Cardinals 1st Quarter report card

Posted by Scott Wuerz on May 15, 2014 

A look at the St. Louis Cardinals one-quarter of the way through the 2014 season:

3 Mark Ellis, D+ : Signed to be an insurance policy for young second baseman Kolten Wong, Ellis was pressed into service when Wong faltered and was sent to Class AAA. Unfortunately, Ellis couldn't do much better. He's batting .190 with 14 strikeouts in 63 at-bats. He's managed only two extra base hits and now, apparently, has lost the job back to Wong who has been recalled from Memphis.

4 Yadier Molina, A : The Cardinals' team leader has been the club's best hitter with a .308 batting average and four homers. He's still the best defensive catcher in baseball and is a key ingredient in the success of the club's young pitchers.

7 Matt Holliday, B : He's batting only .267 but Holliday leads the Cardinals with 23 RBIs. He has a respectable .362 on-base percentage but a troubling .367 slugging percentage. Hopefully the latter will improve as the temperature warms up and balls start to fly a little better.

8 Peter Bourjos, D+ : Brought in to give the Redbirds an element of speed they've missed for about a decade and a half, Bourjos has struggled to hit well enough to play consistently. At the worst of it, Bourjos was batting .156 and had struck out in about half of his plate appearances. He's up to .224 now and has only struck out about a third of his at-bats, 26 times in 76 trips to the plate. For a speedster, he doesn't walk much. He's drawn only six bases on balls.

12 Greg Garcia, Incomplete : Brought up after Wong went down, Garcia only batted 14 times. He went back to Memphis with a .200 batting average and one walk against four strikeouts. He had a couple of sacrifices but, up to now, his signature moment is getting hit by a pitch to drive home the winning run with the bases loaded in extra innings.

13 Matt Carpenter, C : I give Carpenter credit for playing where ever the Cardinals ask him to play. But, despite it being his "natural position," Carpenter is a much better defender at second than he is at third. He's made six errors an has a .935 fielding percentage. Even worse, Carpenter has carried his struggles to the plate where he's batting .256 with 36 strikeouts. Last year he broke Stan Musial's team record for doubles. This year he's sixth on the team with two-base hits.

15 Randal Grichuk, Incomplete : He had only 21 at-bats after an unexpected early season call-up. But, while he hit only .143, Grichuk lashed the ball a couple of times in his handful of opportunities and he showed better in the outfield than advertised. He played all three outfield spots and ran pretty well showing that he could, potentially, be a valuable extra outfielder later this year.

16 Kolten Wong, C- : Wong just got back from Memphis where he tore the cover off the ball and manager Mike Matheny hopes his tweaked and shortened swing can be more productive in St. Louis. He hit .225 with nine strikeouts and five walks before being sent out.

19 Jon Jay, C- : Jay has struggled to maintain his stroke after an uneven 2013 season. He's hitting .274 overall. But he's gone long stretches without a hit. Jay's play in the outfield has worsened with his range being exposed between Holliday and Allen Craig in right in place of Carlos Beltran.

21 Allen Craig, D+ : He's shown signs of life lately with a .350 batting average, a homer and five RBIs over the last week. But he's batting .221 with 32 strikeouts and 11 walks over the course of the season. One bright spot in Craig's play has been his defense in right field. He's played especially well there lately, sacrificing his body to make diving catches to stall opposing rallies. But I think he'd do better back and first base where he could save his legs and avoid the nagging injuries that have stalled his career.

26 Trever Rosenthal, C : The fire-balling closer has 10 saves in 11 tries. But his ERA is over 5.00 and his saves are rarely uneventful. He's walked far too many hitters -- 11 in 17 2/3 innings -- and he's getting behind batters, allowing them to find his pitch selection and location more predictable. Rosenthal seems to have lost about three miles an hour from his fastball, which still leaves him more than enough velocity to get hitters out. But it makes me concerned that something is out of whack with his mechanics to cause him to not only lose speed but also command.

27 Jhonny Peralta, C : Brought in to provide offense at a spot that wasn't very productive for the Cardinals in 2013, Peralta took a while to find his feet and ended April struggling to hit .200 -- although he leads the team with eight home runs. Peralta's defense is nothing to write home about. But he catches most of the balls he gets to and, for the time being at least, is doing the best job of anyone on the roster to fill the second slot in the batting order.

31 Lance Lynn, B- : 4-2 with a 3.83 ERA, Lynn could have a lot better statistics if he could avoid his traditional one bad inning. Lynn has allowed less hits than innings pitched and a good strikeouts to walks ratio of 51:17. But he doesn't pitch deep enough into games and has been a strain on the bullpen because of it.

32 Matt Adams, B- : He just dropped below the .300 mark after starting off the season as one of the Cardinals' best hitters at getting on base. Adams is to be commended for adding an opposite field element to his hitting stroke. But in the process he seems to have lost his power. That's a problem because, with the loss of Beltran, the Redbirds need somebody to provide a game-changing threat in the middle of the batting order.

33 Daniel Descalso, C : He's another guy that fans love to gripe about. Ironically, they're unsatisfied with the batting average of a utility player and think that Descalso should be released. But they'll threaten to jump from the nearest rooftop if manager Mike Matheny doesn't stop "ruining" Bourjos by not letting him play enough to find his swing. Although Descalso doesn't play a lot, he often finds himself in key situations and has had a knack for making big plays when it counts the most. He gives the Redbirds roster flexibility by playing second and third base very well and shortstop passably.

36 Randy Choate, C : He didn't pitch bad before he was rocked earlier this week in an extended appearance during a blowout. Unfortunately, he gave up six earned runs on seven hits and ruined his ERA for the season. Good thing for him he has a long-term contract.

40 Shelby Miller, C- : He's 5-2 with a 3.22 ERA. But Miller has a lousy strikeouts to walks ratio of 33:27 and he can't pitch more than six innings because he fools around to much with hitters. He has the arsenal to be great. But I don't know if he has the drive or the baseball intelligence to put it all together. It's never a good sign when your catcher and your manager lose their temper with you on national television.

41 Pat Neshek, A : What a find the herky-jerky right-handed bullpenner has been for the Cardinals. He's got a 1.02 ERA and has allowed seven hits in 17 innings of work. He's struck out 21 and walked three.

44 Carlos Martinez, B : He's struggled to find consistency with a 4.22 ERA in 21 1/3 innings of work. When he's great, he's nearly unhittable. But Martinez can go from "on" to "off" from one batter to the next.

46 Kevin Siegrist, B+ : His 3.57 ERA and 16 hits allowed in 17 2/3 innings pales against his stats from last year. But Siegrist isn't a prototypical lefty specialist. He pitches against batters on both sides of the plate and gets more exposure than most bullpen southpaws.

48 Tony Cruz, A : How can Cruz get an A? He's only a back-up catcher who rarely gets to play, after all. But Cruz manages to fill his job description perfectly, providing a solid alternative when Molina needs a day off. He's seen an increased role this year, serving as Lynn's personal catcher on most days.

50 Adam Wainwright, A : He's 6-2 with a 2.11 ERA and firmly on track to make a bid for the Cy Young Award if he can keep it up for a full season. Oddly, however, he's owned everyone else in the NL while strugging against the Chicago Cubs. He's struck out 56 and walked 14 while allowing 47 hits in 64 innings.

52 Michael Wacha, B+ : He's only 3-3 despite his 2.85 ERA. On on hand, Wacha's record would be better if the bullpen could have helped him out more. On the other, his record would be better if he wouldn't lean on the bullpen so early so often. That being said, it's tough to remember because of his polish that Wacha doesn't even have half an MLB season under his belt.

58 Joe Kelly, Incomplete : Kelly was doing a great job before a hamstring pull sidelined him for the past two couple of weeks. In his three starts, Kelly was 1-1 with an ERA of 0.59. Hopefully he'll be back sooner rather than later, although the Cardinals rotation picture will be muddied with the return of Jaime Garcia this weekend.

 61 Seth Maness, C : People were spoiled last year when Maness had an unbelievably lucky streak of luring hitters to ground into double plays. That was bound not to continue. But the high expectations have caused people to be disappointed by his 2.70 ERA with 21 hits allowed in 16 2/3 innings of work.

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