Cardinals Early Impact Prospects For 2015

Even though the Cardinals lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS, Cards fans have it luckier than they even know. The Cardinals are an exceptionally well-run baseball team and manage to make the playoffs year after year (five out of the last six to be exact). They have won eleven world series, nineteen National League Pennants and twelve division titles making them the second most winning franchise in MLB history after the New York Yankees. Anyways, if being a lifelong fan of baseball has taught me one thing its that the future of any team rests in the hands of its farm system, so without further adieu here are, in my opinion, the top three Cardinals prospects to made an immediate impact in 2015.

Stephen Piscotty

Piscotty was a first round supplemental draft pick out of Stanford who was converted from third base to right field before the 2013 season. Although he isn’t fast enough to play center field, his strong and accurate arm makes him a capable right fielder.

Piscotty only hit 9 home runs this season, but his flat, line drive swing gives him gap power, showcased by his 32 doubles, and results in few strike outs. Many scouts believe Piscotty has the potential to be a .300 hitter in the major leagues, but he may need a positional change due to the Cardinals investment in players like Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk.

Breakdown

Piscotty is a major league ready player, and his willingness to learn as well as gritty play mesh well with the rest of the personalities on the Cardinals major league roster. With the cardinals general lack of production this year offensively, they should be able to find playing time for him in 2015.

Marco Gonzales

Gonzales was the nineteenth pick in the 2013 MLB draft and quickly escalated to the big leagues, making his debut on June 25th of this year. He only appeared in sixteen games for the Cardinals (including the post season) and had some control issues during the regular season, walking 21 batters in 34.2 innings with a 1.53 WHIP.

Although Gonzales is not overpowering, with his fastball usually sitting between 88 and 91 mph, and struggled at times this season when facing major league hitters, his changeup is what makes him an intriguing piece of the Cardinals 2015 roster. His changeup is a tremendous swing and miss weapon and his control of the pitch is impeccable. Both Gonzales’s changeup and control have been graded between a 60 and 70 on the 20-80 scale by numerous scouts too, which are well above average grades.

Breakdown

With frequent comparisons to Kansas City Royals pitcher Jason Vargas, Gonzales has the stuff to develop into a dependable number three pitcher for years to come or at the very least an effective lefty out of the Cardinals bullpen.

Cardinals pitching prospect Marco Gonzales in action.

Randal Grichuk

Grichuk was taken with the 24th pick of the 2009 MLB draft and battled his way through five injury plagued seasons in the minor leagues before finally getting a taste of the big leagues this year. He has defensive value and can play all outfield positions, making up for his lack of speed by taking great angles when hunting down fly balls. His hard work in the outfield earned him the equivalent of the minor league gold glove award in 2013.

On the offensive end of the spectrum, Grichuk impressed many by slugging .400, but he struck out 31 times and walked only 5 in 110 regular season at bats. He also hit a underwhelming .171 during the postseason and struck out in over 33% of his at bats. Regardless of his major league numbers, Grichuk still slugged 25 home runs for the Cardinals triple A affiliate this season, but although many scouts are impressed by his power, his aggression at the plate will probably be exposed by pitchers at the professional level.

Breakdown

Grichuk has been given the opportunity to be the everyday right fielder, but with Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty lurking he has no room for error. If he gets off to a hot start Grichuk will be the everyday right fielder, but if he doesn’t he will probably become the teams fourth outfielder and may potentially be sent back down to triple A.

NLCS Game 4 Preview: Cardinals at Giants (10/16/14)

The Pitching Matchup: Adam Wainwright (0-1, 8.00 ERA) takes the mound for the Cards tonight as they look to keep their postseason alive. So far this postseason, Wainwright has been very inefficient as a pitcher, lasting only 4 1/3 his last start and needing 200 pitches collectively to get through his two postseason starts. Wainwright says that he has addressed the mechanical errors for tonight’s game and should be more effective. For the Cardinals’ sake, he needs to leave it all out on the field tonight.

The Giants are also sending out their ace, Madison Bumgarner (1-1, 1.23 ERA). This postseason, Bumgarner has looked very sharp. In he three starts he has only given up three earned runs. Tonight’s game looks very much like it could be a pitchers duel with two of the top pitchers in the National League facing off.

The Skinny: The bottom line is, the Cardinals need to win. They need to jump on Bumgarner early and not let him get into a rhythm. If they can manage to string some hits together and get the offense going, Wainwright is more than capable of keeping the San Francisco hitters at bay.

Recap: Cardinals Fall Victim to Giants’ Rally, Final Score 4-6

The Bottom Line: The Cardinals got off to an early start, producing four runs in three innings. Kolten Wong blasted a line drive home run, his second of the series, that landed just shorted of McCovey Cove. The Giants’ however rallied quickly, scoring three runs on RBIs by Buster Posey and Hunter Pence in the within the first three innings. The Cardinals, unfortunately, would not score again after the third inning, while the Giants struck for three runs in the 6th inning to get on top for good.

Neither starting pitcher went very deep into the game; Shelby Miller gave up three runs and was removed after 3 2/3 innings. Ryan Vogelsong was removed after he gave up four runs in 3 innings.

Buster Posey had three RBIs.

What’s Next: Adam Wainwright (0-1, 8.00 ERA) is looking to to bounce back from his first two uncharacteristic starts in which he gave up a combined eight earned runs and never got past the 4th inning. He will pitch opposite the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner (2-1, 0.76 ERA), whose three outings this postseason were all quality starts. The Cardinals have an uphill battle in front of them, and everybody needs to step up if the World Series is to come to St. Louis for the second straight year.

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NLCS Game 4 Preview: Cardinals at Giants (10/15/14)

The Pitching Matchup: Shelby Miller (0-0, 3.18 ERA) made his first postseason career postseason start in NLDS game 4, and he sure delivered, limiting the Dodgers to to runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Ryan Vogelsong (0-0, 1.59 ERA) has five career postseason starts, all of which resulted in San Francisco victories. However, he has not had much luck against the Cardinals, posting a 2-6 record and 6.17 ERA against them.

The Bottom Line: In game 3, the Cardinals pitched without Yadier Molina‘s pitch-calling acumen, and John Lackey got knocked around for four runs in the first inning. There still is no detail on when exactly Molina will return, so Cardinals pitchers, along with backup catchers AJ Pierzynski and Tony Cruz, will have to make some keen judgements to to keep batters off-guard.

Shelby MIller

Shelby MIller

NLCS Game 3, Cardinals at Giants (10/14/14), Veterans Lackey and Hudson Start

The Pitching Matchup: John Lackey (1-0, 1.29 ERA) has thrown 111 career innings in the postseason, more than any other active pitcher. A World Series winner with the Angels in 2002 and with the Red Sox last year, he has plenty of experience going into game 3.

Yadier Molina, after straining his oblique at the plate on Monday, will not be on the roster for game 3. Instead, veteran AJ Pierzynski, Lackey’s battery-mate in Boston last year, will start behind the plate.

For the Giants, veteran Tim Hudson (0-0, 1.23 ERA) will be making his second start of the postseason. In his division series start, he limited the Nationals to a single run in 7 1/3 innings. He is now on nine days’ rest after dealing with discomfort in his hip.

John Lackey

John Lackey

The Skinny: Both starting battery teams bring veteran presence to the game tonight. Lackey and Pierzynski have a combined 28 years of big league experience and Hudson has been a force to be reckoned with ever since he broke into the Majors in 1999. The youngster in the conversation is 27-year old Giants catcher Buster Posey, who in five years already has two World Series rings, an MVP, and a rookie of the year — most players would call that a good career.

Without Molina, Other Players Will Step Up

On Monday as Yadier Molina grounded directly to second base for an easy double play, he strained his left oblique and was forced to leave the game. This is surely a hard blow to the Cardinals, who are now without their All-Star catcher for an indefinite amount of time. We are not sure if Yadi will return to this series, but the Cardinals have decided to keep him on the postseason roster, so don’t necessarily count him out yet.

In losing Molina, the Cards lose not only an effective and defensive sharpshooter from behind the plate, but a leader on the field. We should keep our heads up, as this is by no means a crippling blow to the Cardinals, who played a stretch of more than 50 games this season without Molina, who went on the disabled list for a thumb injury earlier during the season.

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Molina is an important piece of the team, but we have faith that the other guys on the team will step up as they often do. Matt Adams already has two important clutch homers this postseason, Matt Carpenter has hit four homers — half of his season total, Kolten Wong obviously came in clutch with a walk off blast on Sunday. Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk are already making an impact while having their first tastes of October baseball. The Cardinals are going to have to lose a lot more than one player to be out of contention.

Recap (10/12/14): Four Solo Homers + Kolten Wong’s Walk-Off Ties Series

The Bottom Line: In the 4th inning, Matt Carpenter got the Cardinals on board with his 3rd homer this postseason. Randal Grichuk drove in another run in the 4th. The Giants tied up the game over the next two innings. The last three innings of the game was a tug of war; homers by Oscar Taveras and Matt Adams were undone Trevor Rosenthal‘s wild pitch in the top of the 9th, allowing Matt Duffy to come home.

Most of the players were ready to tangle with each other in extra innings, but Kolten Wong decided enough was enough, and he decided to line Sergio Romo‘s offering over the left field fence for a lead-off walkoff home run.

Giving up two runs each, Lance Lynn and Jake Peavy left the game after 5 2/3 and 4 innings.

The Cardinals have now hit 11 home runs this postseason.

Kolten Wong Rounds Bases After Walk-Off Homer Evens Up the Series

Kolten Wong Rounds Bases After Walk-Off Homer Evens Up the Series

What’s Next: The series heads to San Francisco where veteran starters John Lackey (1-0, 1.29 ERA) and Tim Hudson (0-0, 1.23 ERA) will face off.

Game Recap: Cards Blanked 3-0 by Giants in Game 1 of NLCS

The Bottom Line: The Cards could not get anything going off Madison Bumgarner (2-1, 1.13) who went 7.2 innings, giving up only four hits and one walk while striking out seven.  Adam Wainwright (0-1, 12.46) labored through 4.2 innings as he gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks.  He struggled with command; he burned through 98 pitches without making it out of the fifth inning.  The Giants scrapped away three runs with a RBI bloop single, a run on a Matt Carpenter error, and a sacrifice fly.  The Cards should have gotten a run on what seemed to be a balk by Bumgarner, but the umpires missed it.

 

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright

 

Cards Come Out Flat: The Cards had a tough time with Bumgarner on the mound as the offense could not adjust to his sidearm slot and movement on his pitches.  Carpenter had an error that is very uncharacteristic of the sure-handed third baseman.  Wainwright was anything but the Wainwright we have come to know over the last few postseasons.  Overall, it was a pretty poor performance by the Cards; hopefully they will come out ready to play in Game 2.

What’s Next?: Lance Lynn (0-0, 3.00) takes the mound for the Cards against Jake Peavy (1-0, 0.00) and the Giants in Game 2 of the NLCS on Sunday Night at 7 pm CT.

NLCS Game 1, Giants at Cardinals (10/11/14)

The Pitching Matchup: Adam Wainwright (0-0, 12.46 ERA) got knocked around a bit in the Division Series, giving up 11 hits and 6 earned runs to the Dodgers in his 4.1 innings. Luckily, the offense bailed him out, rallying for 8 runs in the 7th inning to win game 1.

Madison Bumgarner (1-1, 1.13 ERA) was dominant in the do-or-die wildcard elimination game against the Pirates,pitching a complete game shutout. In game 3 of the Division Series, he had kept the Nationals silent until the seventh inning, when he made an errant throw to third base, allowing two runs to score.

The Skinny: Two of the best pitchers in the league are on the mound tonight, and we won’t expecting them to be making a lot of mistakes. Offense will be a deciding factor tonight. Each of the Giants’ wins against the Nationals in the Division Series was by a single run. Each of the Cardinals’ wins against the Dodgers was decided by either one or two runs. Other than the slugfest 10-9 victory over the Dodgers last week, neither the Cardinals nor the Giants scored more than three runs a game so far. Whichever team’s bats gets hot first gets a significant advantage.

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright

Familiar Setting: This will be the fourth time that the Cardinals and the Giants have met up in the Championship Series. The Cardinals have been in the NLCS each of the past four years, and the Giants have been in the NLCS three of the last five years. Either the Cardinals or the Giants have been the NL Champions seven out of the last twelve seasons.