2018 Cardinals: Bolstered Lineup Will Help Team Fly Past Win Total

Rainman M.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 6:17 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 15, 2018 6:17 PM UTC

The Cardinals are in the midst of what many in St. Louis would call a playoff drought. They mustered 83 wins in 2017 but have made some changes, and this year's win total is set at 85.5.

MLB: 2018 St. Louis CardinalsFree MLB Pick: 'Over' 85.5 WinsBest Line Offered: BetOnlineHitting

The Cardinals' major acquisition was former Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who achieved a career-high .312 BA and 37 home runs in 2017 and finally brings proven power to the middle of the lineup. Other known variables include veteran infielder Matt Carpenter, whose on-base percentage remains consistent despite drops in his batting average and slugging, and catcher Yadier Molina, who will look to inch his career BA closer to .290.

[/]{"component":"video", "type":"youtube", "url":"https://www.youtube.com/embed/mJ7bfvzSBzg", "videoSize":"Large" }[/]

The key to the Cards' hitting prowess rests in the inexperienced players who look to join the likes of Carp and Molina as proven commodities and avoid the fate of young players such as Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz, who were ultimately dealt away.

Paul DeJong is the biggest question mark. He surprised everybody with a .285 BA and .532 slugging (2017 average slugging was .426). But his low average exit velocity suggests his slugging might have been somewhat of a fluke. But the infield has depth. Jedd Gyorko produced a career-high .342 on-base percentage (2017 average was .324) and has averaged 25 homers the past two seasons. Also, Jose Martinez achieved a career-high .518 slugging to accompany a smoking average exit velocity.

A 2017 success story that will likely repeat itself is outfielder Tommy Pham. In his fourth MLB season he surpassed .300 in BA and .500 in slugging with his mix of size and speed.

Starting Pitching

Carlos Martinez eclipsed 200 innings last year but is still young, strong and entertaining to interact with on Instagram, especially if you know a little Spanish. The workhorse leads the rotation with a career 3.42 ERA. Michael Wacha is adding a cutter and curveball to his repertoire and is due for some progression, with a career 3.84 ERA but 3.61 FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck). Luke Weaver is a developing strikeout stud whose 3.17 FIP last season was masked by an unlucky BABIP. Adam Wainwright is a fading star, whose durability and skill set are questionable. Miles Mikolas became very successful in Japan over the past three years and looks to translate that success in the MLB.

Relief Pitching

St. Louis loaded up with big arms who can consistently launch a 95+ mph fastball, such as Bud Norris and Dominic Leone, who join Sam Tuivailala and, after he recovers from Tommy John surgery by May, young phenom Alex Reyes. Reyes had, as a rookie, wowed everybody with his triple-digit velocity and buckling curveball. He could also provide depth in the rotation. The Cards' division opponents, minus the lowly Pirates, ranked in 2017 in the bottom 10 in team batting average against fastballs thrown at 95+ mph, making these relievers strong matchups against the teams St. Louis will face most frequently. Luke Gregerson enjoyed two seasons with an FIP under 3 in Houston and strives for a renaissance in St. Louis after a shaky 2017.

Manager/Coaching Staff

Little things will have great betting importance in St. Louis: The Cards have a new third-base coach who is extra keen on fundamentals; a new pitching coach with the philosophy that can help Carlos Martinez reduce his home runs allowed; and a new bench coach who is equipped to help Mike Matheny with a weak spot in his managing, bullpen tactics. The Cards were second-worst in outs while running the bases, were five games below .500 in one-run games and would have had 97 wins if every game had ended after the eighth inning. The new coaches can fix these decisive problems.

The Verdict

The lineup has a star now in Ozuna and budding talent throughout the order in DeJong, Pham and even Kolten Wong, who achieved career highs in BA and OBP last year, to accompany proven veterans such as Carpenter and Molina. In the rotation, Martinez, Wacha and Weaver can grow into a lethal three-pronged attack. The backside of the rotation is questionable but also supported by depth, especially once Reyes returns. The bullpen features depth and heat and an experienced closer in Gregerson. The coaches are built to improve the Cards' fundamentals, especially on the bases, and help Matheny make smarter decisions.

comment here