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Cards Begin Season With High Expectations

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Cards Begin Season With High Expectations

The St. Louis Cardinals' Paul DeJong rounds third base after hitting a home run against the San Diego Padres in the fourth inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Friday, April 5, 2019. The Padres won, 5-3. **FOR USE WITH THIS STORY ONLY** (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images/TNS)

The St. Louis Cardinals' Paul DeJong rounds third base after hitting a home run against the San Diego Padres in the fourth inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Friday, April 5, 2019. The Padres won, 5-3. **FOR USE WITH THIS STORY ONLY** (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images/TNS)

The St. Louis Cardinals' Paul DeJong rounds third base after hitting a home run against the San Diego Padres in the fourth inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Friday, April 5, 2019. The Padres won, 5-3. **FOR USE WITH THIS STORY ONLY** (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images/TNS)

The St. Louis Cardinals' Paul DeJong rounds third base after hitting a home run against the San Diego Padres in the fourth inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Friday, April 5, 2019. The Padres won, 5-3. **FOR USE WITH THIS STORY ONLY** (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images/TNS)

Patrick McColl, Staff Writer

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After a long off-season of contract talks and free agency moves, baseball fans can at least look forward to the season this time rather than who will get signed midway into April. In St. Louis specifically, the Cardinals have retooled with some big moves in the off-season, including the acquisition of pre-season MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt. So, after missing the postseason the last three years, what can the team do this season?

The Cardinals at their best should have a strong pitching staff this year. They will be able to mix and match guys coming out of spring training, but the Cardinals starting rotation as of now is ace Mike Mikolas, fireballer Jack Flaherty, youngster Dakota Hudson, experienced Michael Wacha, and veteran Adam Wainwright. As the season progresses, we could see Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes being mixed into the rotation as well, but that will surely depend on their health and longevity.

From the bullpen, the Cardinals have a lot of interesting pieces. Andrew Miller, who is a multiple time all-star, was added in the off-season, and the Cardinals are hoping he remains a great force out of the bullpen even as he ages. Alex Reyes is coming back from injury after missing the 2017 season, and only appearing in one game of the 2018 season. Albeit there is concern around him, if he returns to form he could be very effective out of the bullpen, considering he was one of the top pitching prospects in 2016.

Carlos Martinez will start out of the bullpen when he gets back, and having a proven starter that can give you innings to in relief should be a good weapon for the Cardinals to have.

If one thing isn’t clear, it is who will close out of the bullpen. Andrew Miller might be the favorite for the position, although he might be more effective to get the Cards out of jams a little earlier in games. Jordan Hicks could also suit the role, but control has been an issue, and putting guys on base with four balls has come back to bite the Cardinals in recent years. Perhaps a dark horse, but Alex Reyes could also be considered. Coming off his injuries, it could be a suitable job between being the heavier load of a starter, but still a prominent role as a closer. The Cardinals certainly don’t have to name a closer, like last year. Of course, traditional manager Mike Shildt might not like that, and it could ruffle the feathers of some fans. Whatever the case, the Cardinals pitchers need to better this year late in games.

Offensively, on paper, the Cardinals should be elite. Adding Paul Goldschmidt makes the Cardinals feel like they finally have a main guy in the lineup who should produce significantly. Around him, Matt Carpenter is coming of a strong second half of 2018, Marcell Ozuna will be playing for a big contract, Jose Martinez was the most consistent hitter last season, and guys like Tyler O’Neill and Paul DeJong will provide even more power. If the Cardinals see great years from Ozuna and Goldschmidt, with pretty good production from the starters it should boost the Cardinals into a playoff spot at the very least.

The Cardinals have missed the postseason the past three years, an anomaly in the otherwise great history of the Cardinals in the 21st century. With this year’s team, even in a very competitive NL Central, the Cards should still feel like they can come out on top for the first time since 2015. If the Cardinals peak, that could definitely mean a National League pennant. Yet, if the team slips and falls, even with a brave effort to get up, they are likely to be sitting at home come October.

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Cards Begin Season With High Expectations