Tag Archives: Matt Holliday

Looking at 2012: Part 3

It’s tomorrow! Well, maybe not. I’m continuing the “Looking at 2012″ series that I began nearly three weeks ago before life got crazy for me. In part one, I overviewed the Cardinals biggest question and some of the decisions that they’ll have to make in the offseason. In part two, I talked about players with contract options and what I think the Cardinals will do and ought to do with them. Now in part three, I will talk about some of the young talent that we expect to contribute to the 2012 Cardinals.

We can start with the two that we already expect to be starting everyday for the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals. Those would be David Freese and Jon Jay.

Despite a couple injuries as a result of being hit by pitches, Freese stayed healthy this season. Freese has surpassed last year’s appearances and he has managed to duplicate his batting average, small drop in his on base percentage, but he is hitting for more power which provides some interest for the Cardinals going into next season if he can continue developing. It’s very possible that Freese turns into a guy who will flirt with .300 and hit 20 home runs a season. In today’s MLB that’s a pretty good player. Only 24 players in the majors have hit more than 20 home runs this season. Only one of which is a third baseman. Looking at the stats, Freese could potentially slot in as one of the top-5 third basemen in the major leagues next season.

Meanwhile Jon Jay has proved himself capable of playing everyday for the Cardinals. After going into a slump immediately following the trade of Colby Rasmus, much like he’d done in 2010 when the Cardinals dealt Ryan Ludwick to play him everyday. There was question whether he could handle that. He has, as he has hit .309 with 3 HR and 10 RBI. A decrease in his OBP has me a little concerned, but he’s gotten over the initial hump of the pressure and has become the player in that position we expected him to be when the Cardinals decided they could trade Colby Rasmus.

The other two guys that deserve consideration are Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso.

Allen Craig has been a polarizing player for Cardinals fans. Many look at his minor league statistics and see a guy who consistently hit .300 with 20 HRs over the last few years. He’s a hitter without a position, but provides solid enough defense in the outfield or at first base. Originally drafted as a short stop, he could also become an interesting candidate at second base going into next season. This season, though missing a large part of the season thanks to a broken knee cap, he played a pivotal role through the first injury to Matt Holliday and was poised to do it again before he got injured. Now he’s looking like the regular left fielder until Holliday returns from his hand injury, if he even does. His stats show a capable player, and I don’t think there’s any reason that he can’t turn into that .300, 25 HR guy that he’s been in the minor leagues. He just needs a place to play and that’s easier said than done.

The other is Daniel Descalso who has played a key role through the season. “Mr. Late & Close” became his nickname as he hits .373 with a .413 on base percentage in Late & Close situations. With a man on 3rd and 2 outs, Descalso hits .357. He has a laser gun for an arm too and has proven himself the perfect guy to spell David Freese at third base and is a solid utility guy around the infield for the team. Personally, I think Descalso could be the solution at short stop for the future. While it’s true that he has a handful of errors there during his small number of chances this season, to me, those seem more like errors that are simply due to inexperience at the position rather than actual inability. He has the potential to be just as good, if not better, than Brendan Ryan, and those who know me know that I am a huge Brendan Ryan supporter.

After looking at the offense, the bullpen is full of young contributors. Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez, Marc Rzepczynski and Lance Lynn lead the field there.

Fernando Salas closed in 2008 in Springfield, closed in 2010 in Memphis, and earned the closer’s role in St. Louis in 2011. He continued to prove himself a solid closer, but got a little homer happy during the summer which led Tony LaRussa to experiment with Jason Motte in the closer’s role in September. However, that likely has more to do with Motte’s hot streak than Salas’ troubles. While many fans talked about bringing in an established closer through the summer, Salas’ numbers were better than all considered for most of it. He has shown that he is a one inning pitcher though. When I looked the other day, he had roughly a 1.80 ERA in his first inning of an appearance but beyond that he had a nearly 8.00 ERA. Certainly not pretty.

Eduardo Sanchez was another pitcher that provided Cardinals fans with excitement earlier this season while the team was struggling to find reliable bullpen arms. With his wicked slider, Sanchez was fooling major league hitters for two months before going down with what was initially termed shoulder fatigue. After an abbreviated rehab assignment, he hit the disabled list again. He’s rejoined the Cardinals now, but it’s unlikely that he will get a chance down the stretch. The issue with Sanchez was that eventually major league hitters realized that he couldn’t consistently throw the slider for a called strike, so they laid off it and got him into some trouble near the end of his time. With a chance to hit spring training as an expected contender for the 2012 bullpen, Sanchez should be able to work on that slider and figure out what he needs to do. He’s probably the most exciting pitcher the Cardinals have and I think many agree with me that he has the best pure stuff in the bullpen.

Marc Rzepczynski was acquired in the Colby Rasmus trade and provides something that the Cardinals haven’t been able to produce: a quality left handed reliever. However, there is also the potential that he could jump to the rotation eventually as both the Blue Jays and the Cardinals consider him starting material. However, the rotation is set for next year and that means that Rzepczynski is back in the ‘pen for 2012. While Zep has been good this season for the Cardinals, he hasn’t been as dominating, but that could be attributed to being used more often as a regular reliever under LaRussa than he was in Toronto.

Finally, Lance Lynn was a starter for Memphis and Tony LaRussa has said that he has the stuff to be a starter in the major leagues. However, when he was called up to fill a spot in the bullpen he made it his own. He quickly became one of the best pitchers that the Cardinals had in the bullpen and solidified an 8th inning role. That was until an apparent oblique injury. There is no reason to expect that Lance Lynn cannot assume a major role in the 2012 bullpen again.

Now the lesser known guys.

Tony Cruz is definitely someone I can see being a contributor to the 2012 team. He spent a lot of time in St. Louis over the summer, and could be the guy that takes the backup catcher job and potentially position himself to be the successor to Yadier Molina. It’s big that he and Carpenter were paired together a few times over the summer too, with Cruz behind the plate. It would be a cheap way to fill that role and save a few bucks as they attempt to spend to keep some of the starting level talent on the team.

Adron Chambers and Andrew Brown should be putting their names in the hat as a fourth or fifth outfielder. Chambers’ advantage is that he can play all three outfield positions. Brown’s advantage is that he is right handed and has more power. So it really depends which average the Cardinals would like to go, defense and speed with Chambers or right handed and power with Brown. Both are on the cusp of being ready and if we’re looking at a Holliday/Jay/Craig outfield next season, you know that there will be some at bats available in the outfield.

There aren’t a huge number of young guys who I expect to contribute next season. Just those who really made a small mark this season. There is a little bit of a talent gap in the Cardinals minor league system, in my opinion, for about the next year or so. This creates a fairly large question for the Cardinals as they potentially have to deal with injury questions in 2012. Who gets the call to absorb the impact?

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Looking at 2012: Part 1

As the Cardinals near staring a 10 game deficit the topic of 2012 has once again crept into the minds of their fans. There are some huge questions hanging over the franchise as the season begins to wind down and I don’t know if there is another franchise with as much uncertainty towards next year.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Albert Pujols is question #1 for the Cardinals entering the offseason. He is playing this year on the option year of the 7 year, $100 million contract he signed before the 2004 season. His impending free agency has been offseason topic #1 for all of baseball. It’s not every day that the best player of the last decade becomes available on the market. Because of that, it’s a topic that everyone has covered deeply, not just myself.

Manager Tony LaRussa also finds himself at the end of a contract this season. He does have an option for next year, but there always has to be the uncertainty until he says that he’s picking up that option.

Chris Carpenter is in the final year of his contract, but has a $15 million option for 2012. Adam Wainwright, who underwent Tommy John surgery in February, has missed this season and probably won’t make it back. That means his $21 million option that keeps him a Cardinal for the next two years doesn’t automatically vest, however the team has indicated they plan to pick up the option regardless.

Their catcher, Yadier Molina is in the final year of his last contract as well. He has an option for next season that could net him $7 million. However, there are rumors that they might renegotiate for more years and reduce that salary number for next year.

Lance Berkman, who is probably the best signing of the last offseason, will also be a free agent after his 1 year, $8 million contract expires. Berkman currently has the 25th highest batting average in the National League. He is also 3rd in the NL in home runs and 9th in runs batted in.

You also have a handful of guys that we traded for that are also eligible for free agency. Rafael Furcal has a $12 million team option for next year. Octavio Dotel has a $3.5 million option as well. The final piece would be starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who many see as having a lot of potential as a pitcher, is also a free agent at the end of the year.

There’s also the arbitration question. Do you try to trade Skip Schumaker or Ryan Theriot before their final arbitration year? Do you non-tender them? Do you keep them around?

John Mozeliak will definitely earn his paycheck this winter with all the work he has ahead of him. It is the most busy that I can remember any offseason being.

The Cardinals officially enter next season with $41 million committed to Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, and Jaime Garcia. I think it’s safe to assume that the Cardinals will pick up the options of Wainwright and Molina, which pushes the number up to a cool $57 million.

In part two, I will discuss the contract options that are on the table for the Cardinals and what internal talent can we expect to contribute in 2012.

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Rockies @ Cards Notebook

Luckily the Cardinals were able to salvage at least one win out of the three-game series against the NL Central leading Brewers, leaving them just 4 back of the Brewers entering play today. While the Brewers head home to play Pittsburgh, the Colorado Rockies come to town for the Cardinals.

In tonight’s game, Kyle Lohse (9-7, 3.45) will match up against Aaron Cook (2-6, 5.05). Saturday will feature Jaime Garcia (10-5, 3.23) against Jason Hammel (6-11, 5.14). The final game in the series looks to be Edwin Jackson (1-1, 4.95) against Esmil Rogers (6-1, 5.85). The Cardinals took 2 out of 3 the last time these two teams matched up back in May in Colorado.

Holliday day-to-day with back injury. There is still no determination on just when to expect Matt Holliday back in the lineup. So far Holliday has missed two games with the injury. Back injuries are strange beasts. Sometimes they are good to go the next day, sometimes it takes a week or more. From what I’ve read, it seems like he may be back after this series with the Rockies.

The only potential positive out of this is that Allen Craig is back with the big club. While he’s been an ice cold 0-for-7 in two starts since returning, this gives him some playing time to get back on track after an extended amount of time off.  Continue reading

Craig is back, Lynn to the DL

It’s a good news, bad news kind of day for the St. Louis Cardinals. Allen Craig was activated off the disabled list while Lance Lynn will hit the disabled list with an oblique strain.

Since returning to St. Louis after a few spot starts for Kyle McClellan, Lance Lynn has established himself a go-to late innings guy in the bullpen. In the 24 1/3 innings he posted in the St. Louis bullpen since June 24th, Lynn has a 2.22 ERA, has allowed just 8 walks, and has opponents hitting just .176 off of him. In the last 14 days, opponents were hitting just .083 against him in 7 2/3 innings. Dominant.

On Tuesday night in the top of the 9th inning in a 3-3 ballgame, Lynn was closing in on his second 1-2-3 inning of relief. He had faced 5 batters, had three strikeouts and was cruising. Then on a 3-2 pitch to George Kottaras he grabbed his side and the pitch ended up as a ball, walking Kottaras. Octavio Dotel, a Cardinal for just two weeks, came in to close out the inning and keep the game tied.

For the Cardinals it was a stunning loss, but it had the ability to be much worse. Just sit for a moment and consider just where the Cardinals’ bullpen would be if the team hadn’t made the moves at the trade deadline to acquire Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, and Marc Rzepczynski. Nowhere pretty, that’s for sure. Continue reading

Why not Mark Buehrle?

The most popular question that seems to be coming out of the Colby Rasmus to the White Sox rumors seems to be:

Why not Mark Buehrle?

Why not Mark Buehrle, indeed. The 32 year old pitcher has 155 wins and a 3.82 ERA over his 12 seasons in the big leagues. He has thrown 200 or more innings in 10 of those, and is on pace to do it again. The fewest games he’s started when he’s been on the roster all year is 30 games. Not to mention he grew up a Cardinals fan and lives near St. Louis.

Buehrle has often spoken of his desire to play for the Cardinals before his playing days are over. He has 10/5 rights as a veteran player for the White Sox, but fans ask, wouldn’t he waive them for the Cardinals?

He probably would, and most Cardinals fans would prefer that option to Edwin Jackson, I know I would. But it ends up being the cost factor that would have the Cardinals backing out of a potential deal for Buehrle.

As it turns out, Buehrle has an option for 2012 that kicks in if he is traded. That option adds up to $16 million total. He gets an extra $1 million this year for being traded and $15 million the next year as his salary.

After the trade of Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers, John Mozeliak was asked why the Cardinals weren’t in on the player popularly known as “K-Rod.” Mozeliak said that Rodriguez’s $17.5 million option would have handcuffed the team financially next year. So if, Rodriguez’s $17.5 million option will handcuff the team, so will Buehrle $15 million one.

Time for some number crunching to see just how true this statement turns out being. Continue reading

Around the NL Central

Take a look at the NL Central standings and you are likely to do a double-take. The Reds in fourth? Where are the Pirates? First? Quick! Someone check hell! It’s got to be frozen over.

No, it’s very much the way it is. An injury plagued Cardinals team and a solid Brewers team are being topped right now by a very young and very good Pirates team. Nobody expected this from them this year, but most give the credit to their manager Clint Hurdle.

It was Hurdle that brought the 2007 Colorado Rockies to the World Series with a plethora of young talent. Names like Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki. They weren’t well known at the time, but have become household names for baseball fans, and Cardinals fans have gotten very familiar with Mr. Holliday these days.

It was Hurdle that has brought considerable improvement to the Pittsburgh Pirates this year. So much improvement, myself and other UCB writers had them penciled into the cellar of the NL Central once again, contending with the Astros for the honor of bringing up the rear. However, young teams are always tough to predict. On one hand they have talent and could break out, on the other they could just continue in their ways. I was one of the few to say that the Pirates had the ability to go with the division as I labelled them my darkhorse candidate for the playoffs this year. It’s been an amazing story, but not what I’m talking about today.

The point of today’s article is a look at the top teams in the NL Central. Basically, those that still have a chance, and figure what they need to do in order to continue to contend down the stretch. Do they need to make a trade? Should they? That’s what I’m going to look at. Continue reading