St. Louis Cardinals: Cubs vs. Cardinals on the Infield

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Oct 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in game six of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Cubs win 5-0 to advance to the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in game six of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Cubs win 5-0 to advance to the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /
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The St. Louis Cardinals are now looking up at the World Champion Chicago Cubs. Which team has the better infield position players heading into the 2017 season?

Both the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs are some of the favorites to represent the NL in the 2017 World Series. As the Cardinals sat back and watched their division rivals hoist the Commissioner’s trophy, for the first time in 108 years, GM John Mozeliak began turning the wheels to compete in 2017.

Now that we are within a month of Spring Training, let’s take a look at which team has the advantage in the infield.

Catcher: Yadier Molina or Willson Contreras

If you’re a Cubs fan, there is much to like about Wilson Contreras. In seventy-six games last year, Willson batted .282 with twelve HR and thirty-five RBI. He also threw out a respectable 37% of base runners last year. Time will tell with Contreras, but seventy-six games does not compare to thirteen season of baseball.

Yadier Molina enters his 14th season as the St. Louis Cardinals primary backstop and is master of his craft. Molina is the winner of eight Gold Gloves and six Platinum Gloves as the NL’s best defensive player, including a career caught stealing percentage of forty-two.

Molina has also slowly morphed into one of the most consistent offensive players in the game. His career average sits at a very respectable .285 and is developing a reputation for getting hits in clutch situations. He is arguably the best overall catcher now and even more so between these two teams.

Advantage: Molina

First Base: Matt Carpenter or Anthony Rizzo

Matt Carpenter has been the St. Louis Cardinals’ best offensive player for the last three or four seasons and has moved all over the diamond to keep his bat in the lineup. The Chicago Cubs, however, have the best first baseman in the NL in Anthony Rizzo.

Carpenter opens the 2017 season as the projected first baseman for the Cardinals. His average and above-average power at the plate make him a valuable piece in the Cardinals lineup; however, his limited exposure at first base is a concern heading into the season.

Over the last three seasons, Rizzo has batted .285 with 95 home runs and 288 RBI, not to mention he feasts off of Cardinals pitching. You can also throw in a Gold Glove for 2016 to prove he is also defensively sound. If he didn’t have Kris Bryant at the opposite corner of him, Anthony Rizzo could have very well been the MVP of the NL in 2016.

Carpenter will have to have monstrous year(s) at the plate to catch Rizzo, but until then I’ll tip my cap.

Advantage: Rizzo

Second Base: Kolten Wong or Javier Baez

As the world became fascinated with Javier Baez’s ability to play defense, those of us who knew him, knew it was only a matter of time. He is a defensive web gem waiting to happen at any given moment and ultimately has many Gold Gloves in his future.

Baez’s offense is another story. Think of the phrase “lightning in a bottle.” He is a hard, free swinging spirit; when he connects, the ball goes a long way. If he swings and misses though, please watch for flying bats in the stands. He is as good as any second baseman in the NL now; if he cuts his strikeouts in half he is the best second baseman.

Kolten Wong is also pretty good with the leather. Wong committed eight errors in eighty-eight games in 2016. He is not as flashy as Baez, but the St. Louis Cardinals will rely heavily on his defensive skills in 2017 to improve overall quality of defense behind their pitchers.

Wong has also shown some signs of being able to produce offensively.  Although 2016 was not his best showing, his previous two seasons showed signs that he can hit for average and moderate power for a second baseman. His upside has somewhat diminished since his sub-par showing in 2016, but he looks to turn it around in 2017 with everyday play.

Advantage: Baez

Shortstop: Addison Russell or Aledmys Diaz

If I had told you at the beginning of last season that Aledmys Diaz would play in 111 games, bat .300 with seventeen HR and sixty-five RBI, you’d have thought I was crazy. Aledmys Diaz was a surprise rookie not just for the St. Louis Cardinals, but for all of MLB.

But as any fan knows, there are always rookie growing pains. His defense went on to let him down in key moments, eventually committing sixteen errors. Injury held him out for a good part of the season so his numbers were not complete.

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Addison Russell had almost the complete opposite season of Diaz. His offensive numbers were a bit confusing. He batted .238 with twenty-one HR and ninety-five RBI. His HR and RBI totals alone show just how much raw talent Russell has. If he can manage to increase his average along the way, it will be fun to see just how good he is.

Where Russell truly shines is on defense. The Cubs SS might be, and probably is, the best defensive SS in the NL. His range and arm strength are Jeter-esque and some of the highlight reels are some of the best you’ll see for a while. It’s just a matter of time untill he wins a Gold Glove.

Russell has the potential to be the best SS in the NL. It will be fun to watch these two compete in the Central Division.

Advantage: Russell

Third Base: Kris Bryant or Jhonny Peralta/Jedd Gyorko

I’ll just get this out of the way…Advantage: Bryant.

I shouldn’t write anything else because we all know that Kris Bryant is better than a healthy Jhonny Peralta or Jedd Gyorko. Bryant is the Cubs’ best player and reigning NL MVP.

So there really is no argument, but for the sake of Cardinals fans I will say this: Peralta and Gyorko are good players and will produce on an everyday basis. They may not put up Bryant’s numbers, but if they are playing good, consistent baseball then they are doing their job.

The only way to match up any production of Bryant’s caliber is if the Cardinals go out and trade for somebody, like an Evan Longoria.

Next: ESPN Low on Cards Prospects?

So far it looks like the Chicago Cubs take the infield positions by a score of 4-1. That doesn’t mean the St. Louis Cardinals are a bad team. In fact, the Cardinals and Cubs played to a season series draw in 2016. So no need to panic. Stay tuned for part two of the comparison between the two teams as we look at the outfield and pitcher positions. Go Cards!

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