Now that the 2012 season is over, it’s time to reflect just a bit and then look ahead to 2013. You often hear me talk about how bright the future is for the Cards, and I think in the 2012 playoffs many saw a glimpse of that with some of the young power arms. It took a while to get over the losing the NLCS after being up 3-1, but just like last year, I’m excited about what’s ahead. I want to start off with manager Mike Matheny. If there ever was a silver lining, it was the playoff experience that Matheny got in his first year. He had the pressure of dealing with 3 do or die games, winning two of them. He should have passed the test to every Cards fan out there that he knows what he’s doing, and many should get used to the fact that he is going to be here a long time. For those who still think he was the wrong man for the job, you either didn’t watch enough baseball or just got your medications mixed up. Matheny made a few rookie mistakes, but I’m confident he’ll learn from them. Let’s not forget that Tony LaRussa blew a 3-1 NLCS in his first year as the Cards manager. LaRussa was actually in his 20th year of managing in 1996. So, the only difference is he wasn’t a rookie. I’m pretty sure the Cardinals brass feels the same way.
The Cards plan moving forward is a simple one. Draft and develop young power arms and let them learn as much about pitching from veterans like Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter as possible and keep passing the torch. We had a glimpse of what Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal can do. Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn gave us more than a glimpse. You can never have enough pitching. For all of those who want the Cards to trade away some of these arms for a young shortstop, I just don’t agree. The Giants just won the WS with Brandon Crawford at shortstop, a .248 hitter with a .304 OBP and 4 HR’s in 435 AB’s. Should they trade away Matt Cain for Elvis Andrus? The Cardinals owe Rafael Furcal $7 million in 2013. If he has arm problems again, Pete Kozma and Ryan Jackson are going to get the chance to fill in. The Cards are going to be patient, as they should be. The team has enough strength on offense to hide a bat or two in the lineup if the defense at SS is above average.
I understand many that don’t want to get too excited about prospects. However, you need to understand that the Cardinals farm system is in the top 5 on just about any list you look at. We’re not talking about the days when Jimmy Journell was #1 on the list. Not only do the Cardinals have the power arms already mentioned along with Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Tyrell Jenkins and many others, but they have arguably the best hitting prospect in the minors as well in Oscar Taveras. At age 19, he won the batting title in the Midwest League (A) with a .386 average. This year, at age 20, he won the Texas League (AA) batting title with a .321 AVG. He also was the TL MVP. Until this year, the only knock on Taveras was his defense in RF. The Cardinals told him to work on it, and in 2012 he played 93 games in CF, rating as one of the best defensive CF’ers in the minors. His arm, speed and his routes to the ball had many scouts saying he could move to CF when he gets the call to join the big club. More than likely, he’s the replacement for Carlos Beltran in 2014 in RF. If there’s an injury to either Matt Holliday or Beltran, I do think the Cardinals will go ahead and bring him up in 2013. At the very least, he’s a September call-up and part of the postseason roster in 2013.
When talking about 2B, there’s a lot going on in the Cardinals plans. Matheny has asked Matt Carpenter to work on 2B in the offseason. Carpenter’s plate discipline and hard contact has the Cards trying to find a way to get his bat in the lineup on a consistent basis. If it doesn’t work out, expect to see Kolten Wong at some point in 2013. Wong was the Cardinals first round draft pick in 2011 out of the University of Hawaii. For a position the Cards have had trouble with for a number of years now, Wong looks to be the real deal and a long term solution. 2B is Wong’s natural position, and he might just be the Cards leadoff man of the future as well. Wong is a complete player on offense and defense. The Cards are having him play in the Arizona Fall League, which means they are doing everything they can to expedite his move to the majors.
I’m going to go into more detail in what to expect from the minor league system as the winter months move along. The depth the Cards have in their minors is something I haven’t seen in my lifetime. I don’t think the Cards need to make any major changes heading into 2013, and I don’t think they will. I can see the search for another LOOGY to complement Scrabble and maybe a RH power bat off the bench. Other than that, I don’t see any big moves this offseason. If Scrabble had a down year due to an injury we may not be aware of, that’s one thing. However, I don’t think the Cards can continue to carry him on the roster in 2013 based on two good months of 2011.