The St. Louis Cardinals, contenders seemingly each and every year, will seek their fifth straight NLCS appearance in 2015. The additions of Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, and Mark Reynolds will only help that cause. Not to mention that Michael Wacha has been electric in his return from injury (1.77 ERA in 20 IP this Spring) and young fireballer Carlos Martinez is finally ready to make his claim in the rotation. All this being said, here are five predictions for the Redbirds in 2015.
1. Kolten Wong will hit 20+ home runs and steal 25+ bases.
It isn’t usual for second basemen to be dynamos in their respective lineups, but Kolten Wong has that potential. After hitting 12 homers and stealing 20 bases in 113 games in 2014, it can be reasonably assumed that the 24 year old will only improve in 2015. The Cardinals will count on the young slugger to give a boost to the back of their lineup.
2. Jason Heyward will hit 20+ homeruns while still possessing above average all-around game.
Jason Heyward, acquired in the deal that sent Shelby Miller to Atlanta, has had doubters swirl around him citing his lack of power and untapped offensive potential. Maybe a change of scenery, and the fire of a contract year, will help Heyward dig deep and use his potential to its fullest. I predict that Heyward will find his power stroke, hitting 20+ homeruns while maintaining good average and excellent defense in right field. Speaking of that contract year…
3. The Cardinals and Jason Heyward will reach an agreement on a long-term deal at seasons end.
When Heyward puts up the numbers mentioned above, he’s going to want to be paid. The Cardinals didn’t give up two young pitchers with tons of upside (and years of control) just to say bye-bye to Heyward at season’s end. Plus, at 26 years old, Heyward is just entering his prime, allowing the Cardinals to afford locking him up for say, seven years.
4. Carlos Martinez will be better than advertised.
St. Louis management has been high on this young fireballer for a long time. Unfortunately, he had been stuck in the bullpen due to incredible pitching depth. However, general manager John Mozeliak sent much of that depth away in trades in order to open up a spot for Martinez. This Spring the 5th spot in the rotation was his to lose, and he locked it up. Martinez will open the season as the 5th starter in the Cardinal rotation, and although he has been advertised as good, I expect him to be very good as a starter, delivering on all of the organization’s dreams of the flamethrower.
5. The Cardinals will bounce back from a poor offensive 2014, and once again win the NL Central in 2015.
The Cardinals struggled to score in 2014. Their offense was much less efficient than it was in 2013, and that led to the Cardinals chasing the Milwaukee Brewers for much of the year. However, that will not be the case in 2015, as Jason Heyward will provide a big boost in the two-hole, Mark Reynolds will provide power off the bench, and Kolten Wong will continue to improve. On the back of their revived offense, and by riding their excellent pitching staff (again), the Cardinals will win the NL Central, even though it is shaping up to be one of the most, if not the most competitive division in baseball.