Nine Innings/Questions on the Cardinals with C70 at the Bat

If you like what you read below, check out more from a good friend of BaseballReflections.com (yes, you’ve seen that name here before, just not for a while), Daniel Shoptaw at his site, C70 at the Bat!

 

This is a continuation of our series of articles where I ask fellow bloggers from the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) 9 innings worth of questions about their team. The goal is to do this for as many teams as possible (all 30 would be ideal) a few times a season. This one is a pre-All Star edition, then a post-All Star edition, another down the stretch (towards the end of the season) and then either a playoffs edition or off season edition or both!

 

So, without further ado …

 

  1. How are the (your team name here)’s offseason acquisitions working out so far? Any concerns?

The Cardinals didn’t make a huge splash in the offseason, as you well know.  Most of their activity then was watching players such as John Lackey and Jason Heyward leave while falling short of retaining Heyward or bringing in David Price.  The most significant acquisition was Mike Leake, who signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the club.

[graphiq id=”dqqPwyjOAUB” title=”Mike Leake” width=”600″ height=”503″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/dqqPwyjOAUB” link=”http://baseball-players.pointafter.com/l/9287/Mike-Leake” link_text=”Mike Leake | PointAfter” ]

Leake struggled in April before righting the ship with five strong starts in May before stumbling his last time out against his former team.  It’s too early to see if that was just a glitch or a return to his earlier form, but my feeling is that he’ll be all right.  The rest of the rotation has been kind of a mess as well, so I think he’s still going to play a big part in this season.

  1. Who has been the most disappointing player so far this season? Will they improve as the season goes on?

There have been a number of disappointments this season, which is why the Cardinals are just hovering around .500 instead of actively challenging the Cubs for NL Central superiority.  Adam Wainwright started the season getting strafed before starting to put it together the last few times out.  The rotation as a whole has been significantly worse than last year.  We knew there would be a dropoff, as the numbers last year were historic, but this sort of freefall was unexpected.

All that said, I think the most disappointing player would have to be Kolten Wong as of right now.  Wong signed a five-year deal in the offseason, at least in part with the hopes that the stability would help him reach his potential.  Instead, he has scuffled all year long, both at the bat and in the field, and was sent to Memphis this week when Jhonny Peralta was activated.  Hopefully the regular playing time at the AAA level will benefit him and we’ll see him again before rosters expand in September.

 

  1. Who has been the most surprising player so far this season? Can they sustain this pace?

An interesting question.  There were a lot of expectations this year, or if not expectations, at least reasonable hopes.  Many of the players that are doing well, such as Stephen Piscotty or Matt Adams, we at least could see that as a possibility.  Besides Jeremy Hazelbaker, who came out of nowhere to have a dominant April (but has since tailed off significantly), the most stunning player has to be Aledmys Diaz.  Diaz was signed as a Cuban defector four years ago and hasn’t ever really shown much in the minors.  He was removed from the 40-man roster last summer and, after clearing waivers, he finally began to hit.  The last six weeks of 2015 brought him into spring camp as a person of interest.

Diaz had a very strong spring, but when Peralta went down, the Cards went out and signed Ruben Tejada, because they weren’t confident of what they had in Diaz and they thought he needed regular AAA time to continue to develop.  Tejada got hurt, though, and Diaz got thrust into the starting spot.  He started off hitting around .500 and, while he’s cooled a bit of late, he’s still showing all around good hitting, enough that Wong was demoted in the Peralta activation instead of him.  The Cardinals believe Diaz to be the shortstop of the future.  I’m not completely sold on that yet, but he’s looked pretty good.  I imagine he won’t hit .318 for the season, but if he hits .275 with 20 HR at the end of everything, that’s a huge success and that’s right in range for him.

 

  1. What top prospects might we see before the All Star break (What type of player are they: 5 tool player, speedster, defensive, power hitter, etc.)? What will be their impact on the team?

You won’t see anyone before the All-Star Break.  The Cardinal farm system is a little weaker after all the recent promotions.  While there’s a ton of home-grown talent in the big leagues, the top tiers of the minors don’t offer much more than insurance against an injury, if that.  The Cards’ top prospect, Alex Reyes, just returned from his 50-game suspension for marijuana use, but the organization isn’t in a hurry to promote him as he’s just now getting a taste of AAA.  It would seem, at the very earliest, Reyes would come up in August and probably later than that.

 

  1. What top prospects are currently being blocked by current players on the big club? Will this make them trade bait, will they switch positions or will the vet eventually be traded?

Again, there aren’t really any prospects that should be up but aren’t.  If Reyes was more developed, trying to find a spot for him in this roster could be a tough thing, but chances are even when Reyes is promoted, he’ll squeeze into an already strong bullpen.  It’s another reason to think Reyes might not be up until rosters expand in September.

  1. What is the team lacking that either wasn’t addressed in the offseason or the offseason acquisition isn’t cutting it?

Funnily enough, folks would have wanted the Cardinals to address offense in the offseason, but the offense has been outstanding this season for the most part.  As I said, the rotation has slipped and that might have been addressed by a Price signing, but the thought at that time was Price was a luxury, someone to take an already great group even higher.  The Cards felt like a pretty complete team in the offseason, but that’s not proven to be the case in 2016.

  1. Are they better or worse off now than they were at the end of last season?

Given that they were a 100 win team last year and this season can’t get beyond three games over .500, it’s pretty clear that they are worse off.  The talent all still seems to be there and if the pitching staff could get on track for an extended period of time, they could make a run, but right now they are scuffling.

  1. What is your predicted outcome for the team this season? Why?

Right now, it seems like the division is already out of reach, barring the Cubs tapping into their history and becoming the Cubs again.  As I write this, they are a game out of the last wild card spot, tied with the Dodgers.  It would seem that the WC race is going to be pretty competitive and I think they’ll be in that mix all year long, but whether they’ll be able to put enough together to win it, that’s another story.

  1. What players need to go (traded, released, etc.) & why?

Ruben Tejada was the obvious answer here, but he was released a couple of weeks ago when Greg Garcia had a strong showing while Matt Carpenter was out on paternity leave.  Other than that, I don’t think there’s a real glaring hole.  Hazelbaker could be swapped with Tommy Pham, who is sitting on the Memphis roster, and Dean Kiekhefer could possibly use some more minors time, but there’s no real obvious dead weight on this team, which makes it even more frustrating that they are scuffling.

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