St. Louis Cardinals: Five bold predictions for the 2019 season
By Matt Graves
#1 Marcell Ozuna does not finish the year on the Cardinals
This prediction was a last minute edition, but one that makes some of the following predictions to occur. Marcell Ozuna’s relationship with management of the St. Louis Cardinals seems to be fractured. As happy and smiley as everyone was when Ozuna was acquired, the lack of performance last year tarnished the fanbase’s view of him. Well- it wasn’t as much the lack of performance that hurt his reputation but the reason for it.
Ozuna came to the Cardinals with shoulder issues that he said were going to be fixed, and that shoulder issue can be pointed to as the main reason why he underperformed in 2018. Now, coming into the 2019 offseason, John Mozeliak urged strongly that Ozuna fix his shoulder issues this winter, and now it appears Ozuna may not be ready for opening day.
The more I hear comments from Mozeliak in reference to Ozuna, who is in a walk year, the more I feel like it’s a disappointed dad talking about his son. Mo just seems frustrated by Ozuna’s lack of respect for his own game or fixing the issue. For this reason, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Ozuna flipped to another team at the trade deadline this year, much like the Cardinals did with the fiery Tommy Pham last July.
I want Ozuna to be the player he was in 2016, I want him to be able to throw, to anchor the cleanup spot and take us to a championship. I’m sure Mo wants that too. But all too often in situations like this where the player is at odds with management, they usually aren’t around long. It should be interesting to see how it unfolds.
#2 Tyler O’Neill leads the team in homers
This prediction hinges mainly on the prediction above. By this I mean that if Tyler O’Neill has enough playing time to lead the team in homers, either Dexter Fowler or Ozuna is hurt, benched or gone. I want both of those players to perform, but if they don’t, O’Neill should be able to take hold of a job and run with it.
Specifically with Ozuna out of the picture, O’Neill would become the prime left fielder and be able to show off his power on a daily basis. This may be the plan the Cardinals have for 2020 anyway as they have shown next to zero interest in resigning Ozuna, but they may have to go to this plan early.
When I say that O’Neill will lead the team, I’m sure most of you instantly think that it’s wrong and that new Cardinal, Paul Goldschmidt, will lead the team in dingers. What I mean is more of a 35 homer prediction for O’Neill and a 32 homer prediction for Goldy. O’Neill can do it too. Why do I say 35? O’Neill hit 35 homers combined last year between AAA Memphis and the Cardinals, even with limited playing time while he was with the big league club. It’s not out of the realm of possibility.
#3 Jack Flaherty finishes top 5 in Cy Young voting
This prediction is not really going out on too much of a limb as MLB’s social media team put out a graphic earlier in the offseason that hinted that Cardinals’ sophomore stud, Jack Flaherty, is a dark horse Cy Young candidate. Coming off a rookie year where he made 28 starts with just a 3.34 ERA and 1.106 WHIP, Flaherty needs to step up and settle a shaky rotation for the St. Louis Cardinals.
With the uncertainty with Carlos Martinez and an old Adam Wainwright, Flaherty can take a hold on the ace position in the staff if he puts it all together. That being said, I am going to predict that Flaherty not only takes control of the staff but the entire National League. Flaherty was stellar last year and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to predict that he keeps making steps forward.
The best sign, for me, that Flaherty is going to keep growing was that Flaherty has no injury history and pitched 151 innings last year. If he is healthy, he will perform. It’s as simple as that.