St. Louis Cardinals: Question marks heading into the Regular Season
By Matt Graves
#1 Dexter Fowler
Dexter Fowler is such an easy choice for a question mark that I feel like it’s almost unfair to include him. After 2018, the vast majority of the St. Louis Cardinals fan base had written off Fowler.
This was more or less understandable given the short memory of the public as Fowler was really bad last year. With a .180 average and a -1.4 WAR, I can’t blame fans for thinking Fowler no longer has a spot on this team. That being said, team management obviously has a different idea for their $82.5M investment as they have solely sung Fowler’s horns this offseason and Spring; even when he very much so didn’t deserve it.
Fowler’s performance will be the biggest question mark around 2019 as the team still owes him $52.5M over the next three years until 2022. If Fowler regains his 2017 form, there will not be questions about him. If he cannot, I wouldn’t expect him to survive long on a team that has a window to perform in 2019.
#2 Adam Wainwright
Adam Wainwright has been confirmed as the 4th starter in the rotation for the start of 2019 after pitching over 14 innings this Spring putting up a 2.51 ERA and a .907 WHIP. Many feared that Waino might have been done with his career after an injury-plagued beginning of 2018 but after a September resurgence, Waino decided to take on another year.
After the Cardinals correctly obliged one of their all-time greats in an incentive-latent deal, Waino has a chance at holding down a rotation spot. Whether he can or not is why Waino makes this list. As a grizzled vet in the starting rotation, Waino’s spot is a very important one. If he can perform like he used to, then the starting rotation will undoubtedly be a success. If he can’t then it’ll be up to youngsters Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon to step up which leaves a lot of room for error.
#3 Marcell Ozuna
Marcell Ozuna’s struggles due to an unsolved shoulder issue have been very frequently chronicled on this site and others. Very recently, I wrote about how he should have a leash at the cleanup spot. This is because he was rarely moved from that spot in 2018 even when he didn’t perform anywhere near what the league average was.
Looking ahead to 2019, Ozuna is in a contract year and needs to perform to get a good contract on the free agent market (if that is still possible). Even though the pieces the Cardinals gave up for Ozuna still haven’t made too much of a Major League impact, it is still disheartening to see Ozuna not getting himself healthy and honoring his contract that he signed to the Cardinals.
We need Ozuna to be an anchor at the cleanup spot in the lineup. With Paul Goldschmidt entrenched at the top, Ozuna should get better opportunities to drive in runs and hopefully, that leads to better production. With the Cardinals not looking like they have interest in bringing back Ozuna, it would still help both parties if Ozuna performs well.