St. Louis Cardinals: Pre-Winter Meetings 2017 Position Predictions

St. Louis Cardinals

Mar 5, 2012; Jupiter, FL. USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (22) checks his lineup card before the game against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. The Marlins defeated the Cardinals 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

The 2017 Winter Meetings are the next big piece of the offseason and the St. Louis Cardinals are a team to watch for moves to come during this piece of the winter.

The St. Louis Cardinals are looking for upgrades.  This is the message we have been hearing.  Prior to the Winter GM Meetings, the Cardinals made one such upgrade in the way of Brett Cecil but fans want more.

Each year the Winter Meetings bring a great deal of activity from all teams.  Deals are made and players are moved.  Free agents are selected and fans get their first glance at what their team might become in the coming year.

The Winter Meetings bring with them promise as each team is quote-unquote equally-matched and poised to take the World Series title.  What this is somewhat true, it is in actuality far from true as each team is trying to keep up with the Joneses as it were.  This year’s Joneses are the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs.

Teams will work in the Winter Meetings to grab valuable pieces who will make them equal or better than the Cubs in the National League and equal or better than the Indians in the American League.  Of equal importance in the Winter Meetings is budget control and teams will work within their guidelines to pick up value without losing too much money.

Enter the St. Louis Cardinals who went 86-76 in 2016 and who will be look to break the 90-win mark in 2017 in hopes of reaching the postseason.  The St. Louis Cardinals missed the 2016 postseason and were forced to watch the proceedings from home while the 103-58 Cubs rode to the title.

Before we watch whether general manager John Mozeliak makes any big splashes in the Winter Meetings, I’d like to take this slideshow to make some predictions.  We will go position-by-position and I will predict who will hold these positions in 2017.  Will I predict trades?  Will I predict successes or failures?  Click that next slide and find out.

St. Louis Cardinals

Apr 19, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter (13) fields a ground ball hit by Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake (not pictured) during the fifth inning at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Reds 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

2017  Infield

Ready for this?  I actually predict a few changes here so let’s just jump around the horn.  If you are interested in the catching position, I’m saving this one for the pitchers and catchers slide.

I predict that Matt Carpenter will be the everyday first baseman for the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals.  In forty-five games at first base in 2016, Carpenter held a fielding percentage of .997 and a 1.0 UZR.  While not a top dollar first baseman, Carpenter will serve the Cardinals well in this position.

I predict that Matt Adams will not be with the team in 2017, so, therefore, players such as Yadier Molina and Jedd Gyorko will spell backup duties for first base.  Others like Jose Martinez can also help Carpenter at first.  To this tune, Molina played two games at first in 2016, Gyorko played eleven games at first in 2016, and Martinez played twenty-three games at first in the minors in 2016.

I predict that Kolten Wong and Gyorko will split time at second base.  Of these two, I feel that Wong will get the lion’s share of playing time in this position unless his stats slide as they did too frequently in 2016.  That said, I do agree with the masses who feel that Wong needs everyday play to improve his abilities.

In 2016, Wong appeared at second in only eighty-eight games.  Gyorko appeared at second in forty-six games.  Wong earned a 4.6 UZR at second in 2016 and Gyorko earned a 4.9.  These are very good second basemen numbers and I suspect we will be pleased with their time in 2017.

The left side of the infield brings thoughts of change to me.  I predict that Aledmys Diaz will, for sure, own the left side of the infield but I predict that he will play at both short stop and third in 2017.  That’s right, I think the St. Louis Cardinals would do well to consider Diaz as a solution to the aging and very likely to-be-traded Jhonny Peralta.  To that end, I predict that Peralta is not with the Cardinals in 2017.

Sep 19, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons (2) throws the ball to second base during the third inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

So here it is: I predict that Diaz will be the starting third baseman on the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals with Andrelton Simmons manning short stop.  Equally I predict that Diaz will play short stop often with Gyorko sliding over to third base in these games.

Should the St. Louis Cardinals really add Simmons?  In 2016, Simmons earned a 15.4 UZR at short stop while Diaz earned a -8.4 UZR.  Improvement immediately.  Offensively, Diaz batted .300/.369/.510 while Simmons batted .281/.324/.366 so the Cards need to keep Diaz in the lineup.  This is one reason why I suggest Diaz sliding over to third.

In his career, Diaz has manned third base in a mere fifty-four games.  Spring training will be very important for this move but I believe that Diaz is skilled enough and young enough to pick up this position quickly.  To help him, Gyorko has played third in fifty-two games in his career.

While neither Diaz nor Gyorko owns the stats of Peralta, I believe they can certainly man the position as well to the degree to allow an addition such as Simmons.  Want to know more about my thoughts on adding Simmons, stay tuned for a rumor article to come in the next few days.

Before moving on, let me share a name to watch for in the 2017 season: Breyvic Valera.  This is a name the Cardinals added to the 40-man to protect him and he is a name on the rise.  Valera could well spell the end of Wong at second should he continue his powerful play.  Watch for him.

St. Louis Cardinals

Jul 23, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Randal Grichuk (15) catches for an out during a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Outfield

The St. Louis Cardinals have advertised their desire to make changes in the outfield for 2017.  I have to admit that I’m becoming more and more skeptical that a change will be made this winter for the 2017 outfield.  That said, I do predict one here but want to add this gigantic caveat that a no-move winter would not surprise me either.

I predict that Stephen Piscotty will be the starting right fielder in 2017.  I know, I know, no shocker there.  That said, this is the best option for the Cardinals in 2017 and into the future.  Piscotty- to me- is the Matt Holliday of the future and 2017 will be the year that he takes a big step toward these statistics.

St. Louis Cardinals

Jul 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez (30) catches a deep fly ball from Oakland Athletics third baseman Ryon Healy (48) in the second inning of their MLB baseball game at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

I predict that Carlos Gomez will be the starting center fielder for the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals.  Of all the options sitting out there, I like A.J. Pollock the most but I just don’t see the Cardinals going for this option this year.  I do, however, see Mozeliak adding Gomez for two-to-three years as a stop-gap until Harrison Bader ascends.

Speaking of Bader, I see him joining the Cardinals mid-year and serving as backup or even eclipsing Gomez as the starting center fielder.  Having said that, I also would not be surprised to see the organization hold Bader’s ascension off until the rosters expand in September to give him plenty of everyday playing time.

I predict that Randal Grichuk will start 2017 in left field.  Moving Grichuk from center is very much in the plans for the organization and makes a good deal of sense.  In 2016, Grichuk earned a 1.9 UZR in a mere twenty-seven innings.  In 2015, in 344.1 innings in left field, Grichuk earned a 2.5 UZR.   As a point of comparison, Holliday earned a -5.1 UZR in left in 2016 so Grichuk would be a marked improvement here.

I predict that Tommy Pham will no longer be with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2017.  This means that someone like the aforementioned Jose Martinez will be the everyday backup off the bench for the Cardinals both in the infield as mentioned in the previous slide and, I predict, in the outfield as well.

To his credit, Martinez earned (in a very small sample size) a -0.6 UZR in 2016 in the outfield.  As a point of comparison, Pham earned a -5.8 UZR when appearing in the outfield for his career.  While tough to genuinely say that Martinez is an improvement thanks to his limited playing time, I’d rather take the risk of him over the made-of-glass Pham.

St. Louis Cardinals

Jun 29, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) in action against the Kansas City Royals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Pitchers and Catchers

Let’s start with the rotation.  I predict that the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals rotation will look like this: Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes, Lance Lynn, Adam Wainwright, and Mike Leake.  While I would love to see the Cardinals land a starting pitcher, I’m just not sold that this happens this year.  I feel that these arms are formidable enough and could absolutely shut down any team when they are truly on their games.

So what do the Cardinals do with Jaime Garcia?  I predict that he is moved during the Winter Meetings to land some of the pieces named above.  I would not be surprised to see Jaime go to the Angels in the deal to grab Simmons.  In the same breath, I would not be surprised to see Marco Gonzales get a long look this spring to see if he could spell some starting depth.

In the pen, I predict that Tyler Lyons and Trevor Rosenthal will spell the long relief.  I also predict that Brett Cecil, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Matt Bowman, Jonathan Broxton, and Seung Hwan Oh will round out the pen.  This means, if you are reading correctly, that I do not anticipate the addition of any other arms in the meetings.

If you are reading correctly, as well, this would indicate that I predict that Michael Wacha is not with the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals.  Like Jaime above, I predict that Wacha is shopped and might well be included in the Simmons deal.  As I said in the previous slide, check back to our site in the coming days for my rumors piece on Simmons for more information on my thoughts.

St. Louis Cardinals

Mar 4, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Houston Astros outfielder Andrew Aplin (77) is safe at home as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Carson Kelly (82) drops the ball while trying to tag him during the fourth inning at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

What about the catchers?  It is easy to predict that Molina is the starter but the backup is where we find the need for discussion.  I definitely feel that Carson Kelly is the heir apparent and will be the backup for Yadi in 2017.  That said, I would not be surprised to see the organization add one more catcher to the mix.

Brayan Pena was recently designated for assignment so this leaves a figurative hole.  While the organization could choose to not fill this hole, I think a better choice would be to find another backup.  Some options might be to add Geovany Soto in the Simmons deal and allow Kelly to play everyday in Memphis, or a Dioner Navarro.  The Cardinals could also look at a veteran like Ryan Hanigan.

With so many catching options, I would recommend that we watch this position throughout the remaining winter as well.  While the pitching ranks might seem sleepy out of the gate, I predict that we will be happy with the hold this season.

St. Louis Cardinals

Sep 29, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals salute their fans after defeating the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. St. Louis defeated Chicago 4-0 and clinched the best record in the National League. Image Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Record

All predictions are for naught if records don’t improve, right?  If these additions- and these standing pat- fall out just as I predict here, then I feel comfortable saying that the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals will be far better than were the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals.  Here’s why I feel this way…

Let’s assume that each of the starting pitchers achieve the same number of wins as they did in 2016.  If that is true then Martinez will account for sixteen wins, Reyes will account for sixteen wins (these come from his statistical 162-game predicted average due to his limited MLB experience), Lynn will account for twelve wins (from his 2015 statistics), Wainwright will account for thirteen wins, and Leake will account for nine wins.  These total to sixty-six wins.

The magic number for several years has been ninety wins.  If the starting rotation accounts for sixty-six wins, this leaves twenty-four games in question.  The powerful St. Louis Cardinals pen was good for exactly twenty-four games in 2016 (from the names listed in the previous slide).  Should these names and these stats remain consistent then the 2017 Cardinals should be looking at ninety wins.  Should any improve, then so shall the record.

All-in-all, I predict that the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals will finish the season in second place in the NL-Central behind the Cubs but that they will eclipse the 90-win mark and will play in the postseason as the first NL Wild Card.  Having said this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this version of the St. Louis Cardinals to give the Cubs a run for their money.

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What do you think?  Will these players make the difference for the 2017 Cardinals?  Will these players instill trust in this team?  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for some great news out of the Winter Meetings.

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