Forget the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals season. If they advance to the playoffs, it’ll be a fluke of epic proportions, and, frankly, defies any rational analysis. Far more interesting is what Opening Day 2018’s starting lineup and roster will look like.
The projection below makes some drastic assumptions about who will stay, who will go, what trades will occur, and how the St. Louis Cardinals will differently structure its active roster next year.
For starters, I believe Matt Carpenter will be gone. While some will ask about the benefits of trading one of the team’s best hitters, hear me out. Carp has been a great asset for the team, but he has caused a severe position logjam for the team. Since he is a poor second baseman, and not much better third baseman, his only serious position is first base.
Unfortunately, there are just too many choices for filling first base, both inside and outside the organization.
My choice for first base is Stephen Piscotty. It’s unrealistic to think the team will turn away from Piscotty until management sees his upside. So to free up space for a significant deal, I shift him from the outfield to first. He’s already auditioned at first base and can manage well.
The kicker in the lineup below is the trade for Marcel Ozuna, which I predict will happen before the trade deadline. The St. Louis Cardinals will bring he and Kyle Barraclough to the team. Ozuna has shown his true upside this year, and provides the threat to pair with Jedd Gyorko that will make the middle of this lineup far more intimidating. It stretches out the lineup to offer little relief through the first six.
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That configuration, of course, contemplates that the management team of John Mozeliak, Mike Girsch, and Mike Matheny do two very critical things.
First, they must push Yadier Molina down in the lineup. Secondly, they have to acknowledge they just don’t have what they need now.
With all great respect to Luke Voit, in my view he’s several years behind Ozuna and Piscotty in development.
We simply don’t have two more years to wait to see if Voit develops into the masher some he could be. However, we can certainly keep him on the roster as a highly useful power source off the bench and occasional starter. This allows Piscotty to help out in the outfield as needed.
As for Mags Sierra, wait til mid-season or an injury. He isn’t a bench sitter, and despite his excellence in short stints, he needs more at-bats down below (but not that many more).
We’re not wildly crazy about the shortstop choice of Paul DeJong, but it’s really hard to find those guys via trade. Perhaps Didi Gregorius will be available from the Yanks in the off-season, or maybe the Cards will want to splurge on free agent Zack Cozart, though I doubt it.
So I have DeJong penciled in as an imperfect choice, and figure the massive power he can provide might offset some of the range and finesse issues he will face. Diaz will still be here, too, if he rediscovers his skills.
On the pitching side, Alex Reyes won’t be ready for the rotation at year’s start. He might be bullpen bound or need several months to complete his rehab. However, don’t expect Trevor Rosenthal to be here. Look for young, John Brebbia, to step up. Matt Bowman will take a more serious role, and the arrival of Ryan Sherriff will shore up the middle relief innings.
Watch for Carp, Lance Lynn, Harrison Bader and Jack Flaherty to be on their way to other teams — the youngsters perhaps to Florida for Ozuna and his teammate Kyle Barraclough, the vets to the Yankees or elsewhere — as the roster rebuilds. And here it is:
What are your thoughts? Is this a team well improved enough to compete?