The St. Louis Cardinals offense was the team’s biggest strength in 2016. After the offseason shuffling, will the lineup again be one of the league’s best?
Buster Olney of ESPN released his top ten lineup rankings Saturday, which included the St. Louis Cardinals ranked ninth. The 2017 lineup will likely be a downgrade from the 2016 team, which ranked 4th in runs scored across the entire MLB. The run total was largely a product of power, as the Cardinals ranked 2nd in home runs.
The 2017 St. Louis Cardinals lineup will feature on-base machine Dexter Fowler at the top. Fowler gives the Cardinals a more traditional leadoff man, while more importantly shifting Matt Carpenter down in the order. Carpenter has been the team’s best hitter since 2013 and will get his first chance to perform in a run-producing role.
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Additionally, Aledmys Diaz will look to build upon a highly-successful rookie campaign. He will likely slot in the second spot in the order between Fowler and Carpenter, and his on-base ability will lead to RBI opportunities for Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty behind him.
While Piscotty lacks the power of a traditional cleanup hitter, his .372 career average with RISP suggests he is the Cardinals best fit for the role. With the trio of Fowler, Diaz, and Carpenter ahead of him in the lineup, Piscotty will have plenty of run-producing opportunities. If his career trend holds, the 2017 lineup should bring out the best in Piscotty.
Furthermore, Olney mentions both Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk as potential X-factors for the 2017 lineup. Though Grichuk’s power is intriguing, his 29.9% career strikeout rate and 5.8% career walk rate are major concerns. Due to these inefficiencies, Grichuk is projected to rate only average or slightly above at the plate next year.
Kolten Wong has had oft-noted struggles of his own, which included a demotion to Memphis during 2016. While Wong has shown promise with the bat in the minor leagues, his inability to adapt to MLB off-speed has been particularly troubling. If Wong can put it together at the Major League level like he has in the Minors, he could rate out as one of the Cardinals top players.
The St. Louis Cardinals lineup should again be a strength next season despite the power downgrade. What the 2017 lineup lacks in home run power, it makes up for with extraordinary depth.
The plus side? The Cardinals may field a lineup with a league average or better hitter at every position. The top of the order possesses the ability to wear opposing pitchers down, and the bottom half of the order has the skill to take advantage of a pitcher’s exhaustion.
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If the St. Louis Cardinals are going to compete with the Chicago Cubs for the division crown, they will need the lineup to be firing on all cylinders. If the projected starting lineup plays up to its potential, the Cardinals should have no problem keeping up with the Cubs.