The St. Louis Cardinals finished the 2017 Spring Season, 20-8-4, the best record in the National League this spring. This is the first time the Redbirds have won 20 games in the spring since 1997. Sophisticated fans know all too well, the games of spring have no real impact upon the games of summer.
Spring Training is a time for auditioning, planning, developing, and assessing. The Cards’ spring appears to have been a successful one; as their record indicates. The 2017 Season begins with one of the hottest, if not the hottest rivalry in baseball, as the 2016 World Champions Chicago Cubs travel to Busch Stadium to take on the St. Louis Cardinals.
Coming out of Grapefruit League play, I believe the Cardinals need to focus on creating more offensive production in leftfield and 2nd base. With the loss of Matt Holiday, via Free Agency to the New York Yankees, the leftfield position is Randall Grichuk’s to lose. This spring Grichuk was 15 for 55, with a .236 batting average, and belted 1 home run. Seeking to increase his value to the Cardinals, as he hopes to increase his MLB appearances, is one of the brighter stories coming out of spring, Jose Martinez. Last season with the Birds on the Bat, J. Martinez had 7 hits in 16 plate appearances. This spring, J. Martinez went 19/50, with a .380 batting average, and hit 4 home runs. Also this season, primarily to his dramatic weight loss and outstanding physical conditioning, Matt Adams is also available for duty in leftfield. This spring, Adams was 16/47, with a .340 average, hitting 5 home runs.
There is no need for this writer to re-hash the stories and drama surrounding Kolton Wong. I personally believe Wong is capable of being an elite 2nd baseman. I also believe, early on in the 2017 season, we may witness Manager Mike Matheny use a platoon combination at 2nd. Matheny has the option of either starting Kolton Wong or Greg Garcia against right handed pitching, or starting Jedd Gyorko against southpaws. Wong has a career .248 batting average. This spring, Wong was 10/52, batting .192. Garcia went 15/51, for a .294 average, and hit one home run. Against left hand pitching, the right handed hitting Gyorko was 9/47, with a .191 batting average, and belted 2 home runs. Last season Gyorko launched 30 of his MLB career 79 home runs. Gyorko is a career .238 hitter. Gyorko is a threat off the bench.
I have been often asked, “Do the Cardinals have enough starting pitching”? My answer is yes. This is no way to speculate on how significant the loss of Alex Reyes this season to Tommy John Surgery shall prove. The starting rotation of Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, and Mike Leake, are all capable, if right, to provide success in 2017. If the Cardinals make a move, I believe it will be for starting pitching. If not, be prepared to see many hurlers make the trek from Memphis to St. Louis, this season.
I am convinced the NL Central is the Chicago Cubs to lose. I believe the Cardinals can be competitive in the Central Division. I also believe the Redbirds will be in the fight for a Wild Card berth, with Chicago, again, winning the Division. However, to quote Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over, until it’s over”. The fact of the matter is, the season has yet to begin.
As a fan I am excited to see the Cardinals 1st series of the 2017 Season is against the Chicago Cubs. Play Ball!
Thanks for reading!
Jim Tsapelas is a featured author for A View from the Bench.