St. Louis Cardinals 2014 Season Preview: Writing staff's over/under stats picks

Jamie Squire

Veb_logos_--_writers_roundtable

Over the last couple of seasons, I've done an opening day post that looked at the stats I thought were most important for the Cardinals that season. This year, I thought we'd put a different spin on that post: Make it a Writers Roundtable and change it to an over/under on those stats. I posed a stat to the writers, each of them told me whether they thought the player (or team) would be over or under the proposed stat for the season. Then one of the writers who guessed over wrote why and one of the writers that guessed under explained his or her prediction as well.

Matt Carpenter: .307 BA

In Matt Carpenter's rookie season of 2012, he hit for a .294 average. Last year, Matt Carpenter batted .318. None of the ZiPS, PECOTA, Oliver, or Steamer projection systems forecast him batting above .295 (Oliver). The 2014 VEB community projection for Carpenter was a .307 BA. So I thought it would be interesting to see whether the writers thought Carpenter would hit better than the VEB community as a whole.

2014

Ben: Under

Hitting over .300 in the majors is hard. Just 24 big-leaguers batted .300 or higher a season ago. Of those, 15 hit over .307. Carpenter was one of them at .318, a BA that was fueled by a .359 BABIP which ranked tenth in MLB. I don't think Carpenter's BABIP will be that high in 2014 because I don't think he'll maintain a LD% as high as the 27.3 rate he rapped out a year ago. The result will be a BA lower than .307.

Lil' Scooter: Over

Throughout his entire career, Carpenter has been a terrific hitter. Whenever he has been able to take over 450 at bats, his average has always been above .300. Last year, Carp hit .318. While that was partially driven by high BABIP at .359, due to his high contact and line-rive rates, this isn’t very surprising and not unsustainable. The choice of over .307 was a quick one for me.

Yadier Molina: 135 Games Played

From 2009-2013, Yadier Molina played in 136 games or more in each season. Last year, Molina played in 136 games despite a disabled-list trip for a balky knee. Manager Mike Matheny is on the record saying that they have no plans to get the youngest of the Catching Molinas more days off this season.

2014

Aaron: Over

Barring acute injury, Yadi will continue his streak of playing over 135 games. Once again, there is no firm plan to limit Yadi's innings, and once again, Yadi will be able to call his own game with regard to rest. Once again, the team will contend, and once again, the pitching staff contains a flight of young pitchers eager to learn the way of yadier. A day may come when the knees of Yadi fail, but it is not this day! I'll take the OVER.

Ben: Under

Last year, the wear and tear of donning the tools of ignorance day in and day out began to show. The Cardinals placed Molina on the disabled list due to knee problems. After 15 days, Molina returned and wound up playing in 136 games on the year. I don't think that's the last we'll hear of Molina experiencing knee problems. He's getting older and the mileage he's put on his knee joints is only just starting to manifest itself. I think it's a good bet that Molina lands on the DL again this season and that lingering knee issues will limit his action to something less than 135 games.

Matt Adams: .491 SLG

Matt Adams is not an outfielder, but he's replacing one in the lineup. With Carlos Beltran leaving for the Yankees via free agency, last year's primary first baseman Allen Craig will shift to right field and Adams will play at first. Adams is taking Beltran's place in the lineup if not the field. Much has been made of the Cards missing Beltran's slugging. Last season, the switch-hitting veteran posted a .491 SLG. Will Adams be able to surpass it over the course of a full season?

2014

Craig: Over

In 319 plate appearances last season, Adams slugged .503, so the capability to repeat is there. With Carlos Beltran gone and Craig headed to right field, Adams will get the opportunity to play more. That could be good or bad for Adams as more plate appearances against lefthanded pitchers could move his line down as he hit just .231/.231/.423 last year against lefites. While his batting average was low and he failed to draw a single walk last season against lefties, his slugging remained somewhat respectable. If he shows an inability to hit against lefthanded pitchers again in 2014, he likely will see his role reduced. That will give him more at bats against righties, who he performed extremely well last year, hitting .295/.356/.520. Last year, Adams made 16.4% of his plate appearances against lefties. Given a similar percentage this year, hitting over .491 slugging is a definite possibility.

Red Baron: Under

This is a really, really tough number. On the one hand, I have complete confidence Adams could easily slug his way to 30 home runs this season. On the other, well, two things: one, I think teams are going to figure out some of the holes in Adams' game this year as they see more and more of him – including more starts against left-handed pitchers – and two, a slugging percentage just shy of .500 isn't the most common number in the world anymore. I don't think a lot of us have quite adjusted to the new mathematical reality of the current era of baseball we're in, but slugging .500 these days is a very different animal from slugging .500 five years ago. Adams himself just barely hit that number last year (he slugged .503, to be exact), and that required an unsustainably high HR/FB% of 21.8%. Allen Craig didn't slug .491, and he hit .315 last year, albeit with a weirdly low ISO. Bottom line, I think Adams is going to face tougher situation this season as teams go out of the zone more often to try and take advantage of his aggressiveness at the plate, as well as facing more and better left-handed pitching thanks to a full-time starting job. Combine that with a home run rate that will likely fall, and that .491 number looks like it might be just a tad bit high.

Kolten Wong: .722 OPS

Like Adams, Kolten Wong is replacing a player in the lineup while playing a different defensive position. The Cardinals traded third baseman Dave Freese this offseason, which means last year's primary second baseman, Carpenter, will slide across the diamond and back to his natural position of third base while Wong will take over for Carpenter at second. So, Wong is replacing Freese in the lineup. Last season, Freese posted a .721 OPS. Can Wong bat better this year than Freese did in 2013?

2014

Joe: Over

I took the over on this one, and in my opinion, it wasn't really even that close. The league average OPS for second basemen in 2013 was .692. I think Wong, even if this is just his rookie season, is more than 30 OPS points better than the league average second baseman. In three minor league seasons consisting of 1,264 plate appearances, his OPS was a solid .811. ZiPS projects him to be right around the league average at .696, but I like to consider myself more optimistic than Mr. Szymborski's projection system. Spring Training statistics are not predictive of future results, but one thing I do know is the success Wong had in spring will be huge for his confidence going into the regular season. Do I think he will be anywhere near the .375/.434/.646 hitter he was in Spring Training? Nope, but I do believe he will have a higher OPS than .722.

Lil' Scooter: Under

While I am excited and optimistic about Wong possibly getting a whole season of at-bats, I do not think his OPS will be over .722, although he might make it close. The reason? The "S". I ultimately think that having to adjust to major league pitching in his first full season will cause his SLG to drop lower than his minor league track record, even if his speed allows him to take the occasional extra base.

Jhonny Peralta: .330 wOBA

Since Jhonny Peralta broke into the majors in 2002, he has consistently been inconsistent. Peralta tends to have very good and bad batting seasons. When you combine the various peaks and valleys of his career as a hitter, you get a .330 wOBA. Will the Cardinals get a year better or worse than Peralta's career wOBA in 2014?

2014

Aaron: Over

This was one of the more difficult calls for me. Peralta's annual production has been very up and down, with many marks well-above and well-below his .330 career wOBA. That wOBA vacillates right along with BABIP, as might be expected, but Jhonny has had solid line-drive rates his whole career. While Busch Stadium will do him no favors dinger-wise, and his contact rate is a little concerning, I like the odds for plenty of doubles and another good year hitting for Moon-Faced Jhonny. OVER by just a bit.

Lil' Scooter: Under

Peralta’s wOBA during his career has been pretty volatile and difficult to predict. This is primarily due to his fluctuating batting average and BABIP. Because of so many inconsistencies, I compared how many times his wOBA has been lower than .330 to higher than .330. It is still tied at 4, if I take out the two years with less than 270 plate appearances. So I went with my gut. His walk rate is low, his batting average is very BABIP dependent, and when his BABIP is average, his wOBA is under .330.

Allen Craig: .179 ISO

Hitter's hit. And Allen Craig is a heck of a hitter. Last season, he evolved into a different type of batsman than what we'd seen throughout his career. Craig's power evaporated and his Isolated Power (ISO) fell from .215 in 2012 to .142 (which is about league average). Halfway in between Craig's 2012 and 2013 ISOs is .179. Will Craig hit for power more like he did prior to last season or more like the singles hitter he morphed into?

2014

Ben: Over

Craig's power drop-off a year ago is even more bizarre when we take a longer view of his professional career. In a full season's worth of PAs, Craig didn't post a minor-league ISO below .190 in minors. Perhaps this hitting leopard has changed his stripes and become a line-drive hitter who doesn't hit for much pop, but I think that Craig will revert to his old ways, with another 20-homer season in 2014.

Craig: Under

An ISO of .179 splits the difference between his excellent 2012 at .215 and his solid 2013 at .142. While it is reasonable to expect an increase over last year and see some more of his flyballs as home runs this season, Expecting a 40 point jump over last season is a big leap. This one is a close call, but if Craig changed his approach last season to trade power for base hits in some situations, there is little reason to think he will not repeat his results to some degree this season. He probably cannot keep his RISP magic up for another whole season, and should hit for more power, but an ISO of .160 or .170 seems more likely than .180 or .190.

Peter Bourjos: .322 OBP

Peter Bourjos wants to steal 40 bases. Watching him jet around the outfield, it's clear that he has the speed to do so. The problem is that a player can't steal first base. Particularly Bourjos. Last season, non-pitchers posted a .322 OBP. Will Bourjos be able to post an above-average OBP in 2014?

2014

Red Baron: Over

I'm probably sticking my neck out here pretty far, considering Bourjos is the proudish owner of a lifetime .306 on-base percentage, and even in his best season, his four-win 2011 campaign, his OBP was a modest .327. But I'm going 100% gut here (well, 90% gut, combined with a smidgen of logic), and I think Bourjos is going to have himself a monster year. This is the situation, as I see it:

1) Bourjos is heading into his age-27 season.

2) Bourjos has a clear opportunity in front of him for playing time, considering the Cardinals do not have Mike Trout.

3) By most indications, Bourjos is most likely going to bat low in the order, probably in the number eight slot just ahead of the pitcher's spot.

The Cardinals have made it a point to stress getting on base to Bourjos, particularly in terms of being more patient hitting in front of the pitcher. He's going to get plenty of playing time, he's in the prime of his career, and he's hitting eighth as part of one of the best lineups in the National League. Bank on it; we're all going to be very, very happy the Cardinals picked up Bourjos when the 2014 season is over.

Aaron: Under

I love Bourjos. Speed and outstanding defense excite me, and I think there very well might be some offensive upside which just hasn't manifested itself yet, but I can't give the OVER to a guy with a lifetime .306 OBP. I'd love to be wrong, and I'd love for RB to convince me that I am. But all I see is a guy who strikes out a fair amount, doesn't walk, and rarely hits the ball hard. Give me the UNDER and a stiff drink.

Jon Jay: 350 PA

Jon Jay broke into the majors in 2010. He was promoted, sent down, and then called back up. That year, he managed to notch 323 PA in 105 games. In 2011, Jay tallied 503 PA even though he split time for the majority of the season with Colby Rasmus. Enter Bourjos. Jay has been here before. Will he once again establish himself as the primary center fielder or will Bourjos relegate him to part-time duty off the bench?

2014

Aaron: Over

I'll give you another number close to 350: Jay's career .356 OBP. (Yes, I know there's a decimal difference, smart-ass.) I might have answered this differently if Oscar had a different spring, but between questions about Bourjos' health, Bourjos' ability to hit, and the apparent plan to use Justice Jay at the corner spots when Adams, Craig, or Holliday are out, I think Jon Jay will be OVER 350 PA fairly easily.

Joe: Under

Regretfully, I took the under on this one. At times, I feel like I am the leader of the Jon Jay Fan Club, but barring some catastrophic injury to one of the current starting outfielders coupled with Oscar Taveras remaining injury prone, I just don't see 350 PAs for Jay in 2014. Can he snag some plate appearances from any of three outfield positions as well as the pinch-hitter role? He sure can, but if Bourjos remains healthy and Taveras is called up, Jay will slip down to the fifth outfield spot -- severely crippling his playing time. Do I think Jay is a much better hitter than Bourjos? You better believe it, but I don't think Mozeliak made the trade with the Angels to have Bourjos in a platoon/late-inning defensive substitution role. However, several things can happen to get Jay more plate appearances in 2014, such as Bourjos woefully under-performing at the plate, some sort of injury occurring, or Matt Adams being traded. When the season comes to a close, I would like to see Jay with more than 350 plate appearances, but realistically, I just don't see it happening.

Mark Ellis: 85 wRC+

Sometimes the projections for a player just jump out at you. On the Mark Ellis Fangraphs page, the 2014 projections do just that. ZiPS, Steams, and Oliver all forecast a wRC+ of 85 for the veteran. Will Ellis over- or underperform his unified offensive projection?

2014

Craig: Over

Ellis has exceeded an 85 wRC+ in six of the last seven seasons. While players tend to perform worse as they age, Ellis has shown the ability to produce at that level consistently as an everyday player. This season, Ellis will not be asked to play everyday, backing up Wong. As a result, Mike Matheny will be able to choose spots where Ellis is more likely to succeed. Ellis has struggled against righties in recent seasons, but has hit well against lefties, which is where he is likely to get most of his plate appearances this season. Over the last four years, Ellis has a 117 wRC+ against lefthanded pitchers. If Ellis receives most of his plate appearances against lefties this season, he should hit well above 85 for wRC+.

Red Baron: Under

This might have been the toughest pick for me to make of all the questions Ben sent out. That 85 is just a perfect over/under number. If I could bet any number in the world for Mark Ellis to land on, in fact, it would probably be 85. But, since that's not how over/unders work, I'll take the under, but just barely. After all, Ellis will be 37 this year, and his last four years have seen wRC+ numbers of 106, 67, 98, and 92. Even ignoring his really down 2011, you can see some decline here. Plus, he'll be playing part-time behind Wong this season, and while that could theoretically help him stay fresher, I think there's also a decent chance he struggles a bit adjusting to sporadic plate appearances. In the end, I'm betting on the age and limited playing time pushing him slightly below this number, though if I had to put my own money down I would go for a five-point spread around 85, rather than a straight over/under.

Adam Wainwright: 220 IP

Last season, Adam Wainwright led baseball with 241 2/3 regular season innings. In this, the first year of his five-year, $97.5 million extension, will Wainwright shoulder the innings burden he did last year or will Matheny try to keep him fresher for October?

2014

Red Baron: Over

I'm worried about Wainwright. I really am. There are a lot of innings in general on that right arm, and a lot of 2013 innings, specifically. I worry we aren't going to see Wainwright healthy and pitching well for nearly as long as we would like. But with a rotation full of young starters and at least somewhat unknown quantities, the Cardinals are going to need innnings. Lots of them. And if there's one thing Wainwright can do, it's rack up innings. The Cards are going to have to lean on him heavily again in 2014, and I'm sure he'll welcome the responsibility of being the man once again. Unfortunately, if he does, in fact, pitch as many innings as I expect him to this season, he'll likely go well over 500 total innings between the 2013 and 2014 campaigns, regular and post-seasons. That's a very, very scary number for a guy the Cardinals have a whole bunch of money invested in over the next several years.

Joe: Under

Wainwright will throw under 220 regular season innings in 2014. He had a career high 241 2/3 regular season innings pitched last year. If you include the playoffs, he had 276 2/3 innings pitched. I feel like I am stating the obvious, but that's a ton of innings. For a pitcher who had Tommy John surgery with supposedly injury-prone mechanics, that is absolutely frightening. Wainwright starts his extension this season, and if the Cardinals want him to be effective for the majority of this contract, they are going to have to start limiting his innings slightly. Wainwright obviously won't like this, but it is something that has to be done. With what appears to be Carlos Martinez in the eighth and Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth to start the season, there really is no reason for him to go more than seven innings in a game -- unless he has a no-hitter/perfect game/shutout of course.

Lance Lynn: 3.65 ERA

Is this the season in which Lance Lynn's ERA lines up with his peripheral stats?

2014

Craig: Over

Lance Lynn has performed well over the past few seasons, but beating a 3.65 ERA is optimistic. Admittedly his FIP has beaten that mark over the past two seasons, but it still take good further to post an ERA that low. Lynn gave up just 0.62 home runs per nine innings last season. Even with better luck and improvements against lefties this season, if his home run rate goes up a little he will still have a solid ERA in the high threes. Lynn should be good again in 2014, but he's more likely to repeat his past performance than take a step forward.

Ben: Under

Last season, Lynn posted an ERA higher than his peripherals suggest he should have allowed. He combined an above-average strikeout rate, a higher-than-average walk rate, lesser-than-average HR rate, and a lesser-than-average LOB% for an ERA just under 4.00. Lynn's Fielding Independent Pitcher (FIP), which is calculated using strikeouts, walks, and homers, was 3.28. Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) substitutes a league-average HR rate and also considers Ks and BBs. Lynn's xFIP was 3.66. If Lynn's HR and strand rates even out, the righthander could very well post an ERA below 3.65.

Michael Wacha: 175 IP

Last season, the Cardinals banked innings with rookie Michael Wacha in order to be able to deploy him in October. Wacha wound up throwing a new career high during the Cards' World Series run. How many innings will he notch in his first full major-league season?

2014

Lil' Scooter: Over

Wacha pitched 64 2/3 regular season innings for the major league team last year. He pitched 85 in AAA. That is 149 2/3 innings, not counting the roughly 30 1/3 postseason innings. That makes 180 1/3 total innings in 2013. The Cardinals have said they will not limit his innings and that they are comfortable with him going 200 innings. I refuse to believe he will get – (whispers) injured – and I do not foresee him being ineffective enough to the point he gets taken out of the rotation. I get the feeling we are going to see a lot of Wacha this season, I am not complaining one bit.

Ben: Under

Let's talk about how the Cardinals handled Shelby Miller's first full season in the rotation. Miller won a rotation spot during spring training and was a starter until October, at which point the Cards relegated the righty to the bullpen. As a postseason reliever, Miller notched just one inning, which was less than he threw in October 2012 out of the pen. Miller's overall 2013 innings total was 174 1/3. While the Cardinals have said that they don't plan on capping Wacha's IP total this season, they have left themselves wiggle room to call an audible. That and Wacha's tendency to be inefficient with his pitch counts will hold down his regular season IP total this year.

Shelby Miller: 3.0 BB/9

One of the contributing factors to Shelby Miller's successful rookie campaign was a reduction in the number of free passes he issued as compared to his minor-league career. Will he be able to keep it up this season?

2014

Craig: Over

Last season, Miller pitched very well and narrowly beat 3.0 BB/9 at 2.96. This was an improvement over his most recent minor league numbers. In both 2011 and 2012, Miller was easily above the three-walk mark from High-A through Triple-A. He uses his fastball around 70% of the time. If he increases the use of offspeed pitches, he may end up pitching more out of the zone. He should end up right around three walks per nine innings, but given a second half last season with 3.67 BB/9, I'm guessing a shade higher as opposed to a shade lower in 2014.

Aaron: Under

Shelby's 2013 walk-rate followed the same tale-of-two-halves chart that his ERA sketched and his K-rate flipped upside down. He was well under three walks per nine innings the first half the season and well over it the second. The pretty graphs at Brooks Baseball tell me his raw stuff didn't really deteriorate in the second half, so command was the likely culprit behind his struggles. For what it's worth, his release point appeared to be more stable in the first half. Was this a cause? Was it a symptom? I don't know why he slipped so much in the second half, but simple tiring or a mild injury seem like strong possibilities. I'm bullish on a healthy and rested Miller this season. I say his walk rate is UNDER three per nine.

Joe Kelly: 78.4 LOB%

In 2012, Joe Kelly posted a 73.7 LOB%. Last season, Kelly stranded runners at an 82.4% clip. His career LOB% is 78.4. Will he be able to surpass his career LOB% in 2014?

2014

Lil' Scooter: Over

This was the bold choice I decided to make. A 78.4 LOB% is very high, especially for a pitcher that does not strike out many batters. I get it. But Kelly has always been an escape artist. Maybe he has just been lucky. Maybe it is the glasses somehow. Who knows? All I know is that he stranded 82.4% of runners last year. With an improved infield defense behind him, I am going out on a limb and saying the groundball double play will be the key to another year of terror for Cardinals fans as Kelly works out of jams. I think he'll be better than his career LOB% this year.

Joe: Under

I took the under on this one. Kelly had an incredible 82.4 LOB% in 2013 -- the second highest in the league (just behind Yu Darvish's 83.9%) when looking at those with at least 120 innings pitched. Kelly will start 2014 in the rotation which doesn't help his case for the over because relievers tend to have a higher LOB% than starters. Regardless of where he pitches on the pitching staff, I just don't see Kelly as one of the top pitchers in the league, and I think we will see significant regression in terms of LOB%. Over the last eleven seasons, the league average LOB% for all pitchers (starters and relievers) was 71.8. I expect Kelly to be somewhere around there this season.

Carlos Martinez: 10 Starts

The Cardinals chose Kelly to fill the fifth starter spot over Carlos Martinez. But the team has left the door open for Martinez to start this year if needed. Will he surpass ten starts?

2014

Aaron: Over

I did some back-of-the-envelope math and determined that Carlos Martinez is properly projected to receive 18.3 starts this season.

Tvejflh_medium

via i.imgur.com

G is Gibby's constant, 1.12, of course. If you're not good with math, what this says is that there are a lot of factors supporting the idea that Carlos will be moved to the rotation, namely Jason Motte (reportedly) will be back sometime soon, Kelly (bless him!) isn't that good, and odds are decent someone in the current rotation misses time. Plus, Mo wishes it. So do I. OVER 10 starts for Carlos Martinez now and forever.

Red Baron: Under

Can you tell I'm feeling pretty pessimistic about how the Cardinals are choosing to handle Martinez? (To say nothing of Trevor Rosenthal, but beating that drum seems pointless.) I dearly hope we see The Jackal take the mound as a starter more than ten times in 2014, but there are just too, too many excuses why we won't. He wasn't stretched out, and you can't just jump a guy from one inning relief work to throwing 100 pitches. Kelly wasn't nearly bad enough to lose his job. Jaime Garcia came back and his arm looked like it was still attached, even if we ultimately found out it wasn't. The narratives write themselves.

If Martinez were heading to the bullpen as a long man, I might be a little more optimistic. But hearing the bullshit from the coaching staff about how much they like him in the eighth inning, and seeing how the supposed "competition" went in spring training, I have a feeling we're just going to see two of the Cardinals five best starting candidates wasted in relief.

Trevor Rosenthal: 2.66 ERA

As a major-league reliever, Trevor Rosenthal has posted a 2.66 ERA. Will he allowed earned runs at a rate over or under that in 2014?

2014

Ben: Over

In 22 2/3 regular season innings two years ago, Rosenthal posted a 2.78 ERA and 3.09 FIP. Last season, he managed a 2.63 ERA with a ridiculous 1.91 FIP. Rosenthal's stuff is fuego, to parrot Bryce Harper, and he feels like he could be a lights-out reliever for years to come. But with reliever volatility due to small sample sizes, I think an ERA greater than 2.66 is more likely than one underneath it for Rosie in 2014.

Lil' Scooter: Under

I have faith in Trevor Rosenthal. Whenever I have trouble sleeping, sometimes I just replay his complete dominance of the LA Dodgers in the Game 2 of the NLCS where he struck out the side. Just thinking about it makes my heart all tingly. As the replacement closer last year during the postseason, magical Trevor will be used to the pressure. He’s got the fastball, the filthy change-up, the attitude, and the now the hair. And this year, there won’t be Rob Johnson there to call 30 fastballs in a row.

Total Relievers Used by the Cardinals: 14

Jason Motte is currently on the disabled list. So is Jaime Garcia. Their return to health could push the Cards' relievers-used total to nine. How high will that number climb?

2014

Ben: Over

Do you know how many relievers the Cardinals used in 2013? 20. In 2012, 19 relievers made appearances for the Cards. During the 2011 regular season, 20 pitchers threw in relief for St. Louis. You get the idea. Relieving is a brutal job. Attrition is high. There's no reason to think the same won't be true this season. And we'll probably yet again experience our fair share of heartburn because of it.

Lil' Scooter: Under

While the middle relief of the bullpen is a weak spot, the back end of games is solid. Now I am never truly comfortable with the bullpen, I feel good that we will not have the same situation as last year. We may see some Sam Freeman or Tyler Lyons as some point, for either injury or ineffectiveness of a starter or another reliever, and we may see Carlos Martinez switch spots with a starter, but I think this may be the year when the ‘pen is a season-long asset.

Oscar Taveras: July 15 Call-Up

Season-ending ankle surgery prevented the Cardinals from promoting Oscar Taveras last season. The lingering effects of the ankle surgery, coupled with hamstring problems, caused the Cards to reassign Taveras to minor-league camp this year after only a handful of at-bats. This while corner outfielder Stephen Piscotty impressed. Will Taveras be promoted to the majors before or after the All-Star break?

2014

Red Baron: After

Any time you're talking about a young player breaking into the majors (for instance, trying to forecast a Rookie of the Year award in March), there's a huge component of opportunity involved. It's easy to get 500 at-bats when you're joining the Houston Astros; not so much when the major league squad is loaded for bear and looking to contend. The Cardinals aren't just loaded in general; they're specifically heavy in the corners, so much that Allen Craig is running his surgically-repaired knee around right field because the team wants both he and Matt Adams to get plenty of plate appearances. Taveras was already part of the biggest logjam on the team coming into spring training; the emergence of Stephen Piscotty has only muddied those waters even further. If the Cardinals needed a short-term solution in the outfield, I think both Piscotty and Randal Grichuk would currently be ahead of Taveras, Piscotty because he blew the doors off in the spring and Grichuk because ultimately, his situation is simply less complicated, less...fraught than that of Oscar. Of the three outfielders who will start the season at Memphis, Taveras is by far the one the organisation will exercise the most care in promoting. For me, that means we aren't going to see him nearly as soon as one might think. And that's assuming he's healthy enough to play.

Craig: Before

While Stephen Piscotty impressed in spring training, Taveras is still one of the top five prospects in all of baseball. Waiting until after the All-Star break to call up Taveras makes two assumptions. First, that between Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, and Matt Adams all stay healthy, and in Adams' case, a productive everyday player. Second, that someone else gets the first call in case of injury. While Taveras' ankle is a concern, I expect his superior play to force the issue sometime before July 15th.

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