Sizing Up The Cardinals in The Spring

Good morning folks,

Fresh off work and a hit and run with the gym, I wanted to take the chance to talk about the Cards today. While I officially cover the Cards for Sports Rants and do most of workCardinals_Spring_Base_inev_________t607 there, I wanted to take a detour and present to you a bullet round that covers the recent actions of the team. Things to remember, a fresh take on certain players and maybe a few surprises.

  • Stop worrying about Oscar Taveras’ health. Sure, the kid can’t stay healthy and is showing more signs of becoming the next J.D. Drew than the second coming of Albert Pujols but it’s still early. He hasn’t played a major league game yet and deep down, the Cards aren’t counting on him to contribute a ton this season.  They didn’t trade Matt Adams for a reason and traded for Bourjos. Insurance for the plight of Oscar. Luckily, the Cards aren’t in dire need of a young outfielder right now. We have him in the arsenal and set for a future impact. Oscar’s body is running behind his potential.  He had an ankle injury in 2013 and was rushed back only to go down for the season. This spring, eager to please a Cards staff and management team, he pulled a hamstring. Slow the train down folks. Let Oscar get healthy and play some games at Memphis. There is NO need to rush the kid. Last time I checked we weren’t in Chicago or San Diego.
  • It has been talked about and rehashed over and over, but let me say I am very happy with the Matt Carpenter extension. It’s a quality deal that springs optimism on both sides of the ball and provides the team with a versatile player with the potential to be a top flight leadoff man for a long time. Carpenter’s winning attitude, steady defense and ability to consistently get on base the past 2 years gave the Card a hint of locking him in. Then he went off and put together one of the best years by a second baseman ever, smashing 55 doubles, scoring over 110 runs and putting together an on base percentage around .400.  The kid can play and 6 years at 52 million dollars is a bargain for this kind of talent. Allen Craig got less, but Carpenter provides more stable health and gives you more options in the field. Both deals keep these two vital pieces of the Cards offense intact.

  • I really want Kolten Wong to stick at second base. He is a fine young talent capable of a gold glove in the field and he has hit at every level he has been given a steady chance. Wong isn’t made for the bench and can’t feud off rust like Matt Adams once did in a supplementary role. Wong needs to play and hopefully will get the opportunity to show his skills. If we can allow Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso to combine for a .225 batting average and slugging percentage right around .320 for the majority of a season, we can allow Wong to grow at a position he is destined to own. I like his speed, ability to turn a double play and his hunger to right the ship that dipped into heavy waters when he was unfortunately picked off in The World Series to end Game 4. Wong’s story is far from over.
  • Lance Lynn is a bargain. Listen to me. For a 4th or 5th arm, he has collected over 30 wins, put together a fine WAR(wins above replacement) and eclipsed 200 innings last year. Sure, he breaks down in June and July but remember in 2013, Lynn recovered for a fine September.  I still think he needs to learn to push through that mid season rut but I like him in the rotation over Joe Kelly because he doesn’t rely on his defense to produce 85 percent of his outs. Lynn can strike out hitters with efficiency and record outs with his own pitching. He is young and has produced two solid years all around. He relies on run support but has put up a fine individual set of stats as well. I think we are all a little hard on him because of his mental breakdowns during a start. However,we must remember Lynn is young and has room to grow. In the mean time, I will take the 15-18 win seasons.
  • Carlos Martinez could be a killer late inning bullpen arm, but with the injury to Jaime Garcia and uncertainty surrounding his return, now is a good time to see what Baby Carlos can do. Why not? It’s early in the season, games aren’t as vital as they are in the dog days of summer and the upside for the kid is high. In no way shape or form will he make 25-30 starts. Garcia will be back or they will find a way to cut down Martinez’s innings if he made it into the rotation and flourished. I am talking about a simple test run. It would be wise to mix in Tyler Lyons and John Gast for spot starts to help the kid but this is Matheny’s chance to see what the wild thing truly has in that right arm of his.  Start him now.
  • I’ll write a full article for Sports Rants next week on this topic, but people, Matt Holliday deserves to be appreciated for being a model of consistency. Sure he hasn’t put up the lightning rod numbers that Pujols used to, but that was never the intention or need. Holliday is a steady hitter with average defense but an ability to change games with one swing of the bat. He hits .300, drives in 100 runs a year and slugs 20-25 home runs. He also hits a ton of doubles, scores runs and takes his walks while hustling every single play. His all purpose WAR over his time in a Cardinal uniform is 4th in Major League Baseball among every day players. That is what you pay a man long term for. True value and wins above replacement is a stat that represents that man’s value to the team over another option. Holliday may not win the MVP here but he will continue to put up consistent numbers and insert value into that 8 year 118 million dollar contract. There’s a reason we signed him first before locking up Pujols. Cards knew who was going to continue to produce and not gut the teams payroll.
  • In the same vein as Taveras, don’t place any time table on Jason Motte. I miss the Wolfman as much as anyone, but he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and it hasn’t even been a full year yet. He is throwing at near full speed right now but needs to do it for a couple weeks and then start facing hitters. Make no qualms about his desire to compete to get back on the mound at Busch. Just don’t hope to see him doing that on Opening Day at Busch. The bullpen is stocked with young arms and there are only more waiting down in the minors. When you have depth, you can spare the urge to rush proven talent back into action.

That’s all I got. Enjoy these fake games. Please don’t tweet or whine about us getting blown out or blowing another team out in one of these exhibition games.  These are games meant for fine tuning and putting pieces together for a 162 game grind that is only for the strong minded folks. Baseball is back but now isn’t the time to freak out. Trust me, that time will come later. Have a great weekend folks. Go rent Spectacular Now or catch up on True Detective if you need a relief from sports or the everyday hustle of life.

Thanks for giving me your time.

Check out my complete coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals at my Sports Rants website. http://sportsrants.com/mlb/author/buffa82/

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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

2 thoughts on “Sizing Up The Cardinals in The Spring”

  1. Reblogged this on Cautious Realism and commented:
    Dan always has some level-headed things to say about the Cardinals and this post is no different. I have to say I agree with just about everything he says here, possibly excepting the Matt Carpenter deal BUT I don’t think it’s terrible, just seems like a really long deal for a guy who has had one great season.

    Sure, we can expect him to be consistent, and his ability to stay healthier than Alan Craig is an important distinction between the two core members of this dynastic team.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dan, and I’ll echo your sentiment that I sure hope people can reel in their emotions during Spring games. Give it a few more weeks before you start thinking the sky is falling on the Cards- what? You all know you’ll be thinking that the first time they lose a game 😉

  2. Thanks a lot Sean. I appreciate the feedback and spread. I do my best to shoot people straight so I am glad you dug the post.

    In my eyes, the Carpenter deal is beneficial to a team that was in dire need of a leadoff man. In 2012, he put together a solid season as a part time player and showed a keen ability to get on base.

    He is a hard working productive ballplayer who I think is worth the risk.

    Craig is solid as well. This lineup could be fierce if a few things click.

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