After watching the majority of the first nearly three series of St. Louis Cardinal baseball circa 2015, I’m ready to start making obnoxious predictions. I use the word obnoxious so that no one reading this can throw that in my face as if I wasn’t aware that it’s far too early to gauge what’s actually going to happen in 2015. We’re so early in the season, in fact, that I wouldn’t even bother using statistics to back up anything I’m about to say here — this is all eye test material, perhaps with a bit of past evidence thrown in as well to further solidify an opinion.
It’s entirely possible that I may be wrong on all five bold 2015 Cardinal predictions, and in the case of the negative ones, I actively hope I am. That isn’t going to stop me from throwing them out there for all the world to see, because we believe in accountability at StanGraphs Lite. Go ahead and call me out on the things I missed when the season ends, but you’ll have to get in line behind my future self first. I have no doubt he’ll be more than capable of kicking my present self’s ass.
1. Trevor Rosenthal Won’t Finish the Season as the Closer
This prediction may well come back to bite me like an errant Rosenthal fastball accidentally flung into space in some May game that finds its way back to Earth’s gravity in September and lands on my head as I poke my head out the front door to sniff the lovely fall air. I say this because even if Rosenthal is every bit as wild as last year, he may still retain some level of effectiveness, and even if he doesn’t, that’s no guarantee Mike Matheny will have the balls to wrench the closer’s job from him.
After all, Matheny has never had to make a difficult decision in regard to the closer in his managerial career, and there’s no reason to believe he’ll make the right call even if the rest of the world knows it needs to happen. Sometimes Rosenthal looks just as good as he did in late 2012 and the duration of 2013, but all too often he’s throwing fastballs in locations Carlos Marmol would scratch his head at, along with the occasional breaking ball that just floats around helplessly with no spin until Yadier Molina walks out to pluck it out of the air with a sigh.
Would that I could be wrong about Rosenthal, but small flashes of brilliance aside, he’s just so consistently wild — dramatically wild, really — anymore that I believe he will force the team’s hand sooner rather than later.
2. Matt Carpenter Will Wield the Lineup’s Best Bat
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs posited the suggestion that Carpenter could end up being the best hitter in the 2015 St. Louis lineup before the season even started, but he meant it in a dismissive, somewhat insulting way. His suggestion seemed to be that if that happened, the offense could be in a lot of trouble. I think it’s entirely possible that everyone in the lineup could have a very nice season, an improvement on 2014 up and down the order, and still not match Carpenter’s production.
Carpenter’s patience is among the best in the game, and at times he’s shown the ability to bash the ball with authority as well. He didn’t do that very well in 2014, but that could turn out to be the outlier campaign looking back several years later. Playing in his age-29 season, I expect Carpenter to be at the top of his game the next three seasons or so, and that could translate into a truly dangerous hitter, not just an excellent lead-off presence.
3. Jason Heyward Won’t Rediscover His Power Stroke
Everyone got excited when John Mozeliak acquired Jason Heyward, and rightfully so, but the truth is that the team may have gotten a guy who only truly excels in the field and on the bases. Heyward is very young still, so it’s hard to ignore the 27 homers he hit in 2012, but that year’s .210 ISO stands out as the exception at this point. His career mark sits at .166, and apart from his anemic 2014 and the aforementioned 2012, he’s always been right around that number. It’s reasonable to expect Heyward to return to that level, but anyone who expects everything to click and an MVP candidate to materialize in the two hole should probably calm down.
That doesn’t make the trade a bad one at all, and the player he was in Atlanta could still be a very solid long-term investment, especially considering his age and the fact he isn’t likely to decline at what he does well anytime soon.
4. Carlos Martinez Will Develop Into the Staff Ace
If even one misguided fool reading along reluctantly agreed with these predictions so far, this is where he draws the line. I wouldn’t blame the guy, who’s probably closing this tab right now in favor of a BuzzFeed article that ponders which “Friends” character you’d want to be stranded on an island with the most. After all, I’ve never believed in Martinez as a starter. I always assumed he was destined to pitch in relief, and the early numbers suggested he wasn’t even going to be dominant in that role.
I’ve officially seen enough to completely change my mind. Is this foolish of me? Quite possibly, but I don’t care. The stuff has always been there, he had a great spring and first start, and the media would absolutely eat it up if he finally came into his own the season after losing friend and teammate Oscar Taveras in the offseason. With everyone else in the rotation either declining or more or less already as good as they’re going to be, it’s Martinez that most warrants watching from here on out.
5. Peter Bourjos Won’t Survive the Deadline
Bourjos can’t be a free agent until 2017, but I get the feeling the organization has already seen enough of him at this point. With Stephen Piscotty just about ready for the Majors and Jon Jay signed for the next couple seasons, there isn’t really room for Bourjos even if Heyward walks after 2015. This is a shame, because I believe the Cardinals may actually be better with Bourjos in center every day, but that’s a topic for another post.
While he remains on the Cardinal roster, he’s a defensive replacement and pinch-runner, and there are teams interested in giving him a bigger role than that. I believe the front office sees Randal Grichuk as a defensively gifted center fielder with a far superior bat, making Bourjos useless in their eyes. While it may make more sense for them to look for a package to include him in after the season ends, if a need arises in 2015, he seems like a probable trade candidate.