Cardinals Looking for Playoffs in 2019

The acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt is proof of that. In the 21st century the Cardinals have had only one losing season, but it has been four years since they last made the playoffs. If they are in the hunt for 2019 expect them to trade prospects for veteran players that will get them to the playoffs. They fell just outside the top ten last year so they have some prospects to trade. In 2013 they were top of the class with Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Kolton Wong, Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha. Last year their top ten included Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty, Carson Kelly, Tyler O’Neil and Harrison Bader. Carson was traded to acquire Goldschmidt while O’Neil and Bader combined for 21 homeruns in the outfield and Flaherty picked up eight wins.

The player they keep waiting for is Alex Reyes. He was supposed to be in the Cardinals rotation three years ago, a year or two before Carlos Martinez. Injuries and drug suspensions have only given fans a glimpse of his prowess. The durability issues will probably restrict Alex to a bullpen role in 2019. Whether they consider expanding him to the starting rotation is probably far into the future and will depend on how his arm holds up. He can hit triple digits with his fastball and it comes with greater velocity in shorter spurts. He does have a quality curveball and change, giving him three pitches to start, but his command is still inconsistent and the long term health of the arm is still in question. Expect him to start the season in the minors and if his health holds up he should be in the Cardinals bullpen by mid-season.

Dakota Hudson saw some time in the Cardinals pen last year. He started 19 games in AAA. He will start the 2019 season in the pen and be insurance in case an injury happens to a starting pitcher. Hudson does not have overpowering stuff but has two quality breaking pitches to complement his heat. Last year he had a 18/19 walk to whiff ratio in 27 innings. That needs to improve if he wants continued success in the major leagues. His breaking stuff does induce ground balls so double plays get him out of tough spots.

Genesis Cabrera had an eye opening winter season. The lefty could provide an alternative approach to recently signed free agent Andrew Miller out of the bullpen. Last year he started 25 games with lefthanded hitters barely above the Mendoza line hitting against him. The Cardinals may promote him to AAA to start or they could insert him into the major league bullpen with a good spring. His fastball can reach the mid-90s and he locates his pitches well. Expect him to start the season in AAA in 2019 but he could be promoted quickly if the Cardinals have another need for a lefthanded arm in the bullpen.

The Cardinals always find a player who comes from nowhere to throw triple digits. Jordan Hicks came up last year. The 2019 version could be Junior Fernandez. His control is poor and his secondary pitches are not challenging, but he does throw heat. The strikeouts are not as prevalent as one would expect from one who throws so hard but he is only 21 years of age. The improvement of a second pitch or the development of another pitch could make him a break out star.

Daniel Poncedeleon gives one thoughts of the Fountain of Youth. The fact he made his major league debut last year after being beaned in the head in 2017 and having brain surgery is a miracle in itself. His stuff is more as a back end of the rotation starter. The fastball hits the mid-90s but the secondary pitches are very average. Last year he got four starts and seven relief appearances, finishing with a 2.73 ERA. In AAA the opposition hit him at a .197 clip and major leaguers also struggled batting .205. He will probably start the season in AAA but a good spring could force the issue.

On the position front third base looks solid. Nolan Gorman was their first round pick in 2018. He showed some pretty impressive power with 17 homeruns in just .237 at bats. There was a bit of a struggle after he was promoted from rookie league ball to Low A with his batting average dropping from .350 to .202. Defensively he was solid at third base. If he can stick there he could be an impact player at the position.

Elehuris Montero may not have the raw power of Gorman but his bat does carry some juice. Last year he slugged .504 with 16 homeruns sharing his time at Low and High A. At 6′3″ he may outgrow third base and his speed does not make the outfield a viable alternative. His bat will play at first but one of his best attributes is a strong arm, which would be wasted at that position. Next year he could start his season in the Florida State league with a quick promotion to AA if he continues to hit.

Delvin Perez was supposed to be the next Carlos Correa coming out of Puerto Rico. The Cardinals used a first round pick for him in 2016. His draft attractiveness dropped after he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. His bat has been a big disappointment as well. In his third season he hit his first homerun but he finished with a slugging average of just .272. The defensive tools are there for him to stick at shortstop but he won’t get there if he doesn’t get the batting average farther north of the Mendoza line.

Max Schrock has bounced around with three teams. Originally drafted by the Nationals he has been traded to the Athletics and to the Cardinals. The bat sprays line drives to the gap but his lack of power and below average speed leaves him a bit one dimensional. He needs to hit .324 like he did in 2017 and not .249 as he did last year. The bat makes solid contact.

The Cardinals continue to be loaded in the outfield. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for Cuban prospect Randy Arozarena. Last year his Cuban compatriot Ramon Laureano was a low level prospect for the Athletics before making a splash with them by mid-season. Randy hopes to plagiarize that story line. The bat may be a little short on power to profile well in a corner spot, but the speed exists for him to defend centerfield well. He will need injuries to decimate the Cardinal outfield to get a chance next year, but if he opens AAA hitting .396 as he did last year in AA the Cardinals will make room for his bat.

Jonatan Machado is another Cuban toiling at the lower levels of the minor leagues. His power and arm will not impress major league scouts but his speed carries a wow factor. He needs to gain strength to be able to find the gaps. Last year 16 of his 75 hits went for extra bases for a slugging average of just .291. His smallish 5′9″ frame is not a good predictor of future power to come.

Jose Adolis Garcia is a third Cuban outfielder to watch in the Cardinals system. He is the younger brother of Adonis Garcia but stands a few inches taller than him. He won the MVP in the Cuban professional league and departed for the major leagues after that. Last year he made his major league debut, hitting just .118 in 17 at bats after hitting .256 with 22 homeruns in AAA. His arm is above average making him an ideal rightfielder, something the Cardinals have in a surplus.

Andrew Knizner was a reason for the Cardinals to trade Carson Kelly. Knizner will not match the defensive tools of Kelly but at least his bat is expected to provide production. Last year he hit .313. The power was absent and at 24 years of age you have to wonder if it can develop. Defensively his arm is accurate and can stymie a running game. Andrew is a battler behind the plate.

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