As the Cardinals break camp and head to Phoenix to start the 2013 season, they find themselves in a familiar place. Just like usual, they’re expected to contend for a World Series title. It can’t be any other way. After all, they are the St. Louis Cardinals. But they also face some familiarities that they’d rather not encounter.
Heading into the season, they won’t be healthy. They’ve lost David Freese, Jason Motte, and Chris Carpenter to injuries. All three of them will be starting the 2013 campaign on the disabled list.
Health. That is the number one key to the Cardinals having a successful year. Of course they have depth at most positions, but injuries still show cause for concern. As I noted before, they’ve already have three players heading to the DL and they haven’t even began playing real games yet.
A Younger Team
The Cardinals have a much younger roster compared to past years. They had an opening for the fifth spot in the starting rotation and they entrusted that role into highly touted prospect Shelby Miller.
Rafael Furcal is done for the season and youngster Pete Kozma will be the Opening Day shortstop.
But along with these rookies they also have some veteran leadership. Matt Holiday and Adam Wainwright should provide a strong presence in the locker room. With Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, and Skip Schumaker no longer on the team, other players will have to step up into leadership roles. Players that may not be considered veterans such as David Freese and Jon Jay will have to take on a larger role in the locker room.
I’ve heard the terms “rebuilding” and “transition” being thrown around to describe this upcoming season. This is true in a sense, but this is an elite team so choose your words wisely. The Cardinals are preparing themselves for the present and the future at the same time. For every Shelby Miller, there’s an Adam Wainwright. The team’s mix of young players and veterans provide great hope for the future.
Middle Infield Uncertainty.
Matt Carpenter has worked all winter and all spring to become a second basemen. He was making great progress and on his way to being the main guy at the position. He did all this work and now he’ll begin 2013 at third base because of David Freese’s injury.
But when Freese comes back, Carpenter will likely be the starting second basemen. This marks the second time in as many years that the team moves a non-second basemen to the position. Last year it was Skip Schumaker.
The future at second isn’t so bleak. Prospect Kolten Wong is waiting in the wings and ready to be the second basemen of the future. The future at shortstop is much more shady, however.
Pete Kozma will get the job there after a fantastic Spring, but is he the future at the position? Probably not. The club doesn’t have a prospect waiting to takeover like they do at second. Shortstop could be a position they look to upgrade at the Trade Deadline. All of this will depend on how Kozma handles the role. Time will tell.
The future looks bright and so does the present. It will be exciting to see current stars like Holliday and Wainwright play along side with future stars such as Shelby Miller or Oscar Taveras. The Reds are the favorite to win the Central, but it would be incredibly foolish to count the Cardinals out. After all, they were counted out in 2006 and 2011.
Buckle in and get ready to go; an exciting season is ahead of us and the Cardinals are ready.