Lost in all the closer uncertainty, in all the fan howling for a free agent splash, is the fact that this is still a competitive team.
The Cardinals were in contention until the final week of last season. And while the Cubs and Brewers both improved this winter, the Cardinals did too — and not just on the margins.
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Marcell Ozuna wasn’t just valuable last season, he was one of the best offensive players in the National League. He’s the kind of right-handed slugger this city hasn’t seen since Albert Pujols, and he brings more to a lineup than Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich or anyone in the Chicago outfield will.
That said, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that this is a franchise treading water somewhat, or maybe even in transition. The Cardinals have a lot to juggle. Legacies. Expectations. A clubhouse that skews heavy in two volatile directions — a group of established but aging veterans, and an assemblage of talented but unproven youngsters. The result is a roster with a wide degree of possible outcomes.
If Wainwright can be serviceable … if Carpenter stays healthy … if DeJong and Weaver improve … if Pham repeats … if Mikolas was a smart bet … if Alex Reyes returns.
If all goes right, a lot can go right at Busch this summer. But that’s also a lot of ifs.
Sports Director, KSDK-Channel 5
This is a third-place team as we speak, but if Alex Reyes lives up to the hype then they can play with the Cubs. The combination of Martinez and Reyes to start every series is as formidable as any duo in the National League outside the Washington Nationals.
Reyes has elite stuff. You can't be considered the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball and be coached by a great guy like Mike Maddox and not have an elite career. If he lives up to potential and Martinez continue to grow, that gives you a chance.
But if Reyes spends the season with Tommy John fatigue and having to pitch out of the bullpen for a while, then they can't catch Chicago.
He's on a timetable to return on May 1 and I get the impression from talking to several people in the organization that he's going to come back as a starter. When you consider the rainouts and off-days in April, he won't be missing many starts.
Cardinals Gameday Magazine
The strength of this club going into the season is the overall balance and depth. You look at the rotation, the bullpen the lineup and there isn't really any weak link.
There certainly are some questions about some of the starting pitchers and who's going to take the ninth inning, but there are a lot of good, potential answers for each of those.
Marcel Ozuna is what this team has lacked the last several years. We talked all last season about a lack of the middle-of-the-order thumper, so when you put Ozuna in the middle of that order it makes everybody else better. It's a deeper lineup.
Paul DeJong was right the other day when he said there really is no break for a pitcher when he goes through the lineup until he gets to the pitcher.
Health is always an issue, but if the club stays healthy and the rotation lives up it its billing, the Cardinals will be in contention all season long.
Fox Sports Midwest
The division is going to be tough this year because it's not just the Cubs, but the Brewers now too. The reality is the Brewers have a tough lineup and made some key acquisitions and the Cubs are not going anywhere.
On paper, the Cardinals have strengthened the rotation. Miles Mikolas is an intriguing guy because of what he did in Japan. You hope he can be a No. 4 or 5 starter and maybe better than that. Replacing Lance Lynn is tough because of the innings.
Reyes is the guy we didn't talk about enough last year. The Cardinals finished where they did because Alex Reyes got hurt in January. The expectation for him to be the No. 2 or No. 3 starter would have made all the difference in the world. It's the difference between four or five wins, it's the difference between the playoffs.
Right now when you think about the Cardinals closer's position, you're not flipping only one coin but flipping about four. There are multiple choices and I don't think there's a clear cut favorite early in spring. Luke Gregerson is an option, Bud Norris is an option, and Sam Tuivailala has gotten better.
Jedd Gyorko is the Rodney Dangerfield of this team last year. He had a really good season, not just offensively, but defensively at third base. If you have players having those kinds of years and a guy like Ozuna in the middle of your lineup, then the whole mix together is much better.
Sports Director KMOX-AM 1120
This season is all about the starting rotation getting deep into games.
Carlos Martinez should be able to do that every fifth day. Can the rest of them? The bullpen lacks an experienced closer, which makes me a little nervous, but at least they are throwing arms at the problem.
I'm very interested in how they utilize Alex Reyes this season. The Cardinals should be able to score, run the bases, and overall tighten up the fundamentals.
I look for them to be more like the team we're used to seeing around here — a team that won't beat itself.