Friends, we are under one week away from the start of another year of big league baseball. We in the St. Louis area are accustomed to good baseball. Scratch that, we demand GREAT baseball. Year in and year out, the boys in red give us just that. Coming off a 100 win season and a few key departures, Winning Streak would like to take a look at some storylines to watch coming out of spring training.
Will We Score Enough?
Last year, runs were hard to come by for the birds. Much of that had to do with injuries, as Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Yadier Molina, Randal Grichuk, and Jon Jay all spend a significant amount of time on the disabled list. Still, Adams was nothing short of awful when healthy, Holliday hit just 4 homers all season, and Molina had his least productive season in ages. A midseason trade for Brandon Moss failed to set the world of fire, and the offseason saw the loss of Jason Heyward, one of the best hitters in the lineup in 2015. The only significant offseason additions offensively were Jed Gyorko, a platoon hitter with plenty of warts, and Bryan Pena, a backup catcher. The offense is banking on Matt Carpenter repeating his power from last year and youngsters like Grichuk, Piscotty, and Wong stepping up.
Can Our Aging Core Stay Healthy?
Last year, the core three of Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright all had what amounted to lost seasons. Wainwright was knocked out in April, Holliday followed in June, and Rawlings Platinum Glove winner Molina injured his thumb for the second year in a row in September (he had surgery over the offseason). All three are expensive, in their mid-thirties, and come with lots of milage to go with the recent injury woes. To make matters worse, fellow expensive mid-thirties All-Star Jhonny Peralta is out until at least the All-Star break. If any or all of these guys aren’t productive this year, the increasingly thin roster will be exposed.
Will the Youth Movement Step Up?
The opportunity is there for youngsters this year, and St. Louis desperately needs them to come up big. If Grichuk stays healthy and can command the strike zone, he’ll be the middle of the order thumper we desperately need. Stephen Piscotty carried the club down the stretch last season, and a repeat performance will help solidify the lineup. Wong, Gyorko, both, or some platoon combination of the two needs to give second consistency. Ruben Tejada (who is still 26) or Aledmys Dias needs to stop the bleeding at short. Matt Adams needs to be the slugger we saw glimpses of in 2013. Tommy Pham needs to pick up where he left off in 2015 and stay on the field.
Who’s on First?
Brandon Moss? Matt Adams? Matt Holliday? Somebody, please? Another season with a black hole at first is unacceptable. A deadline deal is a possibility, but look how that turned out last year…