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The Cardinals All-Star Break Roundup

I discuss the highlights of the break so far and where the team may go in the second half.

MLB: Home Run Derby Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of the All-Star break. I don’t dislike it by any means, and each of the events are cool to watch for different reasons, but I enjoy watching the Cardinals play meaningful baseball games. I understand the value of the team getting a week off but, at the same time, I hate not being able to watch them for a week. It’s like the random night when you’re ready to watch the Cardinals game but then realize they have an off day. Except it’s for a week.

Now, I say this, but I’ll turn on every event and greedily watch it, so I guess you could say I do enjoy the All-Star festivities. When it’s all over, though, there’s a few days with no baseball and that’s really what I don’t like.

This All-Star break this year is really cool because the St. Louis Cardinals have players participating in every event. The Futures Game took place on Saturday and featured top Cardinals prospects Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn. I’ll get to that in a moment. The Home Run derby obviously included Albert Pujols and the All-Star game is going to be filled with Cardinals as Pujols, Arenado, Goldschmidt, Mikolas, and Helsley will all make appearances.

Because I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with writing in the past few days, I wanted to do more of a J.P. Hill-style stream of consciousness piece instead of writing a more analysis-heavy article. So, I’ll give you all my thoughts on the All-Star break and where the Cardinals stand at the beginning of the second ‘half’

So, without further ado, let’s begin!

Most Impressive Moment - Masyn Winn

Guys, Masyn WInn is electric. In case you don’t have social media, haven’t read any reports from the Futures Game, and missed the game itself (and I don’t blame you because MLB decided to put the Futures Game on Peacock instead of putting it on a more commonly used service), I’ll fill you in on one of the most impressive moments of the game.

Masyn Winn threw a ball 100.5 mph from short to first base. That’s absurd! The fastest throw in a Major League game in the Statcast era came a few weeks ago when Oneil Cruz hit 97.8 mph, but he has nothing on Winn.

He’s what Cruz’s throw looked like.

Now here’s what Winn’s looked like.

I could watch that on a loop. That’s just crazy arm strength, and it was accurate to boot.

My favorite thing about this is that Winn is just 20 years old and he’s not exactly a big guy. Generally, when you think of a big arm, you think of a guy with a lot of power and guys who have a lot of power tend to be large. That’s certainly the case for Cruz, who stands at 6’7” and 210 pounds.

Winn is the exact opposite. I would love to see the 5’11”, 180-pound Winn stand next to Cruz. You wouldn’t think that someone under 6 feet could generate so much arm strength, but Winn is such an explosive athlete that it doesn’t matter how small he is.

I guess you could give Winn an 80-grade arm, but that’s a little bit deceiving since Cruz would also get an 80-grade arm and Winn’s is stronger than his. Winn’s arm isn’t even comparable to anyone else’s and he literally is the top of the scouting scale when it comes to arm strength. He definitively has the strongest arm in the game.

After watching the clip of Winn’s throw way too many times, I now want to see him on the mound. Now I know he’s a shortstop and not a pitcher anymore but it would be fun. He was originally drafted as a two-way player and even threw one inning last year, so if the whole shortstop thing doesn’t work out (and he’s one heck of a shortstop) then he has another path to the big leagues.

He looks like the shortstop of the future, but boy would it be fun to see him touch triple digits off the mound. Even just once.

Winn’s throw was really the only Cardinals highlight of the Futures Game because he went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts at the plate and made a throwing error in the field while Jordan Walker also went 0-for-2.

That’s enough for me through. I’m content watching a literal 20-year-old playing in Double-A show off the strongest arm in baseball. To make things even better, Winn called his shot before the game saying that he would break the record if he got a chance to uncork one. I love the confidence.

Most Fun Moment - Albert Pujols

Watching Albert Pujols in the home run derby was amazing. I wasn’t expecting him to do much, and most fans probably weren’t either, but he made it past the first round, knocking off the NL home run leader Kyle Schwarber in the process.

It was an awesome moment to see the whole crowd cheering for Pujols and to see Pujols do more than just bow out in the first round. He may only be at the Derby and the All-Star game as a legacy player but it was fun to see him compete and perform at a high level.

On Twitter, I’ve seen plenty of people complaining about Pujols being in LA this weekend because his performance doesn’t deserve it. And I agree that his performance doesn’t deserve it. But who cares? The All Star break is about putting on a show. Pujols did that at the Home Run Derby and he’ll do it later tonight. It doesn’t matter how well he plays because everyone wants to see him one last time before he retires.

These are fun events and it’s cool to see Pujols being honored for his achievements in the last season of his career. Discussions about whether he deserves to be there are irrelevant. He’s a player who deserves a ceremonious exit after a legendary career and it’s cool to see him get one.

If he gets a hit in the All-Star game, then I may change my answer.

MLB Youth Movement

There are some really really good young players in the majors. Watching Julio Rodriguez (21) and Juan Soto (23) battle it out for the Derby crown was fun and there was one Soto home run that really stood out to me in particular. He smoked a line drive to dead center and it looked like it didn’t drop an inch until it cleared the fence. I would have loved to see the exit velocity on that.

These kids are really good.

Rodriguez put on a show the whole night and has to be a Rookie of the Year favorite. We already talked about Oneil Cruz. I won’t even both to list all the other exciting young players because there are just too many, but there feels like a large group of All-Stars who are 25 years old or younger. Andres Gimenez falls into that category. So does Vladimir Guerrero Jr., so does Kyle Tucker, and so does Rafael Devers. Shane McClanahan is the AL starter and he’s just 25 years old.

The Cardinals youngest All Star is 28-year-old Ryan Helsley. Pujols is 42. The other All-Stars are 31 (Arenado), 34 (Goldschmidt), and 33 (Mikolas). There really isn’t a clear young star on the team right now. There’s plenty of clear young starters but no one who is really close to All Star status.

That gives us an interesting thought experiment. Which current Cardinal could be an All-Star before his age 26 season?

I think Dylan Carlson has the best chance. That doesn’t mean I think he’ll do it, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he did. He’s still 23 years old and an above average hitter at the plate. He’s made strides defensively in center field and if not for a 41 wRC+ in the first month of the season, his numbers would be even better.

Gorman could also have a chance since he’s just 22 years old but he’s a platoon player right now and he still needs to make strides defensively. The best bet is Carlson right now.

What I’m Most Looking Forward to at the All Star Game

This is easy. It’s two things for me. The first is obviously seeing Pujols suit up for his last All Star appearance. If he gets a hit it would be even sweeter. The All-Star game is a perfect place for nostalgia since winning doesn’t really matter. When Pujols enters the game, it’ll be a special moment and I can’t wait to watch it.

For me, the second is watching Ryan Helsley announce himself to national attention and fans nationwide. He leads all relievers in fWAR, is an absolute flamethrower, and is probably the best reliever in baseball right now. With all the national attention on the All Star Game, he’ll have his chance to shine. I can’t wait to see it and I can’t wait to (hopefully) watch him carve up some of the best hitters in baseball.

How Things Look After the Break

The Cardinals are just a half game back from the Brewers and could very easily be tied had the final game of the Reds series not be postponed. After a rough stretch of games at the start of July, the Cards won 5 of their last 7 games, with one of those losses being a collapse against the Dodgers. They were playing well before the break and get a series against the Reds after the break. Hopefully their strong form continues.

According to Tankathon, the Cardinals have the easiest remaining schedule this season. Their opponents have a combined .453 winning percentage as compared to the Brewers’ opponents, who have a combined ,490 winning percentage (22nd). That gives the Cardinals a good chance to take over first place and hold it for the rest of the season.

Steven Matz is healthy now. Yadier Molina should rejoin the team in early August. The outfield minus Harrison Bader is now healthy. A piece or two at the deadline would strengthen the team even further.

J.P. and I agreed earlier in the season that the Cardinals are the team to beat in the division and I still think that’s true. I expect the Cardinals to win the division and the remaining schedule and the return to health should help them a lot.

Concluding Remarks

As always, thanks for reading! Enjoy the All-Star game tomorrow. I know I’m going to. Let me know in the comments who you think the Cardinals next young (25 years old or younger) All-Star will be, what your favorite moments of the break have been so far, and who you think will win the division. I’ll be back on Sunday after the season restarts and hopefully the Cards will be in first by then.