Finishing with the Grapefruit League’s second-best record of 2017 Spring Training, the St. Louis Cardinals have come closer to finding an identity since players first reported seven weeks ago.
A 20-8-4 record, highlighted by only one loss in their last ten Spring Training contests, gave the St. Louis Cardinals their best preseason in terms of winning percentage in nearly two decades. It’s also the most preseason wins the Cardinals have collected in the Mike Matheny era.
While Spring Training may not necessarily serve a prelude to a team’s destiny come regular season, leaving a mark in Florida was arguably more important for the team coming into 2017 compared to years past.
For a team that fell just short of its sixth straight postseason birth and witnessed the rival Chicago Cubs take home a World Series championship in 2016, St. Louis’ spring surge is a testament to recreating the consistency that the franchise has held for much of the 21st century.
As the team prepares for Opening Night against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, here is a reflection of the Cardinals’ five biggest winners from 2017 Spring Training. But before that list is presented, here are some honorable mentions for players with strong preseason campaigns, but who did not quite crack the list:
Aledmys Diaz– In 2016, Diaz used a strong Spring Training to expedite a Major League promotion due to team injuries and worked his way to an All-Star roster recognition. Early results from Spring Training (.313 batting average, 7 runs, 4 RBIs) prove he can avoid a sophomore slump.
Matt Bowman– Another rookie from last season, Bowman proved he could still contribute in a late innings role. He made 10 appearances in Spring Training, picking up either a save or a win in half of his outings.
Yadier Molina– The 34 year-old backstop only played in 10 Spring Training games, mostly due to Puerto Rico’s runner-up finish in the World Baseball Classic. Pairing a strong offense and defense in the WBC with last week’s work with the rotation, Molina is expected to be coming close a contract extension before Opening Day.
Carlos Martinez– Arguably the team’s most coveted pitcher, Martinez also participated in the World Baseball Classic, where he started twice for the Dominican Republic. He collected three wins and six strikeouts in limited Spring Training action, and also earned his first ever Opening Day nod.