warranted after producing a spring slash line of .304/.373/.916. You read that correctly: .916 OPS! While this is impressive, we should remember that this was in spring and time will tell if he can produce in the regular season.
Pham, on the other hand, produced an almost identical slash line of .277/.382/.914. You read that correctly: .914 OPS! While this is impressive, we should… wait, I’ve said that before. In short, there may not be too much of a difference between these two players.
So why am I predicting that Hazelbaker will spell the end of Tommy Pham? Pham has an injury history that I’m worried will sneak its way back into the picture. If this doesn’t happen, then I predict that Hazelbaker will show better command of the field. Add to this the fact that Pham is producing and will, therefore, land stronger bait in trade.
For more on Hazelbaker, go read Josh’s spring surprise article.
Prediction: Jose Oquendo will NOT return to the coaching staff
Jose Oquendo- the secret weapon- is officially done as one of the Cardinals coaches. There, I said it. I’m saddened by this but not surprised. I am surprised that Oquendo is even still a coach on this team after he was passed over for the managerial position so that the Cardinals could get Matheny. Oquendo has had other opportunities to manage elsewhere but has chosen historically to remain with the Cardinals.
Now, facing this long time off to heal from surgery, I anticipate that he will see this as his way out. We’ve already had a dribbling of this thought from Oquendo through his discussion of perhaps working more with minor league players in Florida. Does this mean he’s done as the third base coach? I think so.
Prediction: 2016 is Yadier Molina’s final year behind the plate
Like his mentor mentioned above, I feel that 2016 is Yadier Molina‘s final year behind the plate. Read that carefully: I’m not saying that I think Yadi will be done after this season, but just that he will not crouch behind the plate after this season. I hope I’m wrong on this one and I hate this prediction so please don’t tear me up for it.
More from St Louis Cardinals News
- Cardinals Rumors: 3 pros and cons of signing Carlos Rodon
- Cardinals: Here is Willson Contreras’ first message for St. Louis fans
- How do the St. Louis Cardinals stack up with Willson Contreras?
- Cardinals: The insane asking price the Athletics had for Sean Murphy
- St. Louis Cardinals: Ask me anything with Josh Jacobs – 12/8
Where will he go? Will Yadier move to first base after this season? Maybe. He and Holliday could well manage first base. I think the important thing here is that I’m afraid Yadi will have health issues this season behind the plate which will show his need to move.
Speaking of his injury history, I’m really worried (albeit glad to have him on the opening day roster) that the Cardinals have rushed Yadi back because they need his presence. I’m worried that this rush will come back to bite the team and this all leads me to this prediction.
Prediction: The NL-Central will be decided in the final week of the season
I think that the Cardinals, Pirates, and (barf) Cubs will all have great teams this season. I am terribly partial to the Cardinals but concede to the powerhouse that is the 2016 Chicago Cubs. I refuse, however, to automatically name the Cubbies the NL-Central Champions. Rather, I can easily see the race coming down to the final week of the season.
Who do I think will win the pennant? As much as it pains me, I think the Cubs will win the NL-Central but I can easily see them falling apart as well. It is far too early to tell but I see the Cardinals winning the Wild Card. Sorry, Pittsburgh, but I think you will lose yet again in the Wild Card game. Perhaps this Sunday’s opener will be a sneak-peak into the 2016 Wild Card game…
Some of these predictions I like, some I do not like. It is early and the season begins on Sunday so it will be a fun year to see if these predictions come true or not. Of the ones that I like, I’m hopeful that they do come true. Of the ones that I do not like, let’s do a rain dance or whatever shaman-like activity possible to prevent these. Thanks for reading and GO CARDS!