2013 Hot Stove - Cardinals

It looked like a white day after Christmas and then the snow turned to ice, which turned to rain, a recipe for sludge as it all mixed on the ground.  Not a pretty sight.  Makes me long for February when spring training begins.

Overall Assessment: Still making the playoffs after losing Albert Pujols to free agency and Chris Carpenter to injury is a pretty nice accomplishment.  They also broke the hearts of Nationals fans continuing their cardiac adventures they started last year in the playoffs, coming back from a 6-0 deficit in game five to win the playoff series.  They got a taste of their own medicine against the Giants, the eventual World Series winner.  They enter 2013 in pretty good shape, possibly losing only Kyle Lohse to free agency.  He still has not signed with a team yet, but Chris Carpenter’s return to the rotation is more than enough to replace him.

Hot Stove Season: There has been little movement here.  They signed Randy Choate as a free agent to bring a reliever to the left side.  They traded excess Skip Schumaker to the Los Angeles Dodgers for shortstop Jake Lemmerman.  His best hope is to make the team as a utilty player.  They also signed Ty Wigginton, but he is only fon the roster for depth at the corner infield positions.  He will also be used as a pinchhitter.

Strength: They got some strong bats at the corner outfield and infield positions.  Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig and David Freese are a formidable presence in the middle of any lineup.  There are no gold glovers here, but they won’t hurt you.  Their best player is behind the plate.  Once Yadier Molina added offense to his game he became one of the better catchers in the National League.  Buster Posey may still beat him with the bat but Yadier beats him with the glove.  They have two big time starters for their rotation in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and myworld was impressed with the heat thrown by youngsters Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly.  They pitched out of the bullpen for the Cardinals but were effective starters in the minors.  We still are not sold on Shelby Miller.

Weakness: Daniel Descalso played well in the playoffs but the Cardinals will not be patient with a .220 average.  He has been given the second base job before and lost it.  Kolten Wong will take over the position if that happens and Descalso will return to his utility role.  The Cardinals may experience some growing pains with Kolten.  Even with the return of Rafael Furcal shortstop may still be a hole.  Furcal’s skills have dropped from what they were and he has had some issues staying healthy.  Don’t expect Pete Kozma to hit .333 over a full season.  Up the middle except for catching just doesn’t impress and that is where teams normally win championships.  The Cardinals have been having success doing it with strong corners with big bats.  They may need the depth in their young pitchers to take over for the third through fifth spots in the starting rotation, but the bullpen will bring the heat if not asked to fill any of the starting roles.

Top Position Prospect: Oscar Taveras will be rated as one of the top five prospects in the minor leagues.  He hits for average and power.  If he was a natural center fielder his ascent to the majors would be quicker, but he does not have the speed to play center.  An injury to Beltran or Holliday will give him an opportunity.

Top Pitching Prospect: Carlos Martinez.  Like many of the Cardinal pitchers ahead of him he throws hard, hitting the mid to upper 90s as a starting pitcher.  He will probably appear on many top 100 prospect lists.  You can count the starting pitchers who throw harder than him on one hand.  The only concern with him is for a player his size (6′0″, 160) who throws as hard as he does is his durability.  If he breaks down the Cardinals may decide his best use is in the bullpen.

Watch out for: Most people already know about Trevor Rosenthal.  His three digit fastball blew me away.  So our choice here will be the Cardinals number one pick in 2012, James Ramsey.  He only hit .229 last year in his debut but he has the potential to be a fast riser.  And he has the speed where he could play centerfield.

Rookie of the Year Prospect: We like Kolten Wong’s ability to win the second base job.  We think Trevor Rosenthal will be stuck in the bullpen, not a good area for rookie of the year possibilities.  If Trevor finds his way in the starting rotation he would pull ahead of Kolten.

Projected on Paper Finish: The Cardinals will just miss out making the playoffs even though they will finish second in the NL Central.  The Giants and Braves will win the wild card spots.

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