The St. Louis Cardinals entered last season in uncharted territory. Tony La Russa, a future Hall of Fame and three time World Champion manager, retired before the start of the season. The Cardinals lost another future Hall of Famer, first baseman Albert Pujols, to free agency. With two staples of the Cardinals organization gone, many experts and fans wondered just how successful the Cardinals could be in 2012. The answer: extremely.
New skipper Mike Matheny, the youngest manager in the MLB (42), brought stability to the organizational upheaval and guided the Cardinals to within a game of the World Series. Now with his first year under his belt, Matheny will look to build off of last year’s success and win the NL Central. In order to do this, Matheny will need his pitching staff to stay healthy and translate their collective talent into wins.
Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright will need to return to form at the top of the rotation in his second year since Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals will also need veteran SP Jaime Garcia to remain healthy and productive after he considered shoulder surgery over the winter. Youngsters RP Trevor Rosenthal and SP Shelby Miller appear to be poised for breakout years that could push St. Louis to the top of the NL Central.
On the offensive side there will be some gaps for the 2013 rendition of the Cardinals to fill. SS Rafael Furcal will be out for the year following Tommy John surgery, forcing the unproven shortstop Pete Kozma into the lineup. Third baseman David Freese will begin the year on the disabled list due to a strained back, requiring infielder Matt Carpenter to play third base and putting the weak producing second baseman Daniel Delasco in the starting lineup. The Cards will have to lean on their highly productive, veteran outfielders CF John Jay, RF Carlos Beltran, and LF Matt Holiday to generate plenty of runs. St. Louis also has two of the top prospects in baseball, outfielder Oscar Taveras and second baseman Kolten Wong, waiting in the wings who could be called up if the lineup isn’t able to produce runs.
There are plenty of doubts and question marks surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals for the second straight year. Injuries have already taken a toll on the roster in a season that is still yet to begin. Yet, the Cardinals have strong enough veterans and an impressive crop of prospects poised to break into the league, keeping them in contention for the 2013 NL Central crown. Projected 2013 Lineup: 87-73.