Tag Archive | "Colby Rasmus"

Jay Reignites Cardinals While Quieting Critics

It was not too long ago that the mere mention of Jon Jay’s name sparked a conversation about every way that he could be replaced. But within the last few weeks, nobody has been more responsible for the turnaround of the Cardinals than him. And now, with the Cardinals back to a comfortable 20 games over .500 and firmly on the heels of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jay continues to be the most unlikely, occasionally most undesirable, catalyst of the year.

Jay_

From the beginning, Jay has been a bit of a stepbrother. He slid into becoming a full-time part of the lineup two years after Colby Rasmus was hastily escorted out of Busch Stadium boundaries. And starting then and since, he’s proved his worth as a stabilizer of sorts for the team. Whether it has been as a leadoff or bottom of the order bat, or making the quick transition from plug in corner outfielder, to major landowner in an outfield devoid of much range otherwise, Jay has been a glue stick for the Cardinals over the past three years.

But despite all of this, there has been no player that has been outwardly yearned to be replaced more than Jay has over the past two years. He’s the most pedestrian of the regular Cardinals, and an era of Trouts, McCutchens and Harpers, the public opinion search for more in middle of the outfield has singled out Jay as the odd man out. Whether it is idea that Carlos Beltran could have something left in the tank to take to centerfield, a trade needs to be made or that Oscar Taveras is already much better suited for the team already, there are no shortage of reasons of somebody, anybody, else should be in his place.

But in the month of August, there’s been no more impactful of a player on the roster. For the month, his 26 hits are tied for the most in the National League, and he leads the Cardinals with a .377 average and 15 RBI in 18 games. The bottom-line: when Jay got going, the team started looking like it had a clue again. July was the worst month of the season for the team, and it wasn’t until their season-worst losing streak hit seven games, that an understated two hit game by Jay got at least one part of the lineup moving.

It was the first of what are now nine multi-hit games Jay has accumulated over the past 20 days. And it seems that the multitude of hits have all come at just the right time. He scored three runs and drove in two more in the 13-0 win in Pittsburgh which ended the club’s slide on August 1st. Then next night he turned in his second three RBI night of the season, contributing to second straight 13 run night for an offense that had scored just 10 runs over the previous week. The next week, he turned in three, three-hit games before plating a career-best four hit effort versus the Pirates back at Busch, which included him scoring the game winning run in the bottom of the 14th inning in a tight slide continued the club’s recent run of tough wins over their immediate superiors in the Central. In the last two days, he’s even added power to his recent show, notching home runs in back-to-back games for the second time in his career.

It’s been a tedious process, but Jay is quieting the bad-tempered mob against him. While has had a year that’s mostly been below the standard he’s set at the plate, his timing has once again been impeccable. He’s now at a career-best 54 RBI, and his on-pace for new high marks in runs scored, doubles and hits. And in a season where on average, four All-Stars are in the daily mix, it’s been the ultimate role player that’s stepped up the highest when nobody else could answer the call.

Sometimes, less truly is more.

Posted in Cardinals, Featured, MLBComments (1)

The Top 5 Moves by Mozeliak

Last Thursday, the Cardinals ensured that perhaps the most crucial brick its foundation would remain in place. The club reached an agreement with general manager John Mozeliak to a three-year contract extension that will carry him through the 2016 season, which will be his ninth serving the team in his current capacity.

John Mozeliak

During those nine years, he has guided the team through two crucial restructure phases, both built around World Series victories. The first came when he assumed his role after the 2006 victory and former GM Walt Jocketty departing for the Cincinnati Reds, and the second after the 2011 season and the departure of both manager Tony LaRussa and three-time MVP Albert Pujols.

Yet throughout these times, the team’s overall roster has continued to improve. Due to a combination of smart Major League level moves and a reinvestment in the minor league system, building resurrecting it from the among the most depleted to one that has been ranked the best in baseball entering 2013. While his place in St. Louis is secured, Mozeliak is facing yet another crucial turning point in equipping the team to continue to keep its relevance. Adam Wainwright’s pending free agency and extension negotiations are the top order of personnel business for him. This would be one of the signature moments of his career, keeping the club’s top arm in tow for likely the rest of his career.

It is a good opportunity to reflect on the most signature moments of his tenure, which has both seen bold moves, as well as some notable concessions.

 

5. Trading Colby Rasmus, Trevor Miller and Brian Tallet to the Toronto Blue Jays for Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Corey Patterson and Octavio Dotel

This was a trade that had to be done, yet was still slightly stunning when it happened in July 2011. Rasmus had been long hailed as the club’s future franchise player, but his explosive relationship with LaRussa, then the fans, made it a must that a change be made. Mo made it the first big move that turned around that season for the club, and received back plenty of strategic depth. Edwin Jackson stabilized the starting rotation and Octavio Dotel was a crucial late inning veteran. Rzepczynski was a revelation in the playoffs that season, posting a 1.26 ERA over the NLCS and World Series.

4. Trading Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres for David Freese

Edmonds was one of the great Cardinals of all-time, a six-time Gold Glove winner in the Busch Stadium outfield and a fan favorite for eight seasons. But by the winter of 2007, he was in his decline coming off a season where he struggled to hit .252 and hadn’t played in over 120 games in two years. It’s always tough to trade a franchise cornerstone, and when Mo dealt him for a 24 year old that was still in Single-A in 2007. Although he had hit .307 with 96 RBI the previous season, it was still a considered a reach at the time. Freese responded by jumping Double-A completely, and responded by taking the regular reins at third base for the big league club just two years later. This transaction has gone on to represent the first of Mo’s string of moves dedicated to building through the minor leagues for future MLB payout.

3. Trading Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson to the Oakland A’s for (and subsequent resigning of) Matt Holliday.

In the post-Edmonds and Scott Rolen days of 2009, Albert Pujols had been left to carry far too much of the offensive load for the team. In his first blockbuster move, Mo pulled the trigger on a deal based around the team’s top prospect at the time in Wallace for Holliday. Wallace had hit .311 while rapidly rising through the Cardinal organization since being made the 13th overall pick in the 2008 draft. However, he wasn’t truly a fit at the MLB level in STL, and his high regard as a prospect made him an ideal trade chip. Holliday on the other hand, was a high priced rental in Oakland with an expiring contract. The Cardinals needed a bat, Oakland wanted more youth as usual. It was a match made in heaven.

Holliday went on to hit .353 after the trade, helping to push the team into the playoffs. However, the concern was that the team wouldn’t be able to keep off the Yankees or Red Sox to keep him in town. However, Mo aggressively finished out the high stakes dealings with acquiring Holliday by inking him to a seven-year, $120 million deal. It remains the largest in team history, and also a move that showed much needed foresight, due to a future for the organization he likely had already envisioned looming…

2. Not resigning Albert Pujols

Not being able to retain a player of the status of Pujols never sounds like it could be a tally in the great accomplishments list of a GM. Yet in the case of the departure of Pujols in December 2011, it was high mark in Mozeliak’s tenure for the shear boldness and overall organization insight in showed. If the Cardinals had issued a 10 year deal at over $200 million to Pujols, it would have effectively killed the ability to retain any depth for the club over the next decade. Deals for Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina would have been impossible, and staying competitive when Freese, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, Jason Motte and virtually any other player hit the open market. By refusing to do the big move in the moment, he set up the future.

1. Resigning Yadier Molina

The concern after the loss of Pujols was that Molina wouldn’t be far behind. Amongst the fan base, there were murmurs of the Cardinals not willing to put up the money to keep its cornerstones intact. In the whirlwind of changes that happened leading into the 2012 season, an extension for Molina was a priority, and one he delivered on. Yadi’s five-year, $75 million deal kept the club’s new most valuable player in tow and showed the team was prepared to spend where it needed to. It was a calming signing for both team and fans, and showed Mo’s grasp on the big picture is always on point.

 

Posted in Cardinals, FeaturedComments (0)

St. Louis Cardinals finally get a bullpen veteran by signing Randy Choate

The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t make many moves during last week’s Winter Meetings, but they did complete an important deal to solidify a position the team struggled to fill throughout the 2012 season.

The Cardinals signed left-handed relief pitcher Randy Choate on Friday to a three-year, $7.5 million contract. He will serve as the second lefty in the bullpen behind Marc Rzepczynski and specialize in retiring left-handed batters late in ballgames.

A three-year deal might seem a bit much for a 37-year-old, but the price is reasonable, left-handed relievers tend to last longer than any other position in the sport and Choate fills one of the Cardinals’ few glaring needs.

The Cardinals began the 2011 season with Trevor Miller in his familiar old-guy, left-handed specialist role and then brought in 41-year-old Arthur Rhodes when they dealt Miller in the midseason trade with the Toronto Blue Jays that sent Miller and Colby Rasmus to Canada.

Neither Miller nor Rhodes had spectacular numbers in 2011. Miller had a 4.02 ERA in 39 games, and Rhodes had a 4.15 ERA in 19 regular-season games. But Rhodes was crucial to the Cardinals’ postseason success. He didn’t allow an earned run in his eight appearances.

That lack of a veteran in the bullpen also didn’t help matters in 2012. Closer Jason Motte was the veteran of the group at age 30 when 31-year-old Victor Marte wasn’t around. The Cardinals somewhat desperately needed a veteran bullpen guy.

The bullpen is loaded with young flamethrowers such as Trevor Rosenthal, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly, but those guys need a veteran who has been around the game for a long time to help the young pitchers develop, as well as help lead them through a season and postseason run.

Choate completely fits that job description.

He started his career as a 24-year-old relief pitcher in 2001 for the New York Yankees. Since, he pitched for four different teams in the next 12 years, compiling a 4.02 career ERA. He pitched a combined 80 games last season with the Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers. He gave up just two homeruns and walked 18 batters in 38 innings. He is the definition of a left-handed specialist given he usually pitched to two batters or fewer in his appearances.

The Cardinals likely won’t take him out of that role. Rzepczynski needs to pitch better than he did last season regardless, but Choate’s presence as a guy who can come in to take care of the power left-handed batter in a tight situation late in games should help everybody. Mitchell Boggs won’t be required to face as many lefties, and the Cardinals should be able to more effectively manage match-ups late in games next season.

As for the rest of the Cardinals’ needs, the middle infield enigma continues to be a discussion topic. Rafael Furcal is still on track to come back from an elbow injury to be the starting shortstop, but the team doesn’t have many glamorous options beyond him.

Rumors have Skip Schumaker going to the Dodgers in a trade that would somehow get the Cardinals shortstop Dee Gordon and a trade with the Cleveland Indians to get Asdrubal Cabrera remains an option, but otherwise the Cardinals are close to already having their 2013 Spring Training roster.

But regardless of what happens the rest of the offseason, the Cardinals made a good, and likely underrated, move by signing Choate to not only face one or two batters a game, but also bring a veteran presence to a bullpen that lacked that aspect in 2012.

Posted in CardinalsComments (0)

If it wasn’t for bad luck…

The St. Louis Cardinals may be in some real trouble now.

An MRI on Rafael Furcal’s injured elbow Friday revealed the shortstop has a torn ligament and will be out for the rest of the season. In a season mired with injuries, the Cards may have finally taken a hit they cannot survive.
The Redbirds have been struggling this week, but the last several games are simply a reflection of a season-long issue they’ve had with sustaining offense. Sometimes they look like the best hitting team in all of baseball; sometimes—like the past few games, for instance—they look like the absolute worst. But they still found themselves holding on to a playoff spot, and as soon as last Sunday were only six games out of first place in the NL Central.

How are they doing it, in spite of such streaky offensive output? Pitching and defense, of course. And that’s going to be the problem going forward.

Furcal is on the wrong side of the prime of his career. Whether he is an elite defender anymore or not is certainly debatable. But he was certainly the best defender the Cardinals had on the infield when he was healthy. When the Cards acquired him at the trade deadline last July, Furcal immediately helped shore up a shaky defense up the middle. When a team’s pitchers are taught to pitch to contact, Ryan Theriot cannot be the everyday shortstop if the team expects to be successful. The Colby Rasmus trade may have been the “blockbuster” everyone drooled over, but without trading for Furcal there’s no way the Cardinal defense holds up for the stretch run.
Offensively, Furcal contributed as a solid leadoff hitter—something the Cards didn’t have up to that point. Again, his slash line wasn’t what it used to be in his prime. But Furcal set the table better than anyone they had before acquiring him, and he made the hitters behind him better.

His 2012 started off good, but recently health became an issue. Manager Mike Matheny started batting Furcal down in the lineup because his numbers nose-dived. He still made plays, but his ailing back had to have an effect on his range and defense. Then, on a throw across the diamond, his elbow gave out. The way things have gone for the Cards this year, their only possible reaction is “It figures.”

But now the Cards have more to worry about than ever before this season, even with Lance Berkman nearing a return and Chris Carpenter appearing to be ahead of schedule in his rehab. After unloading Brendan Ryan and Tyler Greene in the last few years, they have very little depth at shortstop. Pete Kozma has not been the answer before now; there is little reason to believe he’s the answer now. Daniel Descalso plays a decent short, but he is also needed at second base. Ryan Jackson may have a bright future, and it may be at shortstop. But he just made his major league debut a few weeks back.

The Cardinals still have that pitch to contact staff—but when contact is made, who’s going to catch the ball? Less range at short means third base and second base need to get to more balls. The entire infield gets a little more porous. And that is not a good thing for a team like the St. Louis Cardinals. Offensively, while Furcal was struggling, it certainly doesn’t appear anyone they replace him with will be tons better.

It certainly isn’t impossible to overcome this injury, but aside from losing Yadier Molina for an extended period this is just about the worst thing to happen to the Cards’ position players. They may not be chasing a playoff spot, but they have teams on their tail and some tough series yet to play in the final weeks of the season. They need something to break their way…soon.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

Posted in CardinalsComments (0)

St. Louis Cardinals need Octavio Dotel-type reliever for pennant race

The St. Louis Cardinals entered play Sunday with a 46-41 record, just one game behind their record at this point last season. To make a late-season run this year similar to 2011, the Cardinals will need to add some experienced arms in the bullpen.

The Cardinals sent Colby Rasmus to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 27 last year as part of a three-team trade that gave the Cardinals three critical pieces of their championship team: starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, and relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel.

Jackson started some critical games for the Cardinals in the second half of the season, and Rzepcysnki provided needed lefthanded relief to neutralize potent left-handed hitters such as Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard. However, the most important part of that group that is no longer with the team is Dotel.

Dotel, who now pitches for the Detroit Tigers, filled the role Julian Tavarez played for the Cardinals in 2004 National League championship and Braden Looper pitched in relief for the 2006 World Series championship team. Unfortunately, the Cardinals don’t have a pitcher similar to Dotel in their bullpen this year.

The team may have hoped Scott Linebrink would fill that role this year, but he got hurt in Spring Training and the Cardinals released him before he ever threw a pitch in the 2012 regular season. Now they have a group of 20-somethings that are pitching as typical 20-something pitchers without much experience.

Sure, much of that group pitched well during last year’s playoff run, but they also had a veteran leader in Dotel. He not only pitched well with a 3.28 ERA as a Cardinal, but he also provided leadership for the inexperienced bullpen. His absence has left a huge void in this year’s bullpen.

Victor Marte, 31, is the oldest of the group, but he is in his first full season is not ready to lead a group of other pitchers. Jason Motte, 30, has 20 saves this year and finished off the World Series last year, but he still has issues of his own, which include finding a reliable second pitch that he can throw with confidence.

The bullpen’s lack of experience has shown up in the numbers this year, as well. The Cardinals have a 4.49 bullpen ERA, which is 25th in the majors.

Manager Mike Matheny has grasped at straws in Memphis by bringing up Eduardo Sanchez and Sam Freeman, but both have looked overmatched and should stay in Memphis for the rest of the year. If Motte created nail-biting moments last year, just imagine Freeman pitching in an important game late in the year or in the playoffs. Those would be heart-attack inducing innings.

So, as the trading deadline approaches, the Cardinals have been linked to starting pitchers such as Brewers starter Zack Greinke, but they need to look toward pitchers who can throw key innings late in a game rather than the first six or seven innings.

Sure, the starting rotation is fragile with Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia on the disabled list, but Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly provide much more stability in their roles than Fernando Salas or Mitchell Boggs do in their bullpen roles.

Plus, a veteran reliever will likely be a cheaper find than a front-line starter who may or may not test the free agent market in the offseason.

Looking back, the Cardinals would have been wise to pursue Dotel a little more aggressively. Hopefully they get a second chance at a similar pitcher later this month.

Posted in CardinalsComments (0)

The Expendables

The unofficial second half began Friday as the St. Louis Cardinals got back into action following the All Star Break. But trade season is also officially underway, and the Cards are looking to improve so they can make another run at the postseason.

Lance Berkman is due to come off the disabled list this weekend while the team is in Cincinnati, making the lineup and bench whole for the first time in months. Obviously, upgrading the pitching staff is now the most logical move for the Cardinals—especially in the wake of losing both Chris Carpenter and Kyle McClellan for the season, and having no idea when they’ll see Jaime Garcia again. The debate on who to go after could be endless: Top of the rotation guy? Innings-eater? Closer? LOOGY? Middle reliever? All of the above? Regardless, you have to give up something to get something as the old saying goes. And the Cards have some depth. They have guys they can deal.

This list is by no means easy to compile. And the number of players going each way is a huge factor. John Mozeliak may end up packaging one group of players to acquire another group of players like he did for the Colby Rasmus trade in 2011, or he could do a one-for-one swap. So I’m compiling a list, and it is by no means comprehensive. But since the Cards need to add to their pitching staff, I’m going to avoid designating pitchers on the active roster as “expendable”—even though a guy like Fernando Salas seems to be as far from “untouchable” as a reliever can get. And if they had a better relief option in the minors, that guy would be up…he wouldn’t be trade bait either. Are there better starters than Jake Westbrook out there? Of course. But anyone who thinks the Cards are going to be able to trade him for Cole Hamels is quite obviously hoarding all the good drugs.

So we’ll focus on position players, and pitchers not currently on the 25-man roster. I think you might know who I’m talking about. Again, there might be 50 players in the entire organization the Cards could do without, but players off the 40-man roster without name recognition—or players on it with no real upside—aren’t likely to bring much of a return. Anyway…my list:

Tyler Greene (2B, SS) – Shocking his name would pop up on this list, eh? Greene has been given every opportunity to stick with the big club. At first, we all thought it was nerves playing for Tony La Russa. Well, La Russa is gone. And the Cards are getting the same old, same old from Greene. One concession: he’s never gotten a legitimate chance as a shortstop, his natural position. Perhaps that’s the best reason of all to trade him. His value may not be much, but packaging him could help yield the Cards a player who can be consistently productive…something they probably will never see from Tyler Greene.

Shane Robinson (OF) – Sugar Shane has done everything asked of him: start, come off the bench, pinch hit, pinch run, you name it. He may never be a great player, but he is a good player and could have a role with any club as a fourth outfielder. Unfortunately, the Cardinals have like three other guys that can fill that role right now. Robinson is the classic odd man out, and he may benefit from more time in AAA. But he still retains some upside for any club, and would be a good addition to a package deal for an impact arm.

Matt Adams (1B) – He’s the Brett Wallace of 2012, except Adams can actually move. He’s blocked six ways from Sunday at 1st base, and that happens to be the only position he can play. If the Cards don’t have Carlos Beltran next year, I think Adams’ value is a little higher because Allen Craig would likely be needed in right field. He may anyway after Beltran leaves. But at this point, Adams’ trade value is pretty high, and may not get much higher.

Bryan Anderson (C) or Steven Hill (C) – The Cardinals are good behind the plate. Yadier Molina is obviously here to stay, and Tony Cruz is more than capable as a backup. And if he isn’t, backup catchers aren’t real tough to find. Anderson has never developed into what some thought he could be, and Hill is just a tic ahead of him offensively. Neither has a ton of value alone, but a team looking for catching depth may be interested in one of them as part of a package.

Brandon Dickson (RHP) – Dickson has some experience at the big league level and has some upside. Where he projects in a given rotation is anyone’s guess, but pitching is always at a premium and the Cardinals have enough organizational depth to dangle Dickson for a team looking for a young arm.

Shelby Miller (RHP) – This one is tough to swallow. Miller has been perceived as untouchable since he was drafted in 2009. And his struggles in 2012 are no reason to give up on him. But again—in order to get something, you have to give up something. The real, logical reasons Miller can be deemed expendable are: A) the emergence of Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly as viable rotation options, and B) the depth behind Miller in Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, and John Gast (among others). Trading Miller is not a must—the Cardinals could do a lot worse than holding on to him—but in terms of upside and ceiling equating to trade value, Miller may be the best chip the Cardinals currently hold.

Again, this list is far from complete. If they go after a second baseman, for instance, maybe Daniel Descalso becomes expendable. But aside from the unlikely hypotheticals, the Cards have pieces to move and they have the motivation to once again win now. That should equal an intriguing trade season for the defending World Champs.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @Birdbrained.

Posted in CardinalsComments (0)

Get it together

The St. Louis Cardinals have fallen back into a bad habit they were plagued by early in 2011: giving away games.

Admittedly, it is hard to find much fault with a 16-10 start to the season. This is in no way meant to nit-pick or make up something to complain about. But when the Cardinals lose, it is often in sloppy fashion and lacking in fundamentals. That’s a big problem for a team stocked with so many veterans and in-house youngsters that cut their teeth in one of the greatest playoff runs in baseball history last year.

So let’s flash back to 2011—the bad parts, not the postseason parts we all relive over and over again on home video, DVR recordings, and YouTube. Remember the great Ryan Franklin meltdown? Yeah, that happened in 2011. Blown save after blown save led to a poor record early in the season and the eventual release of the veteran reliever and a revolving door at closer that did not stabilize until August. How about Starting Shortstop Ryan Theriot, or Colby Rasmus patrolling center field with all the enthusiasm of someone who just had a lobotomy? Sometimes watching Cardinal Baseball early in 2011 was like watching an old slapstick comedy featuring clowns instead of ballplayers.

Again, it’s far from that bad this season. But some of the same issues have cropped up again. A week and a half ago when the Cards lost their first series of the season by dropping two in a row to the Cubs, it was the bullpen coughing up the lead in the ninth inning both nights. In those two losses plus the loss to Pittsburgh the previous Saturday, the Cards were a combined 0 for 15 with runners in scoring position. They have been running into outs on the base paths. They have committed errors that led to runs, like in Friday’s game in Houston. And they have had trouble knocking guys in once they get on base. If you play your best game but lose to a team that plays just that much better, there is no shame in tipping your cap. Go get ‘em tomorrow. But these losses are borderline ugly, and definitely avoidable.

Fortunately it is still pretty early in the year and the fundamentals ship can be righted. The Cards hit better with RISP in their three losses this week, going 10-43. It isn’t a great number, but at least it isn’t an 0-fer. As regulars get healthy and back up to the speed of the game, defense will hopefully improve. And as we saw last season, any bullpen issue is fixable with the right moves.

It’s just tough to see some of these mental lapses and think, “Wow, this again?” The Cardinals are getting out of their softie, NL Central-dominated early schedule and will be playing some tougher teams real soon. They have the talent and drive to beat anybody in baseball. They just have to stay out of their own way and cut down on the dumb mistakes.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

#RIPMCA

Posted in Cardinals, FeaturedComments (0)

Is Matt Adams the next big thing for the St. Louis Cardinals?

So who’s this big, burly guy mashing the ball all over the ballpark for the Cardinals the first week of Grapefruit League play, you ask?

That would be Matt Adams, and the 6’3”, 230-pound lefty is no joke. I won’t go off the deep end on you and overblow four days’ worth of relatively meaningless spring training games (though he is hitting .417 with a grand slam and 7 RBI), but what I will tell you is this guy can hit.

Obviously, how much success Adams will carry over to the big league level one day is yet to be determined, but based on his track record in the minor leagues, Cardinals fans should be on the edge of their seats to see this guy play. In 2009, Adams broke into the Cardinals organization hitting .355 over half a season playing rookie ball and Low-A, with 10 HRs and 52 RBI in just 63 games. The next year in High-A, the first baseman hit .310 with 22 HRs and 88 RBI. And last year in Double-A Springfield, Adams went deep 32 times and drove in 101 RBI in just 115 games.

Translation: Adams would be averaging 35 HRs and 131 RBIs per season over a 162 game schedule. His minor league career average is .316.

His presence in the lineup is undeniable. Every time he walked to the plate last year at Hammons Field in Springfield, MO, you could sense a buzz in the crowd. He’s easily the most legitimate deep-threat that’s come through the system in the past decade, and let’s not forget that the Cardinals’ minor league system has produced the likes of Allen Craig and Colby Rasmus, who combined for more than 150 career home runs before breaking into the big leagues.

It’s hard to say exactly when fans could first see Adams playing in St. Louis. For this year, the Cardinals have Lance Berkman penciled in at first base, with Allen Craig ready to step in fulltime should Berkman go down with a lengthy injury. But the 36-year-old Berkman is more of a temporary stopgap in the wake of Albert Pujols’ departure, and likely won’t be a part of the Cardinals’ organization more than another couple of years. With Berkman currently signed to a 1-year, $14 million contract, Adams may get a crack at the starting job as soon as next year if he continues to mash the ball in the minors.

It will be interesting to see how Adams continues to play throughout the course of spring training. He’s off to a hot start, and if he keeps it up for another few weeks, there’s an outside chance he could make the opening day roster. Skipping Triple-A isn’t unprecedented, especially at first base.

I seem to remember another Cardinals first baseman who made the jump past Triple-A about a decade ago. What was his name again? With any luck, Matt Adams will help Cardinals fans forget.

Posted in Cardinals, MinorsComments (0)

Keeping It All In Check

The day has finally arrived. Pitchers and Catchers are required to report to Spring Training Saturday with the first official workouts of the preseason scheduled for Sunday. Anticipation is high, and so are expectations. The St. Louis Cardinals’ 2012 season and the defense of their World Series Championship begin now. But don’t forget some of the lessons that 2011 team taught us.

Just a few days into the 2011 Spring Training campaign, the Cards lost Adam Wainwright for the season. Wainwright was the team’s de facto ace. He looked like a lock for better than 200 IP, better than 200 K, and another sub-3.00 ERA but it vanished just like that. With him, the Cardinals were a team that looked to be in the mix atop a crowded NL Central. Without him, well…how does a team replace that kind of production and become a winner?

By the end of October 2011, it was a distant memory.

Just a few games into the 2011 regular season, Ryan Franklin looked to be finished. The Cards’ closer looked like anything but; he was as ineffective as ineffective could be. It wasn’t long—though many would probably argue it was still too long—before he was benched, and then sent packing before the season had reached the All Star Break. So not only had the Cards ventured into the season without their ace, but they then were going through a revolving door in the ninth inning too.

But by the end of October 2011, that also seemed like eons ago.

Just before the trade deadline, GM John Mozeliak moved the enigmatic Colby Rasmus, two lefty relievers in Brian Tallet and Trever Miller, and the perennially underperforming PJ Walters to the Toronto Blue Jays for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Mark Rzepczynski, and Corey Patterson. Over the next couple of weeks, Mozeliak would also sign journeyman lefty Arthur Rhodes and trade minor leaguer Alex Castellanos to the LA Dodgers for Rafael Furcal. In all, the Cards turned over six players on their roster and, at the time, only one (Rzepczynski) was under team control beyond the end of the season. Talk of “win-now mode” ran in parallel with suggestions of not getting enough for Rasmus and betting on aging, short-term talent.

Does anyone want do-overs on any of those moves now?

On August 25, 2011 the Cardinals were 10.5 games out of the playoffs. On October 28, 2011 they became World Series Champions.

The lessons here are plenty. Injuries happen, but they are not the end of the world. Don’t give up on the team because of one loss, whether on the field or off it. Also, don’t give up on a team until they are truly, completely, 100% eliminated. Trust that the people getting paid to make big, difficult decisions about the team actually know what they are doing. Sometimes players work out, sometimes they don’t…but they all deserve a chance to make it happen. Baseball has no clock—so until they make their 27th out, any team has a chance…even down to their last strike (twice). Unless your house is on fire or a family member is dying, never ever EVER leave (or turn off) the game early. Because it ain’t over until it’s over, and anything is possible, and as long as they mathematically have a chance, the St. Louis Cardinals can repeat as World Champions in 2012. After what we all witnessed last year, no argument to the contrary holds water.

It begins now.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter at @birdbrained.

Posted in Cardinals, FeaturedComments (0)

(Draft) Picky, Picky

After Edwin Jackson inked a new deal with the Washington Nationals, the St. Louis Cardinals now sit pretty with five of the first 60 picks in this year’s amateur draft. With that many selections so early, the Cards should be in good position to fortify organizational needs.

 

Every MLB team shows time and again that the ultimate weapon to wield is depth. It doesn’t even matter where the depth is—positions on the field, rotation, bullpen, lineup, bench—the more quality players a team and a franchise has, the better their chances of making it to and through October baseball.

Take a look at the 2011 Cards’ bullpen as a prime example: at the beginning of the season, Ryan Franklin was the closer. By the ninth inning of Game Seven of the World Series, the closer (or ninth inning man…whatever, Tony La Russa) was Jason Motte. In between was a closer rotation consisting of Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez and Mitchell Boggs. Lance Lynn made it to the big club and had a huge impact in the ‘pen. Kyle McClellan started and then pitched relief. Arthur Rhodes. Mark Rzepczynski. The list is long, but the story was clear…the Cards’ bullpen depth was one of their greatest strengths through the end of the regular season and into the playoffs. Just look at how they were used in the postseason. If that group falters, the Cards are done. But they held up, and the team kept advancing.

A long-standing credo states “You can never have enough pitching.” And that’s true, to a large extent. But one of the many things the Cards proved in 2011 amends that theory. It should really state “You can never have enough up the middle,” including catcher, pitcher, middle infield, and center field. Those zones are the ones that rely most heavily on defense, and by deepening those positions the Cardinals are likely to enjoy success for years to come.

Again, the 2011 team is a prime example of this theory in action. At the beginning of the year, the Cards had Colby Rasmus in center field and Ryan Theriot at shortstop. But John Mozeliak strengthened the pitching staff by sending Rasmus to Toronto and filled up a leaky shortstop position by acquiring Rafael Furcal. These may not have been foreseeable moves early in the season, but they were very necessary in building the 2011 World Series Champion.

Overall, the Cards showed how important organizational depth can be in 2011. When a player went down to injury, or a defensive substitution was needed, or a big out had to be secured on the mound, it seemed like another Cards’ farmhand was stepping in to take the reins. And it would be nice to know that if any problems at all creep up in the middle of the field, a capable player waits in the wings to get a chance to prove his worth to the Cardinal organization. Finding those players starts with the draft.

The Cards do have some promising Middle Field players coming into their own already. Jon Jay obviously has the most credentials of any position player. Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene look to challenge Skip Schumaker for the starting role at second base. Tony Cruz and Bryan Anderson will be the favorites to back up Yadier Molina in 2012. And prospects Kolten Wong (2B) and Ryan Jackson (SS) look to get a chance to open some eyes fairly soon.

But it’s not enough. It’s never enough. The Cards need to take these extra draft picks and concentrate on the middle of the field. They need to look at center fielders with gazelle legs, cannon arms, and live bats. They need to look at middle infielders with magnetic gloves and impressive hitting stats. And pitching…well, a team can never have enough pitching. You pick often in 2012, Cardinals. Please pick wisely.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

Posted in CardinalsComments (1)

Fantasy Sports Machine