The Red Birds were one of the more talked about teams over the offseason because of the Arenado trade. Realistically, the team didn’t do too much outside of the trade for Nolan but there is a lot to like about this team. I have them pegged to be atop the NL Central.
Key Additions: Nolan Arenado
Key Subtractions: Kolten Wong
The Cardinals are starting to make a habit out of stealing the best players from the NL West. Close to a decade ago it was Matt Holiday. In 2019 it was Paul Goldschmidt. This time around it was Arenado. People can talk about how Nolan’s numbers might be a facade, but the reality is that he is great. I understand it’s impossible to ignore his home/road splits; Coors Field was very kind to Arenado. We can’t all of sudden think he’ll fall off a cliff, though. Nolan’s an elite-level defender who rates out to be at least average offensively. At worst, Arenado is just as good as Matt Chapman. His presence to go along with what St. Louis has in place should elevate them to legit contender.
The thing that makes me bullish on the Cardinals is their pitching staff. The team was far from being at full strength in 2020 due to their poor pitching. Carlos Martinez and Jack Flaherty were pretty terrible while Miles Mikolas and Jordan Hicks were MIA. There will always be unknowns when it comes to pitchers, but I’m betting all those guys have bounce-back seasons. Couple strong campaigns from the pitchers listed above to go with Giovanny Gallegos, Andrew Miller, and Alex Reyes and you’ve got a terrific collection of arms. The offense will be anchored by the corner infielders while the pitchers shut guys down; that’ll be St. Louis’s recipe for success this year.
I’m interested to see how some of the younger players fare for the Red Birds this season. The team’s top prospect, Dylan Carlson, had a rough showing in his first crack at the Bigs. I’m sure he’ll make an adjustment coming into the new year and be a big part of the team’s outfield. Tyler O’Neill and Tommy Edman both had rough years in 2020 as well and will need to bounce back. Edman will more than likely be the team’s everyday second baseman with Wong gone while O’Neill will get somewhere close to 500 at-bats in the outfield; they need to produce.
For the pitching staff, I expect Dakota Hudson and Genesis Cabrera to regress. They both had solid ERAs in 2020 but I don’t think that’s sustainable. Cabrera walks too many guys while Hudson is a pitch-to-contact guy. Unless Dakota’s St. Louis’ new version of Adam Wainwright, we should see less impressive stats. For as much as he has been talked about, Alex Reyes is still young. He’s only 26 and it looks like he may have figured it out last year. He still walked too many guys, but all of his other numbers were upper echelon. Ryan Helsley is another Cardinal pitcher I find interesting. His 2019 debut was solid but last year he scuffled big time. His underlying numbers are a little crazy. He got hit hard in 2019 but it didn’t hurt him. Last year, his hits per nine innings went down, but his ERA, FIP, WHIP, and ERA+ all soared. He’s got the stuff to get guys out. He just needs to hone it in.
Letting Wong walk while going after Arenado doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. The Cardinals seem to be all in right now while everyone bows out; it would’ve been better for them to re-sign Kolten. I know he’s had his ups and downs offensively, but Wong’s one of the better all-around second basemen in the league. The only real reason they saw it okay to let go of Wong would be Edman. Tommy will get the majority of the at-bats for St. Louis while playing second. His numbers in 2020 weren’t good, but he had a strong debut and more than likely made some adjustments this offseason.
The Cardinals will more than likely find themselves winners of the NL Central title at the end of the season. They’ll have some competition on their hands with the Brewers and Cubs, but I think St. Louis will end up on top.