The Cards are 1-5 since the ASB. The pitching has been great from the starters, and the relief pitching is getting better with the additions of Barret Browning and Trevor Rosenthal. Finally, it’s looks as though Victor Marte’s days with the Cards are close to an end. If Brian Fuentes is indeed on his way up in the next week or so to make his Cards debut, Marte has to be the odd man out. I think both Browning and Rosenthal are here to stay. The problem now is that the Cards offense is not getting the job done with RISP. Even though the Cards are still among the top offensive teams in baseball, 2B and CF continue to be weak spots in the order. Before I get going on Cards prospects Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong, I want you to understand where I’m coming from, and you can make up your mind if you agree or disagree with me.
The way I see it, the Cards are not going to make a big trade. If they do, it most certainly won’t be for a bat. With the division or a wildcard still there for the taking, I think the Cards should go all in, but not in the traditional way. I think they should promote from within to fill two positions, with the worst possible outcome being that these 2 potential young stars get a taste of MLB and have to go back down for another year of fine tuning. The way I see it, the Cards need a spark, kind of like the one Miguel Cabrera gave the then Florida Marlins when he jumped from AA to MLB in 2003 and helped lead them to the World Series. In fact, many great position players have skipped or had very few AB’s in AAA. Albert Pujols had 14 AAA AB’s. Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran skipped AAA completely, and Ryan Braun only had 117 AB’s in AAA. That’s just naming the ones that come to mind. If you say those are special players, you’re right, they are. But that’s what they’re saying a bit about Wong, and most are definitely saying it about Taveras, so why not take the chance?
With the current state of the Cards, Wong would fill the bigger need. Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene are not getting the job done offensively at 2B. If Mike Matheny is not going to play Skip Schumaker at 2B full time because of his lack of defensive range, it will continue to be a problem. Wong is the future at 2B for the Cards, and that time might as well be now. He would settle the debate about whether you need offense or defense more from that position, because he can hit and field, and is being compared to Ray Durham and Jose Altuve. Altuve, by the way, was an AS in his rookie year (2012) after skipping AAA. I’d rather the Cards miss the playoffs with Wong in there getting experience, even if he doesn’t tear it up right away, rather than continuing to watch Descalso and Greene stink it up at the plate, with neither having a long-term future as a starter.
It’s hard to figure out if Jon Jay’s shoulder is still a problem because his offense has tailed off 2 years in a row, and it’s heading downhill again this year. If it wasn’t already a pattern, you could just say it’s a slump, but I don’t think that’s the case. What if it’s both? Jay is among the bottom of all CF’ers in MLB when it comes to driving in or scoring runs. It’s not the hitters around him either. Jay’s a light hitting CF’er, so when his average falls below .300 and slugs at a .369 clip, he doesn’t offer much. Jay is 5 for his last 35 with 3 singles and 2 doubles. For the year, he’s only driven in 13 runs in 176 AB’s. He’s had more AB’s with runners on base than Michael Bourn (36 RBI’s) or Shane Victorino (38 RBI’s), but isn’t getting the job done. Of all CF’ers in MLB with as many AB’s as Jay, only two have fewer RBI’s. If Matheny is going to continue to use Jay in CF, I wish he’d hit him 8th instead of 2nd in the order. Even if he sticks with Descalso and Greene at 2B, hit one of them 7th and Jay 8th.
Taveras is the Cards RF’er of the future, currently playing in AA Springfield, where he’s played 60 of his 82 games in CF this year. Taveras is on most of the expert’s top 10 prospects list now. Not the top 10 for the Cards minor league players, but top 10 in all of minor league baseball. Since winning the batting title in Midwest League last year by hitting .386, he’s added power, and should easily be the MVP of the Texas League this year if he keeps up his pace. Right now, Taveras is hitting .328, has a .381 OBP, and has 18 HR’s and 68 RBI’s in 344 AB’s. Both scouts and sabermetric gurus like him (amazing they agree on something) and project him as a perennial All-Star. The only question is if he’ll be able to cover enough ground in CF in MLB. Jay can cover a lot of ground, but it doesn’t make up for his weak arm and light hitting enough not to give Taveras a shot. Jay could be moved to what he should be, a 4th OF’er.
These may seem to be dramatic suggestions. Some fans will scream about not impeding their growth process. Some fans also thought the same when I mentioned Rosenthal, and John Mozeliak pulled the trigger on that one. The only question that should be asked is if the Cards want to miss out on the playoffs because they chose not to promote a player or two that will cost the league minimum, and they were worried about what to do with Jay, Descalso and Greene. With the bullpen now having enough arms to be good enough for the games in which the Cards lead in the late innings, how many games will be lost due to the few weak spots in the lineup? Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, David Freese, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Lance Berkman and Furcal are going to have cold streaks. The Cards need players at 2B and CF to pick them up now and then. That brings me to another point. If Jay, Descalso and Greene can’t get the job done with the bat with all the protection on this offense of the names above, I’d look at Taveras and/or Wong. You have to wonder if their transition to MLB would be a smooth ones with those names around them.