St. Louis Cardinals: Opening Day Lineup Prediction

Mar 18, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (22) talks with St. Louis Cardinals bench coach David Bell (33) during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (22) talks with St. Louis Cardinals bench coach David Bell (33) during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports /

As Opening Day dawns upon the St. Louis Cardinals and the rest of the baseball world, Cardinal fans are anxious to see the lineup manager Mike Matheny rolls with in Game 1.

With Spring Training over and the start of the St. Louis Cardinals regular season upon us, it’s time to speculate what the lineup will look like on Opening Day. We have known for quite some time what will most likely be the first three in the order for Manager Mike Matheny.

Here is the lineup that I believe Mike Matheny will bring out on Opening Day against the Chicago Cubs:

Dexter Fowler

Aledmys Diaz

Matt Carpenter

Jhonny Peralta

Yadier Molina

Stephen Piscotty

Randal Grichuk

Kolten Wong

Carlos Martinez

It should be to no one’s surprise the way the first three in the order shake out. For many months fans have speculated it and over the last couple of days Matheny has affirmed those thoughts.

Dexter Fowler was brought to St. Louis with two goals in mind. The first being an upgrade in center field defensively. The second being an offensive upgrade at the top of the lineup. His presence at the top of the lineup will be felt in a couple of ways.

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Spring Training has offered a glimpse of what Dexter Fowler will bring to the table. In nineteen Spring Training games, Fowler was able to amass a .349 BA and a .453 OBP.

His career OBP is right at .366. Now nineteen games doesn’t tell the whole story, but the St. Louis Cardinals brought him to get on base for the guys hitting behind him.

If Fowler can deliver and continue his excellent Spring into the regular season, the Cardinals’ hand off to Aledmys Diaz will be smooth. Diaz has also had a very good Spring. He finished Spring Training with a .313 BA.

I believe Matheny likes Diaz in the two-spot for two things. Aledmys has surprisingly good power and above average speed. Ideally, if Fowler were to get on base, Diaz will provide the gap-to-gap power many two-hitters need to be successful.

Should Fowler not get on base, Diaz has similar speed and can provide some distraction on the base paths. If it were up to me, I would be looking to use the hit-and-run a little more often this season.

Related Story: Aledmys Diaz's Growth at the Plate

Diaz will hit home runs as well, but he should serve as an extension of Fowler. After hitting seventeen home runs last year, Diaz should be poised to equal or best that mark.

However, there was one big takeaway from Diaz’s Spring: in the seventeen games he played this spring, Diaz did not hit a home run and had a .396 SLG%, which is considerably lower than where he finished last season (.510).

Whether you think Spring Training numbers matter or not, I’m of the mindset that a second-year player like Diaz needs the confidence of success to avoid the proverbial “Sophomore Slump.” I believe “El Cubano” will have a good season.

Now that the St. Louis Cardinals have a true leadoff hitter, Carpenter slots in third. He is the Cardinals best hitter and now has the opportunity to flex some more power and increase his RBI totals. His high average and OBP lend well to the rest of the order as well.

After Carpenter, it’s anyone’s guess to who Matheny will hit 4th and on. Last season, the Cardinals had several players hit in the fourth spot. Yadier Molina, Stephen Piscotty, Randall Grichuk, and Jhonny Peralta all had the opportunity.

Piscotty has been tossed around as the most likely to be in the fourth hole, but I went with Peralta instead. Although I think Piscotty will eventually be the Cardinals number four hitter, Peralta has shown a little more upside this Spring. He has come back nicely from his injury and added a home run on Friday.

Peralta offers plenty of experience and power in the fourth hole. Maybe he shouldn’t be the fourth hitter, but I’m not Mike Matheny.

For me, Yadier Molina should be batting fifth in any lineup Matheny puts out. Molina has normally hit in the 5th hole; all throughout the WBC Molina hit 5th as well. Molina has shown some increased power this Spring.

If Molina is able to keep his average up and hit for more power this season, the Cardinals will be in a good position. The most likely candidate to hit fifth should it not be Molina would be Grichuk.

Some might disagree with me on hitting Piscotty sixth, but it’s all based on the fact that Molina is batting fifth. We all know Molina is not the fastest, so Piscotty’s ability to put the ball in play lends itself nicely here. He has gap-to-gap power to get Molina at least to third.

Related Story: Piscotty's New Approach

Right now Piscotty seems a bit lost at the plate. Like Diaz, I hope he can avoid the “Sophomore Slump,” and finds his form. Until Piscotty finds his form, you have to play the hot hands above him.

Another popular choice would be to place Grichuk higher than seventh. He is the prototype fourth hitter with as much power as he has, but he needs to cut down on his strike outs.

If Grichuk returns to hitting .275, then there is a case for him to hit higher in the order. However, right now I just can’t see that. We all know his potential, but it’s time for him to start showing that potential.

Speaking of a guy who needs to live up to his potential, Kolten Wong rounds out the order before the pitcher. In another world, I would love to bat Wong at the lead off spot.

Unfortunately we don’t find ourselves in that world. I believe that Wong will figure it out, but now it’s about the basics. He needs the time to find his swing and management needs to give it to him.

I know I’m not alone on this, but if you expect a player to develop you need to play him. Just because he is in a slump doesn’t mean cast him aside. The St. Louis Cardinals cannot and should not do that to Wong.

Having said that, I understand that Wong also needs to prove himself. Maybe that happens this year, but maybe not. Only way to find out is to let him play.

Next: Opening Day Lineup-Nate Edition

Since this is a prediction, I’ll save you the trouble of saying, “you’re wrong.” Matheny will most likely create his lineup based on matchups, but I think this makes the most sense based on performances so far. Hopefully Game 1 doesn’t disappoint. Go Cards!