St. Louis Cardinals: Wish list for the 2020 regular season

JUPITER, FL - MARCH 07: Paul Goldschmidt #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Houston Astros during a spring training baseball game at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on March 7, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. The Cardinals defeated the Astros 5-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FL - MARCH 07: Paul Goldschmidt #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Houston Astros during a spring training baseball game at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on March 7, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. The Cardinals defeated the Astros 5-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals have a ton of question marks heading into the 2020 season. What is a reasonable wish list for the outcomes of the regular season?

Based on all of the projections, all of the predictions, all of the opinions that writers and systems have for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2020, the season could be just fine, or it could be one of the seasons where the Cardinals slip back into mediocrity and miss the playoffs.

The biggest group of players that will decide how this season goes for the Cardinals is the veterans. The young outfielders can move the needle, but if the veteran bats can’t hold up their end, the team will falter.

I’m being so vague because details are to come, but keep in mind that this is specifically for the regular season. Of course, the number one thing on the wish list for the season is to win the World Series, so to actually provide some goals of substance, we are going to restrict this to the regular season. So, without more babbling, what are reasonable things to put on the 2020 regular season wish list?

Paul Goldschmidt returns to within 5% of career offensive numbers

It was no secret, Paul Goldschmidt was not the player we thought we were getting in 2019. In what was easily his worst season in the Majors, the first baseman had just a 116 wRC+ and failed to produce a 4.0+ fWAR for the first time since his sophomore season in 2013.

This season was likely the result of a lot of things with him being in a new city for the first time in his career, and with a shiny new five-year, $130M extension, there was a lot of pressure on the star.

A 116 wRC+ is still good offensively, but it’s not at all what Goldschmidt has been in his career. A career wRC+ of 141 shows what type of elite batter Goldy is, and a realistically possible wish is for him to get within 5% of that again.

Goldschmidt may never beat a 141 wRC+ again, but doing some quick math, getting within 5% of career offensive value would put his wRC+ around 134. If you get that from Paul Goldschmidt, that is the elite production that you want to see from him. We are focusing just on wRC+ because that is all about offensive value, and at the end of the day, that’s all I worry about. He proved in 2019 that his power will be there, so wherever that other production comes from, you’re happy with it.

This is not a predictions list, this is a wish list, that is trying to be realistic. Most projections have Goldschmidt improving on his 116 wRC+ to somewhere near the mid-120s. While that wouldn’t be awful to see from Goldschmidt, my wish for Goldschmidt in 2020 is that he jumps back up to within 5% of his career values.

Alex Reyes stays healthy for an entire season

This may seem like a comically low bar, but for Alex Reyes, this is all fans have been wanting to see for years. Since his debut in 2016, Reyes has suffered setback after setback and after being a top 10 prospect in the entire sport at one point, he has yet to throw 60 innings in the big leagues.

Reyes has taken on a leadership role at spring training this year and it seems that these last few years have really hardened and matured him which is a great thing to see. Comparing his physical build from 2016 to now, his body has also matured as he cut the fat off and looks to be in great shape.

The Cardinals are no longer expecting anything from the 25-year-old, which is not a knock on his potential, just an unfortunate result of his health history. This might just be the perfect environment for Reyes to flourish.

There is an opening at the closer spot and Reyes has had experience closing games this spring. Reyes could also be stretched into a starter’s role, but he isn’t high enough on the depth chart to get that opportunity out of the gate.

For 2020, all I wish for from Reyes is just health. If he can get an entire season under his belt healthy, regardless of the role, I think that the Cardinals will finally get to see what talent they have in him. Even if the year goes poorly, A healthy year would be a huge win for Reyes in his career.

Dylan Carlson finishes in the top five of Rookie of the Year voting

Right now, ZiPS has Dylan Carlson as the St. Louis Cardinals’ second-best outfielder coming into 2020. That being said, there’s a very small chance that Carlson starts the season with the big-league club in 2020.

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Yes, Carlson is batting .323 with a .916 OPS this spring, but there are too many obstacles to getting Carlson in the Opening Day starting lineup. With Yairo Munoz’s departure, a spot on the 40-man roster is open for the consensus top-20 prospect in baseball, but allowing the Cardinals to see what they have in Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas first isn’t the end of the world.

Don’t get it wrong though, Carlson will be up this season, and when he does get his chance (no matter the outfield spot), it wouldn’t be any surprise to see the switch hitter make a push for the Rookie of the Year award.

A move is made at the trade deadline to improve the team

This seems like yet another very low bar to step over, but the past two seasons have proven that that may not be the case. Each of the last two years, there have been glaring holes in the Cardinals’ lineup and both times, John Mozeliak has decided to sit on his hands.

It wasn’t like there wasn’t anything that he could do, there were moves other teams made that the Cardinals could’ve easily gotten involved in. All I ask for this season is that when the end of July comes, John Mozeliak does something to improve the team. It doesn’t have to be trading for Nolan Arenado, just do something to give the team a surge down the stretch. They showed they needed it last year.

Jack Flaherty finishes in the top three of Cy Young Voting

Jack Flaherty is an ace. He’s not just the best pitcher on the Cardinals, he’s an ace by every meaning of the word and he proved it with his second half last season.

His 0.91 ERA in the second half last season propelled Flaherty to a fourth-place finish in Cy Young voting in 2019 and in 2020, there’s no reason to believe the 24-year-old can’t continue to build on that performance and finish as a top-three pitcher in the National League in 2020.

Flaherty has picked up right where he left off last year allowing just four runs in 11.2 innings this spring and has continued to look dominant.

Next. Why the Cardinals should utilize the defensive shift more in 2020. dark

If most of these wish list items come true, the Cardinals will be just fine in 2020. The ultimate goal is to win the World Series, but if these come true, it’d be hard to think the Cardinals don’t at least make the playoffs.