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St. Louis Cardinals 2018: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Expert Insight

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina

To fans and free agents alike, the Cardinals sell their history and their intent to be an annual fixture in the playoffs. They measure themselves by Octobers. The past two autumns have fallen short as the team slipped from National League champ in 2013 to, rung by rung, third place last year.  

The Cardinals haven’t missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons since the late 1990s, and to avoid that they had one driving strategy this winter: change. After adding a new pitching coach, they chased NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. Miami agreed to a trade; Stanton did not. The Cardinals cast again, reeling in Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins. The two-time All-Star gives the lineup a jolt the Cardinals had to have to return where their brand says they belong.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the CARDINALS

“I really like this lineup. It’s a little too right-handed, but they’ve got power up and down the order, and Marcell Ozuna makes a big difference with his bat and his strong arm. They’ve got the usual veterans coming back for the rotation — Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright — and some other really intriguing options. The first year back from Tommy John can be a challenge, but Alex Reyes has a big arm and he’ll be a huge addition. Luke Weaver was terrific last year; he’s got an excellent changeup, and he’s deceptive enough to beat guys upstairs with just an average fastball. I’m eager to see how Miles Mikolas transitions back to MLB. They said he threw harder in Japan than he did with the Padres and Rangers a few years ago, and he really attacked the zone. The Cardinals gave him a lot of money, so they’re believers. Brett Cecil is a solid reliever, but quite overpaid, and if they try Luke Gregerson as a closer on a team with playoff hopes, that’s a bit of a reach.”

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Oquendo’s Return

Some of the Cardinals’ deterioration of defensive play the past two seasons can be traced to the absence of trusted coach Jose Oquendo. He took medical leave before the 2016 season and embraced a teaching role with the club’s minor-league infielders. After a series of recruiting visits in 2017, management lured the “Secret Weapon” back as the third base and infield coach. He’s not coming alone. Willie McGee, the former MVP and batting champ, will also join Mike Matheny’s staff as a uniformed uber-adviser for baserunning, outfield play and hitting.

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Eye Opening

During a frustrating spring that cost him a spot on the big-league bench, Tommy Pham looked for reasons behind his struggle, from his swing to his strength. In reality, his eyes betrayed him, again. Pham is legally blind in his left eye and has a degenerative disease, keratoconus, that can be like looking through Vaseline. Driving is tricky, let along driving a baseball. Once he got new contacts, Pham soared: His .931 OPS was bested among outfielders only by Giancarlo Stanton (1.007) and Charlie Blackmon (1.000). An optometry specialist said what Pham is able to do “is one in a million.”

Telling Bonds

The new look to the middle of the Cardinals’ lineup makes good on a prediction once made by, of all people, Barry Bonds. Marcell Ozuna and Dexter Fowler call Bonds a mentor, and when the seven-time MVP was hitting coach in Miami he called Ozuna his “project.” Both hitters describe how Bonds stressed that patience leads to power. He told Ozuna he could be a middle-order hitter, just as Bonds suggested high-OBP leadoff hitter Fowler would age and strengthen into being a No. 3 hitter.

Waino’s Way

A fixture for a generation, Adam Wainwright is entering the final year of his contract, and he’ll be out to prove he’s past an elbow issue before deciding what’s next. With 146 wins, Wainwright is 18 shy of third place in franchise history, behind Bob Gibson (251) and Jesse Haines (210). 

Broadcast Bucks

A windfall of revenue arrives in 2018 as the Cards start a $1.2 billion broadcast rights deal. The agreement, finalized in 2015, includes a $20 million bump in revenue from 2017 to 2018 when rights fees will start close to $55 million, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. As part of the 15-year contract, the Cardinals also gain a minority stake in the network.

Projected Lineup

1B    Matt Carpenter (L)
CF    Tommy Pham (R)
RF    Dexter Fowler (S)
LF    Marcell Ozuna (R)
SS    Paul DeJong (R)
3B    Jedd Gyorko (R)
C    Yadier Molina (R)
2B    Kolten Wong (L)
OF    Tyler O'Neill (R)
UT    Jose Martinez (R)
1B    Luke Voit (R)
INF    Greg Garcia (L)
C     Carson Kelly (R)
RHP    Carlos Martinez 
RHP    Adam Wainwright
RHP    Michael Wacha
RHP    Luke Weaver
RHP    Miles Mikolas
RHP    Luke Gregerson
RHP    Bud Norris
RHP    Dominic Leone
LHP    Tyler Lyons
LHP    Brett Cecil
RHP    Matt Bowman

RHP    Alex Reyes