As the new year rapidly approaches questions linger as to the current roster.
Do we have enough starting pitching?
Our starting pitching was not all that bad last year. Especially in the second half of the season, that was fueled by a Cy Young type performance from Jack Flaherty 7-2, 0.91ERA, 124 SO, 23 BB, WHIP 0.715 in 15 games covering 99 1/3 IP. Then there was a coming of age by Dakota Hudson 9-3, 3.17 ERA, 1.275 WHIP, 8 Quality starts in his last 15 games.
Overall St. Louis starters went 55-50, 3.78 ERA, 1.296 WHIP, 8.1 SO/9. The staff combined for 896 1/3 IP among 7 starters. 5.53 IP/G. 726 1/3 by the 4 main starters or 5.67 IP/G
I think it is safe to say that the expectations for Flaherty are high. especially after his second half of 2019. Many people see a 20 game winner with a low 3 to sub 3 ERA and 215+ IP as well as 250 to 275 SO. Expectations for Dakota Hudson, while not as lofty as Flaherty are high as well If he can sharpen his control we could see 190 or more from him. Miles Mikolas had a rough year in terms of run support and an unusual lack of control Giving up 11 more HRs, in 15 1/3 less IP, He only gave up 7 more total hits than 2018. I think we are most likely bound to see numbers closer to 2018 than 19 in terms of Wins, IP and ERA I can see 12 wins, 3.25 ERA and back around the 200 IP mark.
Adam Wainwright, what can you say about the job he turned in. It is safe to say he surpassed many people's expectations. in wins 14, IP 171 SO/9 8. Can he repeat that? I just don't know. I would be happy to see 2018 numbers repeated. but it is not determined what his exact role will be.
5th member or the rotation. It would appear that Carlos Martinez will be given an opportunity as will young arms like Helsley, Gomber, PonceDeLeone, Cabrera and new comer Kwang-Hyun Kim It is hard to really gauge what we will see. I really think that the Cardinals want to see a LH in the rotation. Which would favor Cabrera, Kim and Gomber
So I think we have a solid 3 man lead to the rotation in Flaherty, Hudson and Mikolas. the other two slots will be shaken out in the Spring with 6 pitchers vying for those 2 spots. I am thinking a safe bet would be at least 2 pitchers with 18 or more wins and 200+ IP. We cold have all five starters in Double digit wins Although I think the biggest expectation would be seeing more pitchers going past the 6th inning and into the 7th.
Where is the offense going to come from?
The offensive force of the Cardinals in terms of consistency was Kolten Wong. .285/.361/.423 with 11 HRs, 59 RBIs 24 SB. his 83 SO were the lowest for ANY player with at least 500 PAs. Then there is Tommy Edman. 384 PA .304/.350/.500, 11 HRs, 36 RBIs 15 SB.
After that You had Paul DeJong who had a great April .342/.403/.607 then struggled after that although still ending up with 30 HRs 78 RBIs. Paul Goldschmidt and Marcel Ozuna were a potent duo. 63 HRs 186 RBIs. However Goldschmidt slash line was his worst since his rookie season. Ozuna was on a 2017 type season until a freak hand injury sidelined him for 5 weeks. Then Yadi who had also missed time as well but posted steady numbers. Dexter Fowler had an up and down season setting career highs in HRs, RBIs. In June thru Aug he had 25 XBH and 45 RBIs but was pretty much MIA in Sept and the playoffs. Then there was Carpenter and Bader who outside of a few games here or a week or two there were pretty much ineffective for St. Louis
With the unknown status in LF/Ozuna it is hard to say what we will see in LF. The fact remains we need a big bat to go with Goldschmidt and DeJong. If we don't sign Ozuna or bring in a replacement then we need to look at Internal candidates. Those include Tyler O'Neill, Randy Arozarena, Lane Thomas, Jose Martinez and even Tommy Edman. The problem is I do not see an obvious replacement for Ozuna. O'Neill is a power type hitter but has a 35% SO%, 6.6 BB% and a 7.3 XBH%, but a .385 BAbip. Thomas also has shown shown power 4 HRs in 44PAs. With an 18.2 SO% a 9.1 BB% an XBH% of11.4, but it is a small sample size. Dylan Carlson will get a look but I would like to see him have a full season at AAA before we look to him for an answer.
So, I do think Wong finally has put it together. I see Goldschmidt having a more normal season in terms of his Avg to go along with his power numbers and can see another 35/100 season. I also see DeJong getting his hitting stroke back. Yadi should be able to put up near career avg numbers. The same with Fowler and possibly Carpenter Although I see both of them as well as Bader being pushed by guys like Edman, Arozarena, Thomas and O'Neill. If they can find a way to replace the 30/90 numbers of Ozuna then I think we see a uptick in the consistency. Whether we see Carp, Bader and Fowler as regulars or we see Edman as a super sub or the farm kids get their shot, I think we will see a better offensive product.
What are doing about a closer?
Jordan Hicks will not ready until at least July or August. So we have 3 months to get through. Carlos Martinez would seem to be the odds on favorite 28 saves last year. However there has been talk of him returning to the rotation. but even that is clouded now with the addition of Kim, There is also the possibility of Giovany Gallegos who put together a breakout season. and then there is Alex Reyes who by all reports is having a normal off season. Then you can also add to that the possibility of John Brebbia, Andrew Miller and even Adam Wainwright taking turns as bullpen by committee until a closer emerges or Hicks is ready. In any event I think our closer role is in good hands.
Can we win the division again?
I think even if we do not retain Marcel Ozuna there is enough on this team to challenge for and possibly win the division again.
I think the rotation has a good top 3 starters, The offense should be better with consistency and a solid bullpen. This team has what it takes and we should expect a return to October baseball in 2020. How far into October remains to be seen.
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