Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 3/7/13
Not only were the St. Louis Cardinals one win away from a second straight World Series appearance, but they also boast one of -- if not the -- best farm systems in baseball. Simply put, it’s good to be the Cards right now, and 2013 figures to be another great year in the Gateway City. In the NL Central, it’s basically Cincinnati, St. Louis, then everyone else. Do they have enough to capture their first NL Central crown since 2009, though? Cardinals on TOC End of Season Postmortem 2013 Season Preview You May Say I'm a Dreamer (12:00 PM) 2013 Burning Question (1:30 PM) This Is My Nightmare (3:00 PM) 2013 X-Factor (4:30 PM) Depth Chart (As of 3/6) C: Yadier Molina 1B: Allen Craig 2B: Daniel Descalso SS: Pete Kozma/Ronny Cedeno 3B: David Freese LF: Matt Holliday CF: Jon Jay RF: Carlos Beltran SP: Adam Wainwright SP: Lance Lynn SP: Jaime Garcia SP: Jake Westbrook SP: Joe Kelly CL: Jason Motte New Faces After coming within one game of a return trip to the World Series, the Cardinals were mostly quiet this offseason aside from a few minor moves. They gave infielder Ty Wigginton a two-year, $5 million deal to fill a bench spot and added Ronny Cedeno on a one-year deal as a shortstop insurance policy. But their biggest move of the offseason was probably signing lefty specialist Randy Choate to a three-year, $7.5 million deal. Yeah, that’s how quiet the Cardinals offseason was. But when you’re already one of the better teams in the National League, why mess with success? Departures Unlike last offseason, when the Cardinals were trying to replace one of the biggest stars of this generation, this year’s Cardinals really didn’t lose much from their wildcard-winning team. Lance Berkman left to take a one-year, $10 million deal in Texas, but he only appeared in 32 games for the Cardinals in 2012. Utility man Skip Schumaker was traded to the Dodgers in December for minor league shortstop Jake Lemmerman. Schumaker hit .276/.339/.368 in 107 games last year while appearing at second base and all three outfield spots. Impact Rookies Part of the reason why the Cards stayed quiet this offseason is the new wave of talent about the hit the majors. Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller both made their big league debuts late last season and impressed, and now they’re in competition for the Cardinals’ 5th rotation spot. There’s also Carlos Martinez -- as a 6’0” flamethrowing Dominican, getting comparisons to Pedro Martinez -- expected to hit Triple-A this year as a 21-year-old. Oh, and one of the game’s most highly-touted position player prospects -- Oscar Taveras -- will probably be playing in Memphis to start the year, too, just a Carlos Beltran injury away from his debut. Position Battles Despite giving Kyle Lohse a qualifying offer, it never really seemed like the Cardinals were planning on having him back. When Lohse declined the offer, it officially opened a spot in the rotation, which the Cards seem more than willing to give to one of their young stud pitchers. The three best bets to fill the spot appear to be Joe Kelly (3.53 ERA in 24 appearances/16 starts last season), Miller (a Top 10 prospect in baseball for the second year in a row) and Rosenthal (who hits triple digits out of the bullpen like it’s nothing). Every other team in the division would kill for a rotation that includes three guys like that, and the Cardinals are going to be rounding out their rotation with one of them. At shortstop, Rafael Furcal’s absence opens up a bit of a competition. Prospect Ryan Jackson might get an opportunity, but at this point it seems like Cedeno or Pete Kozma will get most of the reps there. Between the two, Cedeno is the better defensive option, but Kozma is more likely to produce with the bat -- even if his .952 OPS in September last year was a bit of a fluke. Injury Concerns Jaime Garcia made 20 starts in 2012, but battled issues with his left (throwing) shoulder all year. He decided against surgery to repair a tear there this offseason, choosing rest and rehab instead. There haven't been any flare-ups yet this spring, but with his injury history, it'd probably be a surprise to see him throw 200 innings this season. Furcal’s elbow is still giving him problems, as we covered here at TOC a few days ago. Like Garcia, Furcal chose rehab over surgery, but his results haven’t been as good -- he hasn’t played in a spring game yet, and his elbow “took a turn for the worst” over the weekend. Now, it looks like he might need surgery after all, which could cost him much -- or all -- of the 2013 season. There’s always the chance Carlos Beltran misses time, too, and at age 36 this year, the Cardinals may need to keep a close eye on his playing time. To his credit, he did appear in 151 games last season, the most since he played in 161 games for the 2008 Mets. Burning Question When will the Oscar Taveras era begin in St Louis? Best Case Unlike last season, everyone stays healthy, once again giving the Cards one of the best offenses in the NL. The young pitching lives up to the hype, also giving St. Louis one of the deepest rotations in the league. The Cards not only take the division but the top seed in the NL playoffs as teams in the deep NL East beat eachother up. St. Louis rides that always-tough Busch Stadium advantage to another deep postseason run. Worst Case Age catches up to the team’s most significant contributors, and the youngsters have the up-and-down seasons you’d expect from 21-to-24-year-olds, not the phenom-type years some may be expecting. Not only do the Reds prove to be too tough to overcome for the division, but the Cards find themselves in the mess bound to be the NL WC2 race. Not wanting to mortgage the future for another push with aging vets, the Cardinals stand pat at the deadline and end up out of the postseason for the first time since 2010. Realistic Scenario A major injury or two do pop up, but it’s Next Man Up and the team manages to keep their heads above water for much of the season. The inevitable late-season hot streak secures one of the two wildcard spots. All infield flies are called properly in the play-in game, but with such a deep pitching staff, they still have a good chance at moving on. [follow]
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