Before we turn on our radio’s and hear Mike Shannon call a “steeerike one right down central” there should be an awareness of where the Cardinals are at offensively, and who will be standing in the batter’s box when that first strike is called.
There is much speculation surrounding the Cardinals success in the coming months so it would be nice to dissect the offense of the Cardinals as if the season were to start today. How much did the Cardinals actually lose by not signing Heyward?
First, housekeeping. The Cardinals suffered unbelievable amounts of injury in 2015. That is just it, 2015. Moving on to 2016 the lineup is healthy (minus one thumb) and looking to do just as much damage.
Starting off in the outfield, John Mozeliak has not quite made it clear as to how he plans to organize the outfield or who he plans on experimenting with; but there is a good clear definition that many fans had questions about going into the offseason. Is there a home in the organization for Pham? How about Piscotty? With Mozeliak’s withdraw from being aggressive this offseason during hot stove, he hinted in an interview on December 16th that the outfield looked strong with Piscotty, Pham and Holliday returning.
The infield looks to remain the same only (still) leaving questions at first base. With Matt Adams healthy the answer may just be in his bat, but there has been speculation with Brandon Moss still in the mix and Randall Grichuk looking for a place to play. There could be some real shifting around the right corner of the diamond. The point is, there are still a lot of options both within the organization and in free agency. Again, there is Moss and Adams who make great trade bait for a future first baseman to hold up the corner.
Like mentioned above, the argument of fans is at the loss of Heyward who was spectacular in 2014 with 163 hits in 547 at bats. His defense is irreplaceable. The long throw home from center field to tag out Marte granting a few days rest before the NLDS was unmistakably beautiful. There is still a lot of power left. I know fans will not forget that life and season saving throw.
With Piscotty actually getting a full season to show off his offensive weapons he has a chance to double his efforts replacing the offensive shadow that was cast above him in right by Heyward. After batting .305 with 71 hits in 233 at bats, he looks to nearly double the hit count, 142 hits would not be a bad thing for a team that is losing some good swings in Heyward.
A healthy Pham who only saw 52 games last year amongst a bunch of questions surrounding Jon Jay will see a full season this year and have a chance to get some better looks at the plate than a last second appearance and expectation of having to produce.
Randal Grichuk looks to be a good offensive weapon with only 103 games that produced 89 hits in 2015 he leaves a lot of hope in the mind of fans. The issue remains where to put him defensively. With no departure in the outfield from Holliday and his promised healthy return; Grichuk has the potential to sit more than hit. While the offseason has not produced any trades including Moss or Reynolds the depth still remains in question with Grichuk sitting atop the list based upon his healthy hitting habits.
The first key is health. Offensively the team will be fine if everyone remains healthy. Runs lost by Heyward are replaced by Pham and Piscotty playing a full season along with Holliday. While Grichuk is able to move around in utility the team can streamline the offense to get ahead and then shift to a defensive unit that can close out the game. Something they struggled to do in 2015. Brandon Moss brings hope with a healthy off season and a new focus with a team that saw a lot of confusion for the second half of the season.
Coming off of a great season, Matt Carpenter looks to be in as a weapon along with a once again healthy Kolten Wong who before the break had the attention of the fans with a hot bat.
The second key (argued heavily among some good friends) will be Jhonny Peralta who was less than stellar down the stretch and saw problems hitting outside the strike zone, the new campsite for opposing pitchers.
There are some who will argue that the Cardinals are in trouble with a loss of Heyward. There is even speculation surrounding the loss of Jay in center and his bat. The answer to those problems is the players who step up into the lineup in their place who will be able to produce full time and make up for more than what Heyward ever gave to the Cardinals.