Coming off a disappointing loss in the 2013 World Series, there is little holding St. Louis back from repeating as the NL champions.
Senior ESPN writer David Schoenfield recently released his rankings for every team in the league. Sitting as the number 1 ball club heading into the 2014 season is the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cards have made some splashes in the off-season in order to secure another 90-win season. Headlining these moves was the David Freese/Peter Bourjos trade. Trading home-town native and 2011 World Series MVP Freese was a shock to many Cardinal fans, but strategically speaking, it was a good move. They have no shortage of depth in the infield and needed to shore up their outfield defensively. Bourjos, a 26-year-old center fielder, is a young talent who gives the Cardinals options in the outfield. He is a superb fielder and a solid bat to have in the lineup. It’s a good move to help the team with bench depth, an area in which they struggled with last season. It is an important move to help make up for the loss of star outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Yankees.
Another big addition to the 2014 squad is shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Coming off a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis drug scandal that will also sideline Alex Rodriguez for the entirety of the 2014 season, Peralta is ready to bring his big bat to St. Louis. Already having hit two home runs in his first three hits as a Cardinal, Peralta was a big signing for St. Louis to keep some power in the middle of their lineup in the absence of Beltran. These off-season moves are just an addition to a 2013 Cardinal team that scored a league leading 783 runs.
With new firepower in the lineup and gloves in the field, that leaves one more aspect to cover: pitching. Veteran pitcher Chris Carpenter announced he would be retiring from baseball this season. Even though this is a loss to the staff, the Cardinals arguably still have the best starting pitching rotation in baseball. Led by ace Adam Wainwright, the Cards have young talent like Michael Wacha, who emerged as a shut-down number 2. Lance Lynn and Jamie Garcia are both returning, and this line up of pitchers will continue to dominate like they did last year. On top of a deep rotation, the Cardinals have a very strong bullpen. Hard throwers like Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist are looking to get back to shutting down the late innings, while injured closer Jason Motte is returning to give the Cardinals a stacked bullpen.
The St. Louis organization has done an incredible job developing a team that is deep in all aspects of the game. They don’t always seek out the biggest names, but instead, they secure a roster that is complete from top to bottom. This ideology helped them reach a World Series last year, and baring any major setbacks, looks like it’s shaping up to be a repeat.