Home >> Sports >> Baseball >> Cardinals Preview 2021

Cardinals Preview 2021

OVERVIEW

There is an awful lot to be excited about as Major League Baseball prepares to embark on a full 162-game schedule in 2021. It now looks like every team will allow fans back in the stands at some level. The Cardinals will be allowing 14,500 fans (32% capacity) to attend home games beginning on opening day. That’s a world of improvement over 2020.

Fredbird in field
(Source: Lou Countryman)

However, some of the rule changes from the pandemic shortened 2020 season have hung around. Doubleheaders will still be two seven-inning games and extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. The biggest change that happened last year does not appear to have stuck around, though. The designated hitter will once again exist only in the American League.

As for the hometown Cardinals, we are a tale of two teams. The starting infield is loaded with proven, reliable veterans. The starting outfield is young and wholly unproven but loaded with potential. Our starting rotation, once considered a strength, is now perilously thin due to key injuries. Our bullpen, once considered a weakness, now looks stacked due to key players returning from injury.

In the following paragraphs, we will take a look at where the Cardinals have upgraded (or not) at some key positions, what kind of offseason our divisional competition has had, and some key things to watch as the season unfolds.

Enjoy, and go Cards!

THE HOME TEAM

Any conversation about the 2021 St. Louis Cardinals has to start by talking about their star-studded corner infield. Paul Goldschmidt will begin his third year with the birds on the bat at first base, and new acquisition Nolan Arenado will man the hot corner. Between the two, they sport 11 All-Star appearances and 11 Gold Gloves. Simply put, there is no better corner infield in the major leagues.

Tommy Edman, Paul DeJong and Yadier Molina will round out the infield. Edman will transition from super utility player to starting second baseman following Kolten Wong’s departure as a free agent. This is an incredibly solid group defensively and they each fill key roles on the offensive side.

The real fun begins in the outfield. This is a group that has the potential to be the best overall in the National League. Unfortunately, they also have the potential to be the worst. They are super-athletic, incredibly exciting and completely unproven. Harrison Bader is an elite defensive player but has struggled mightily on the offensive side. Tyler O’Neil looks like the Incredible Hulk playing left field but sports a surprisingly good glove and has been crushing the ball in spring training. Super prospect Dylan Carlson will man right field. He is the only Cardinal with legitimate 30 home run/30 stolen base potential. Potential is the key word throughout this outfield.

The starting rotation will be anchored by ace Jack Flaherty and veteran Adam Wainwright. After that … question marks. Can Carlos Martinez regain his form? Is Kwang Hyun Kim the real deal or a one-year wonder? When will Miles Mikolas return? Will Alex Reyes get thrown into the mix at some point?

The bullpen, on the other hand, appears fairly well stocked. Fireballer Jordan Hicks has returned to health, veteran Andrew Miller probably benefited from the shortened season last year, and Alex Reyes has a dazzling collection of pitches. The rest of the group is a solid, talented bunch of middle relievers. This bullpen should be one of the best in all of baseball this season.

THE CENTRAL DIVISION

In order to respond to the Cardinals’ blockbuster trade for Nolan Arenado, the rest of the National League Central teams did … well, absolutely nothing. Seriously, the Arenado deal was the only significant addition in the entire division. As a matter of fact, according to MLB.com, the NL Central lost players who represented 44.2 wins above replacement (WAR). They collectively added players who represent just 6.6 WAR – and that includes Arenado who is worth 6.9 WAR by himself. 

The Pirates are a non-factor in the division. The baby bears in Chicago are stuck somewhere between rebuilding and retooling. The Padres and Reds are both ascending teams who simply stood pat this offseason. The Redbirds are favored to win the division, and no other teams did anything to stop them from making that prediction a reality.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. Money Matters: Due to the pandemic shortened 2020 season, teams are paying attention to their cash more than any time in recent memory. No, don’t feel sorry for Major League owners, but do feel excited if your team might need to add a player during the season. The Cardinals are almost certain to seek an upgrade in their starting rotation at some point this year, and there might be some great bargains to be had. 

2. Flashing Leather: While the Cardinals might have some offensive question marks with their young players, this could be the best defensive team the Birds have fielded since the halcyon days of Whitey Ball. The athletic young outfield can cover some serious ground, and every single infielder is a plus defender. And oh yeah, Yadi.

3. Prospects on Parade: A few youngsters will get starting roles, but there are also some high-level prospects likely to factor off the bench in 2021. Outfielder Lane Thomas and catcher Andrew Knizner are two of the highest-rated prospects in the organization. Thomas provides insurance at all three outfield spots, most notably in center field. Knizner could be the guy who forces Yadier Molina to actually take the occasional day off, from which his 38-year-old legs would certainly benefit.

ROSTER PREDICTIONS

Starting Pitchers 

• Jack Flaherty

• Adam Wainwright

• Kwang Hyun Kim

• Carlos Martinez

• John Gant

Bullpen

• Ryan Helsley

• Giovanny Gallegos

• Tyler Webb

• Daniel Ponce de Leon

• Andrew Miller

• Alex Reyes

• Jordan Hicks

Starting Infield

• C Yadier Molina

• 1B Paul Goldschmidt

• 2B Tommy Edman

• 3B Nolan Arenado

• SS Paul DeJong

Starting Outfield

• LF Tyler O’Neill

• CF Harrison Bader

• RF Dylan Carlson

Bench

• Andrew Knizner

• Matt Carpenter

• Edmundo Sosa

• Lane Thomas

• Angel Rondón

Cardinals center spread
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this:

Comments

comments

X