Season Previews: St. Louis Cardinals

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

St. Louis Cardinals

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 88-74 (1st in NL Central, 4th in MLB)

Manager: Mike Matheny (275-211 in three seasons with St. Louis)

Top Three Players: OF Jason Heyward (4.9), C Yadier Molina (3.8), 3B Matt Carpenter (3.6)

Bounce-back Player: 3B Matt Carpenter

After a breakout 2013, Carpenter slipped a little in 2014, watching his OPS fall from .873 to .750, aided by the drop in his BABIP from .359 to .318. Carpenter was still quite valuable, leading the NL in walks, which helped his on-base percentage get to .375, and he was able to score 99 runs. With a lot of improving talent around him, the 29-year-old Carpenter is ready to get back to the production levels of 2013, scoring 110 or more runs and 40 or more doubles.

Can Heyward get back on track using the "Cardinal Way"? Courtesy: stltoday.com
Can Heyward get back on track using the “Cardinal Way”?
Courtesy: stltoday.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Jason Heyward

Heyward is entering his age-25 season and he already has five full seasons under his belt. He’s set to become a free agent after the 2015 season, and a huge season would lead to a huge contract. He hasn’t had a very consistent career, as his most productive overall season was his rookie year, 2010. He can provide well above-average defense, but at 6’5″, 245 pounds, you’d expect more than 11 home runs, last season’s career-low total. Maybe the Cardinals can rework his swing and get some of the power back, allowing Heyward to get back to his natural, beautiful swing that made him such a force earlier in his career. There’s a lot of money riding on Heyward’s ability to do more with his bat; however, in the current market, he’ll still get nine figures.

Offseason Overview: The Cardinals got Heyward and RHP Jordan Walden from the Braves for a couple of young arms, RHP Tyrell Jenkins and RHP Shelby Miller. While the deal hurt the Cardinals rotation depth, they needed to replace the potential production in right field after the tragic loss of Oscar Taveras. Although they’ll have Heyward for just one season, he has the potential to be the best player the Cardinals have had since Albert Pujols‘ heyday. Still, with Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, John Lackey, and Adam Wainwright having injury issues in the past, it’s fair to wonder if dealing pitching was worth the potential lack of rotation depth. The Cardinals will continue to trust their “way”, though, so the next man up will be expected to produce. There wasn’t much action this winter in St. Louis, unless someone really wants to hear about the Mark Reynolds, Carlos Villanueva, and Matt Belisle signings.

The Verdict: Well, it’s another season and the Cardinals are still the favorites – at least based on PECOTA. You’ll likely see big seasons from Heyward, Carpenter, first baseman Matt Adams, and second baseman Kolten Wong, who is going to breakout worse than a 13-year-old boy who sips Mountain Dew all day. The Cardinals success will lie in the health of the pitching staff. They have Marco Gonzales lined up as their No. 6 starter and Garcia, if his shoulder stays connected, but Wainwright and Lackey have a lot of innings on their reconstructed elbows, and they need to see consistency out of Carlos Martinez to stay competitive. The Cubs are improved and the Pirates should be the favorites for the division. The Cardinals will win more than 85 games, but this could be the first seasons they miss the playoffs since 2010 – unless things go right, which they usually do.

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