The only way to stay sane during the baseball offseason is to project your favorite team's future while pretending you aren't aware something's going to surprise you in February and blow everything up, regardless.
I've been on a plane or in a car for just about all of Thursday, which means my writing time for Friday was mostly spent with a pen and paper and angry babies and large seatmates, instead of a computer and a mediocre-to-pretty-okay TV series droning on Netflix. While I took some longhand notes about the Jaime Garcia piece that will run here this afternoon or tomorrow, then, I thought about the more general question I'd ask you guys this morning: What is it, in 2013, that's going to render our offseason of depth-charting and narrative-building completely worthless?
In 2012, Lance Berkman's near-complete absence turned the Cardinals' apparently fearsome depth into just enough four-corners offense to get an oddly forgettable (slash-forgotten) Matt Adams cameo, and Chris Carpenter's slow-burn injury problems set Lance Lynn free to make an All-Star team, win 18 games, and then come into 2013 without a guaranteed rotation gig.
In 2013--Jaime Garcia's the player that got me thinking about this in the first place, but we seem to expect so little of him, in-spite-or-because of the Cardinals' progressing-nicelies on his behalf, that I don't think he's actually a good answer. At this point Garcia is more likely to surprise us by having a big season and emerging as the Cardinals' ace than he is to surprise us by pitching 34 innings and having shoulder surgery, even though the second is at least as likely as the first.
The big negative shift in the 2013 Cardinals, then, will probably have to come elsewhere. The obvious and terrifying answer comes from Yadier Molina, and in two scary flavors: Mediocre and hurt. But I think some of us are obsessing enough over the possibility that that, too, might not be severe enough a surprise.
My pick: Matt Holliday finally has to miss time, instead of just playing hurt for the last two months of the season, and the Church of Clutch realizes they miss the guy--as Oscar Taveras hits .380 with the bases empty and just .290 with runners on.