Questions are all around for the 2021 baseball Cardinals concerning the makeup of the team and direction the club wants to go. Are we in a burn it down and rebuild or do we just retool and reload? In the past fans have questioned the moves by the front office. Now we as the casual fan are not made privy to the internal workings and dealings around this time. So therefore we do not know what fuels the decisions. But we all have questions.
So for me the number one question is what do we have?
In my opinion we have a good field core in Paul Goldschmidt 1B, Paul DeJong SS, Tyler O'Niell LF, and Harrison Bader CF. With the current unknown status of Yadier Molina there is the question what about the other positions. By all accounts Tommy Edman will be manning 2B unless the Cardinals sign Kolten Wong. Edman I think will do well but he is not Wong. Young guys like Dylan Carlson and Lane Thomas will upgrade the outfield defense.
Third base has been at best average for the last 7 or 8 years Matt Carpenter keeps fading in and out of that position. With Molina, catching has always been a good defensive position. Even IF Molina or should I say when Molina is not behind the plate. Andrew Kinzner and Ivan Herrera have the skills to take over.
1. Offensive Production
Well, most would agree that the offense has been spotty the last 3 years or more. The last two years with a team average of under .250. but we have had a few bright spots and some areas that are not that bad. some of the overall averages were in a word awful. Carpenter and O'Neill both below the Mendoza line and only four hitting .250 or above Paul Goldschmidt .304, Kolten Wong .265, Yadier Molina .262 and Paul DeJong .250. we were 30th in HRs, 28th in RBIs, 22nd in BA. there were some notable improvements however.
Tyler O'Neill 2020 was supposed to be his year, and while his slash was not impressive .173/.261/.360. His 7 HRs 19 RBIs in 139 ABs projects to 30 HRs and 85 RBIs. His Strikeout rate was down to a more palatable 27%. Harrison Bader has been much maligned and some of it has been very valid this year after a slow start then he improved over the course of the year. The one bright spot hitting out of the 9 hole he went .256/.374/.476 3 HRs 10 RBIs but his K-rate was still high at 31%. Dylan Carlson overall average was .200 However his last 11 games after he came back from satellite camp he hit .278/.325/.611 with 2 HRs and 11 RBIs
2. Starting Rotation
The rotation in 2020 was in real terms and 8 man rotation due to the Double Headers. Jack Flaherty took a step back from 2019 almost doubling his ERA. Adam Wainwright proved he still had gas in the tank 10 starts 5-3, 3.15 ERA, 1.051 WHIP. New comer Kwang Hyun Kim 7 starts 3-0, 1.42ERA, 1.000 WHIP proved he could be a very effective starter as did LH Austin Gomber 4 starts 1-0 0.57 ERA, 1.085 WHIP Dakota Hudson also had good year 8 starts 3-2 2.77 ERA 1.000 WHIP. That is a good base if not for the fact Hudson is out for next year and Wainwright is a Free Agent. One bright spot is Miles Mikolas will be back after his surgery. CMart didn't fair well as a starter with a 9.90 ERA and a 2.100 WHIP in 5 starts. other options could be Daniel Ponce De Leon, Johan Oviedo and Jake Woodford.
The relief corps was a strength of this team, and was decidedly left handed. With Genesis Cabrera 2.42 ERA, 1.164 WHIP, Tyler Webb 2.08 ERA, 1.108 WHIP, Andrew Miller 2.77 ERA, 1.077 WHIP and Austin Gomber 3.38 ERA 1.257 WHIP appeared in a total of 66 games Giovanny Gallegos 3.60 ERA, 0.867 WHIP and Miller did okay in the save department combining for 8 saves in 13 opportunities John Gant also chipped in with 2.40 ERA and 1.067 WHIP. other like Alex Reyes, Rob Kaminsky and Kodi Whitley saw some bullpen time. I You also have Jordan Hicks returning as well so the pen looks to be okay.
4. Outfield make up
Tyler O'Niell Flashed serious leather in wining his first Gold Glove. He did show the promise of power at the plate along with getting his K-Rate down I think you can pencil him in LF.
Harrison Bader I think is in a put up or shut situation His defense has gotten him this far. His offense needs to follow suit. if not we have guys that can make him expendable.
Dexter Fowler .233 his contract makes his status tricky. He has not lived up to his first season and could very well be moved out of a job. Although like Carpenter it would be an expensive bench piece.
Two players who I think will play a big role in the make up of the outfield.
Dylan Carlson hit only .200 for the year. However in his last 11 games he showed what he is capable of..278/.325/.611 with 2 HRs and 11 RBIs.
Lane Thomas is the other he has been hampered by lack of playing time. but has shown he has a good bat and an equally good glove.
1B Paul Goldschmidt Goldy had a good year average wise but not so much in the power/RBI dept. Hard to say what the reason was but I would expect 2021 IF it is a normal year to see Goldy return to form.
2B It is highly likely that Tommy Edman will be manning Second Base this year. His career .283/.337/.449 would ease the sting of losing Wong.
SS Paul DeJong - Has legit 25 - 30 HR power and an RBI avg in the high 60s to low 70s. Looking at his pre-2020 numbers. He is a consistent doubles hitter avg 27 two base hits per year.
3B It looks like unless there is an addition from outside or Someone like Elehuris Montero pushes forward it looks like Matt Carpenter will be at the Hot Corner. With his declining average it is hard to see him being of much help but with his contract it is a lot of money on the bench as well.
6. Catching It is hard to believe that for the first time since 2004 Yadier Molina may not be behind the plate for St Louis. This may be the year we find out just how good Andrew Kinzner is
A couple other names to look for are Elehuris Montero 3B who may not be a power hitter but has decent power and hit for a fair average. His defense is still developing but continually improves.
Edmundo Sosa 2B is another. who has hit well in the minors and is a good fielder.
Juan Yepez 1B, 3B, OF (remember Yepez he was the infielder we got in the Matt Adams to Atlanta trade.) He has been steadily moving up in the system and could be ready for a utility role
We don't know what 2021 is going to be like particularly during this off season. So we may not get answers until Spring training. There are questions that will need to be addressed. How the club addresses this will be interesting to follow.
That is my opinion, what's yours let me know.
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