St. Louis Cardinals 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

How will things shape up in the NL Central?

For an organization rooted in its past and expected to live up to that history, the Cardinals have been caught in a modern bind — holding on to their present while reaching, waiting for the future. With the rest of the NL Central taking a step back, this may be their opportunity.

 

The 2020 Cardinals overcame an outbreak of COVID-19 and a prolonged quarantine to reach the playoffs for a second consecutive year and post a 13th consecutive winning season. The fallout from the shortened schedule came fast as reduced revenues crimped spending. But while an early surprising non-tender of Gold Glover Kolten Wong signaled a limited budget, they were still able to make a major addition — with a subsidy from the Rockies — by landing five-time All-Star Nolan Arenado.

 

With a robust pitching staff, they intend to contend on this precarious perch: not rebuilding, nor resetting, but reloading. Ready to augment a roster on the go and rely once again on their arms to carry them.

 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals logo"They won't have much of a drop-off, because they've got solid starting pitching and a pipeline that always seems to give them useful complementary guys. Jack Flaherty was a bit of a disappointment last year, but he's an elite guy, and Kwang Hyun Kim is really savvy and effective. Dakota Hudson really knows how to locate that two-seamer. Johan Oviedo came up with no experience above A-ball and held his own. The bullpen is deep and well-balanced with a lot of different looks. Paul Goldschmidt's not quite the same slugger he was with Arizona, but he's still terrific — year in, year out, one of the best hitters in the league. Paul DeJong's turned into a really fine shortstop, but his power regressed last year. Dylan Carlson didn't show me much, but he's so young and talented, he's a can't-miss guy with a little more seasoning. Tyler O'Neill didn't hit at all, but he hustles, he tracks balls down and he earned that Gold Glove — he's a good enough athlete that he'll figure out the hitting side and use that strength to be a 30-homer bat someday."

 

Beyond the Box Score

 

Caravan comeback Once cleared to return after COVID-19 put them in quarantine for 17 days and infected 18 personnel, including 10 players, the Cardinals drove themselves to their first series — in Chicago. The team rented 41 cars so players could travel individually and put distance between them and the outbreak. The convoy started the real long haul — 44 days to play 53 games and save their season.

 

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Trade deficits A January trade with Tampa Bay to streamline their roster instead forced a reckoning. The Cardinals dealt Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to the Rays. Arozarena vaporized postseason records as a rookie. His breakout came as former Cardinals Luke Voit and Marcell Ozuna led the AL and NL, respectively, in homers. Watching players they once had produce in ways they still need, the Cardinals pledged an audit of their internal evaluations to avoid misplacing talent.


Reunited In the Arozarena trade, the Cardinals acquired a young lefty starter they coveted — and the best boyhood pal of their top power prospect. Pitcher Matthew Liberatore and infielder Nolan Gorman grew up together in Phoenix and were teammates until high school. Reunited as prospects, their ascent will overlap, and their debuts could coincide in 2021. During spring training, Gorman got a chance to face the 6'5" Liberatore for the first time since they were kids and had one takeaway: "He looked taller."


Card-carrying All-Star Drawing inspiration from autograph-seekers with cards for him to sign, shortstop Paul DeJong wanted to give something back to promote science and reading. With help from Topps, DeJong had cards made he could sign and keep handy. Each promotes academics and "TOPPS of the Class" while featuring him — but not in a Cardinals jersey. In one, the biochemistry major at Illinois State wears a lab coat. They're rare, true "chase" cards. "Chase all your interests," he says. 


Forever icons Bob Gibson and Lou Brock added to the Cardinals' championship legacy as players and kept the past always present by embracing roles as mentors and ambassadors for decades after retirement and up to their deaths weeks apart in 2020. Gibson, 84, remains the organization's all-time leader in wins (251) and strikeouts (3,117) to go with his rule-rewriting 1.12 ERA in 1968. Brock, 81, still is the NL's stolen base king (938). Both changed the game, but closer to home shaped forever what it means to be a Cardinal.

 

Projected Lineup

 

LINEUP

2B     Tommy Edman (S)

1B     Paul Goldschmidt (R)

3B     Nolan Arenado (R)

SS     Paul DeJong (R)

LF     Dylan Carlson (S)

C      Yadier Molina (R)

RF     Tyler O'Neill (R)

CF    Harrison Bader (R)

 

BENCH

CIF   Matt Carpenter (L)

C      Andrew Knizner (R)

OF    Lane Thomas (R)

UT    Edmundo Sosa (S)

C      Tyler Heineman (S)

 

ROTATION

RHP     Jack Flaherty

RHP     Miles Mikolas

RHP     Adam Wainwright

LHP     Kwang Hyun Kim

RHP     Carlos Martinez

 

BULLPEN

RHP     Jordan Hicks (C)

RHP     Ryan Helsley

LHP     Andrew Miller
RHP     Giovanny Gallegos

RHP     Daniel Ponce de Leon

LHP     Tyler Webb

LHP     Genesis Cabrera

RHP     Alex Reyes

 

2021 Prediction: 1st in NL Central

 

(Nolan Arenado photo courtesy of @Cardinals)

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