Five slightly bold St. Louis Cardinals predictions for the 2021 season
The start of the 2021 season is just around the corner for the St. Louis Cardinals. Here are some predictions for what could happen.
The 2020 season was a shortened one, and as of right now things seem to be trending in a positive direction that a 2021 season can hopefully be played with a more pronounced sense of normalcy.
As life hopefully begins to inch more and more towards normal, the 2021 baseball season is already intending to have (in most places) a limited amount of fans. A full 162 game season seems to be in the cards. With that said, let’s look at some predictions for what the 2021 season could bring for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Looking back at my bold predictions from last season, there were quite a few misses. Time will tell if my crystal ball is more accurate this season. Let’s jump right in.
Tyler O’Neill breaks out (30+ home runs)
Tyler O’Neill has been a player with a ton of potential. His power potential is astronomical, but the question has always been whether he can harness his swing and miss tendencies enough to make the most out of it. This spring, he’s putting up some encouraging numbers.
While his offense is the area of his game that gets the most excitement, his speed is notable and his defense is good, too. He won the Gold Glove award last season. If O’Neill does indeed break out in a big way in 2021 it would add a third impact bat in the lineup alongside Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt.
The St. Louis Cardinals have not had good production from the outfield for several seasons. This changes in 2021 thanks to Tyler O’Neill.
John Gant wins Cy Young Award
The St. Louis Cardinals competition for the last starting rotation spot seems to be winding down, and John Gant seems to be a frontrunner. We’ve seen Gant become a valuable bullpen piece for the Cardinals and also turn into something of a fan favorite.
Bottom line, the man can pitch. This season he is handed the reigns as a starting pitcher and puts together a Cy Young caliber season, with a low 2.00 ERA and 15+ wins. Oh, and he cuts his hair. That might be the boldest prediction of all.
Matt Carpenter released
Looking at Matt Carpenter‘s stats this spring, it’s ugly. He’s striking out almost half the time and is struggling to put the bat on the ball with any authority. He’s been a great St. Louis Cardinals player and likely will one day get fitted for his red jacket in the team hall of fame. But it’s fair to wonder if he has anything left in the tank for his baseball career.
In 140 at-bats, he hit .186 in 2020. His last guaranteed season on his contract is in 2021 but he has a vesting option for 2022. If there’s no DH in 2021 for the National League, there’s no real spot for Matt Carpenter. He could sit on the bench and be a bench bat, but his bat has seemingly lost most of its oomph.
At this point, as unlikely as it seems, releasing Carpenter might be for the best. It opens up a roster spot for someone more deserving (such as John Nogowski) and puts aside any doubt of his 2022 option vesting. The chances of an outright Carpenter release are indeed small, so this is certainly on the bold side as far as predictions go.
Adam Wainwright announces retirement, goes out in style
Adam Wainwright re-signed with the St. Louis Cardinals for the 2021 season. Will it be his last? My prediction is yes. Not only that, I think he will announce towards the end of the regular season (think August or September) that he will retire at the season’s end.
His last home start of the regular season will be a memorable occasion and he rises to the moment with a complete-game shutout. The crowd, hopefully back at full capacity, gives Wainwright a massive standing ovation. Wainwright wraps up his final MLB season in style, putting an exclamation point on an otherwise mediocre 2021 season.
Dylan Carlson struggles
Dylan Carlson looked like two different players in 2020. When he first made his major league debut, he looked more like a deer in headlights than one of the top prospects in baseball. He was sent down for a while and came back to the Cardinals in time for the playoffs. In the playoffs, Carlson was one of the best hitters on the team and hit cleanup against the San Diego Padres. Which Carlson will the St. Louis Cardinals get in 2021? Neither.
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I expect Dylan Carlson will settle somewhere in between those two extremes, and be a solid everyday contributor. But for 2021, I think he struggles. Last season was 60 games, so jumping from 60 to 162 will be a big challenge for a young player. Carlson will also probably be asked to carry a lot of the offensive production from the outfield, not to mention the expectations from the fanbase who are ready to see the top prospect take the next step.
There will also likely be some adjustments as opposing pitchers learn more about him and him having to adjust to them in turn. For all of these reasons, Dylan Carlson will struggle in 2021 and the St. Louis Cardinals offense will essentially be dependant on Arenado and Goldschmidt (and O’Neill, if my previous prediction becomes reality). Carlson’s outlook long-term is bright, however.
These are five predictions for the upcoming 2021 season. Saying that the Cardinals win the division or that Nolan Arenado will have an incredible first season with the team aren’t really bold, or even slightly bold. Most people probably expect those things to happen. With these five predictions, I wanted to make them bold but not so bold that you as a reader roll your eyes and scoff.
As the 2021 season gets set to begin, these five predictions could offer a glimpse of what the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans could be expecting. I think the Cardinals are the favorites in the division and will have a solid team. Some players will break out, others will struggle. Let’s enjoy the season.