Sunday, March 10, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: St. Louis Cardinals

2012 Record: 88-74 (2nd in NL Central, 2nd Wildcard spot)

Key Additions
Randy Choate (3 years, 7.5 million)
Ty Wigginton (2 years, 5 million)
Ronny Cedeno (1 year, 1.15 million)
Jake Lemmerman (Acquired from LA Dodgers)

International Signings
Alex Reyes (950 thousand)
Henry Alvarado (150 thousand)

Key Subtractions
Brian Fuentes (Retired)
Lance Berkman (Signed w/ Texas)
Skip Schumaker (Trade w/ LA Dodgers)

Which new guy will help the most?
The three major league signings by the Cardinals were intended to be depth-signings. Ty Wigginton will hit off the bench and start the occasional game, but shouldn’t have an everyday impact at the major league level. Randy Choate will find himself as one of two members of the Cardinals bullpen that strictly faces left-handed batters. Him and Rzepczynski won’t be given a particular inning to pitch, but will share lefty batters.  Lastly, Ronny Cedeno, who surely wasn’t signed with the expectations of getting over 300 at bats, could very well get over half of the shortstop at bats now that Rafael Furcal’s season has come to an early end. An unproven Pete Komza is now expected to start the year at shortstop, but on a possible championship contender, I expect the leash to be very short. If Komza doesn’t find immediate success, the Cardinals could very quickly turn to his back up plan, Ronny Cedeno. Not an ideal situation, but Cedeno could definitely have the biggest impact.

Spring Training Battle
With Chris Carpenter likely out the entire year, the fifth spot in the rotation is up for grabs, and between two men. Who will take it?
Joe might have the inside track to the last rotation spot because of last year’s success, where he posted a 4.00 FIP in 107 innings. Kelly doesn’t strike a ton of guys out, but he gets the job done with a high ground ball rate. While Kelly nor Miller provide a veteran presence, Kelly already has a year of experience which gives him the clear advantage on Miller’s 18.2 innings of major league experience.

While Kelly’s 2012 MLB numbers were better than Miller’s numbers in triple-A, Miller showed quite well in his short major league stint last year. It’s impossible to get a good judgment on his measly 18.2 major league innings, so we’ll have to look into his minor league numbers. Miller should translate nicely into the major leagues as a power pitcher. Miller’s major issue in 2012 was giving up the long-ball, as he gave up 1.58 HR/9 innings. Although this number is quite big, once you factor in that Miller was pitching in the very hitter friendly Pacific Coast League (PCL), it becomes less concerning. Pitches don’t break the same way in the pacific coast, so striking out 26.7% of batters faced is overwhelmingly good. Miller’s ability to strike out batters at the rate he does makes me fairly confidence he’ll make an easy transition to the MLB. 
This battle may end up being less about who has the potential to be better, but who’s more of a sure thing. The Cardinals relied on Kelly as a starter for sixteen starts last year, and he did no damage, helping them earn a playoff berth. I believe Miller will be in the rotation by midyear, but Kelly could earn the final rotation spot out of spring training because of his previous success. 

Questions Heading into the Season
Will St. Louis get enough of an offensive impact out of shortstop?
Pete Kozma showed quite well in his very short stint in the majors last year, but you shouldn’t expect him to put up even remotely similar numbers this year due to his extremely large 2012 BABIP of .415 and other factors. Kozma will give the Cardinals above average defense, but won’t exactly be an offensive threat, per se.  Kozma has little power and speed, and won’t get on base at a good rate, so I don’t see him being a high impact player. He’ll provide quality defense, but with the back up being Ronny Cedeno, he’ll have his shot to provide offense.

Prospect Who Should Have the Most Impact in 2013
The Cardinals have two high-elite level prospects that will make impacts in 2013, but neither have a clear path. Baseball’s #2 prospect Oscar Tavares will make his debut in 2013, but his impact will be determined by how many at bats he’ll get. With Holliday, Jay, and Beltran manning the St. Louis outfield, Tavares probably won’t get a clear shot to start unless an injury strikes. Shelby Miller has a higher chance to have a significant impact in 2013 because he could out duel Joe Kelly for a rotation spot out of spring training, but this also seems unlikely. Both prospects could have a huge impact on the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals, but another player would have to give way.

Projected Roster (via

Projected Record
88-74 (2nd in NL Central)
We have the Cardinals out of the playoff picture this year, but this battle could come down until late September. This is a very deep team with high level talent in the farm system. The Cards’ only problem may be that they have unbalanced depth. They have plenty of outfield and pitching depth, but their middle infield is worrisome for what, otherwise, could be a championship contending team. With the lack of offseason moves, it’s hard to see this team improving of last year’s record.  

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