Now that you know about the pitching for the Cardinals to start 2020 from my last column, let's just turn the page on the offense of 2019. Few enjoyed breakouts let alone career years and yet this team last season found ways to win. It caught up to them in post season as the Washington Nations completely shut down the Cardinals offense. Did I just say let’s turn the page? So just what do we have for 2020? More questions for sure as there are some jobs open for the taking and plenty of people with big league experience who will compete for them.
Let’s start with the outfield. You know the Dexter Fowler Story from yesterday and you know what he must do as he is the incumbent in right field. Where will he hit in the order will be interesting as he hit in a variety of spots. While one would think he was most effective in the leadoff spot, the numbers show he was best in the sixth or seventh position in 2019, his best season as a Cardinal. The anointed incumbent in centerfield would be Harrison Bader. Bader made it perfectly clear that the job is and will be his for the foreseeable future although hitting .205 with 117 strikeouts in just 347 as bats says there is work to be done and nothing should be taken for granted going into spring training. Bader is a tenacious worker and will bring his “A” game to the park this year as there will be others who would like to try center field on for size. One of those would be Lane Thomas.
Thomas had a brief taste of the majors with the Cardinals and accounted for himself rather well before he was beset by a season ending hand/wrist injury. Thomas has the tools and then some. If he avoids the injury bug, be will make it more than interesting. Left field will be without former “FORMER Gold Glover” Marcel Ozuna who has moved on. That means the job is open and there are candidates. Tyler O’Neil will apply for the job and during his stints with the Cardinals over the last two seasons, he still raises eyebrows when it comes to the “what ifs?” What if he can stay healthy what if he can lay of the breaking ball out of the strike zone? Yes, what if? If O’Neil could get 450 at bats what would the numbers look like? A good spring would certainly give him that chance that he covets. Make or break? Why not at this point. Then there is Dylan Carlson. This young man at 20 has turned heads within the organization and others as well. A potential 4.5-5 tool player to some as he has lit it up at every level in the minors in his limited tour of duty. While the Cardinals have been cautiously optimistic about his ascension, they have not touted him a great deal going into spring training hoping his actions will speak for themselves. While just 20 years old and considered one of the top prospects in the game, we have seen the likes of Ronald Acuna, Jr and Juan Soto come on the seen and have good early success. Perhaps this is the year where Dylan Carlson takes a dip in that pool. Another player to keep an eye on is Justin Williams. Williams was part of the Tommy Pham deal from Tampa two years ago. A talented left-handed hitting outfielder is finally healthy after dealing with a broken hand that had him sidelined most of last season, being a lefthanded in a righthand dominated hitting club could be key to him if he gets off early.
When it comes to the Cardinals infield, the only position of concern would be third base. You know the Matt Carpenter story by now and you should know the Tommy Edman story by now as well as Edman was the catalyst to the St. Louis success last year. He did everything needed and asked of him including taking over at third base. How this works this season with he and Matt Carpenter will be interesting to say the least because when Edman is in the lineup, things happen. Getting him at bats will be essential. Where he plays is not the issue as he can play multiple positions and play them well.
As the remaining members of the infield, Kolten Wong finally got what was the first of what should be a few Gold Gloves. His offense clicked as he was no longer just a pull hitter and he made teams playing the shift on him pay dearly. The Paul’s (Dejong and Goldschmidt) had interesting offensive seasons to say the least. They will both be in the market for more consistency at the plate along with reduction in strikeouts. Defensively, you could not ask for more as they were both Gold Glove Finalist.
Yadier Molina. What more can be said about him that has not been said by now if you bother to pay attention to his whole game? It is the final year of his contract and before we start pinning people down about next year, lets get through this one first. As for the catching position, the Cardinals are solid there and in the farm system as there are some you catchers that making headway hoping to wear the birds on the bat soon. This also includes Andrew Kizner who has done everything there is to do in the minors. So, what next for him? Maybe he will be the 26th man on the roster this season. Between Kizner, Jairo Munoz and Tommy Edman, the utility situation seems solid for now. It’s spring training and you know how things can change quickly but for now, its safe to mark their names down.
Wednesday, we will look at the manager and staff as well as the front office and what their look will be in Spring Training 2020.