I asked Twitter and Cardinals Facebook groups a question on Saturday morning. I asked them this:
While there were the predictable negative nellies (I'm being absolutely, positively, as nice as I can in saying it that way, especially to the tool who called for an injury to make his outlook more positive), there were a lot of examples of fantastic things towards which to look forward. Let me tell you, I was here for those answers!
Here are the top 5 things that I am looking forward to in 2021 and beyond. These are not in order of least to most excited about, or vice versa. These are just five things I am positively looking forward to in 2021 and 2022 (or even longer).
For our first item, let's go to a tweet from Ryan Hetzer:
The Cardinals rotation depth remains as strong as anyone's. While there are some who do not believe that they will be any good, even people I respect very much, I definitely think the opposite. I feel like it's not unfathomable to get a sub 4.00 ERA season out of any and all of Flaherty, Mikolas, Kim, and Gomber. Even Martinez wouldn't be a complete shocker there if completely healthy.
What Ryan doesn't even touch in that fantastic bit of positivity is that they also have (in no particular order) Alex Reyes, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Matthew Liberatore, Zack Thompson, Johan Oviedo, Angel Rondon, John Gant (although I personally believe he has cemented himself in a relief role), and Jake Woodford all waiting in the wings but potentially ready to make that leap in 2021 or 2022. I believe that all of them have a chance of being at least an average member of the rotation when they are brought up - especially if we're going to be limiting pitchers to two times through the order (my hunch) after all the time off for so many of them.
Item number two is probably the one most people are excited about. This time, per Dan Buffa - although I could have picked from a plethora of people - quite succinctly spells out a positive:
Now, I don't want to cause a panic attack here by saying this, but Carlson is likely not going to be as good as you think or hope he will be. That said, I am still very positive about what I saw from Carlson last year despite his numbers. I will save a lot of what I have to say about him for my projections series, but Dylan Carlson is the type of talent that you love to see at the top of your farm system, I don't care what team you root for. According to many prospect lists, which aren't always right but get the tops of lists correct quite often, Carlson is one of those high floor guys who also happens to have a middle-high ceiling. That's pretty darn good! He's still rookie eligible and just turned 22. It's about time one of these level of prospect works out for the Cardinals and I think that this might actually be that time!
The third thing I have down as a positive for the 2021 Cardinals is, courtesy of Brian K:
I'm sure that I will try to fit this nugget into my projection series, but since July 7, 2019 Jack Flaherty has made 29 regular and post-season starts. Here is his stat line in 1 of them:
3 innings, 8 hits, 9 runs, 9 earned runs, 6 K, 2 BB, 2 HR allowed
That's good for an ERA of 27.00, a WHIP of 3.333, and a K:BB of 3.0. Flaherty was clearly left out there to rot (or to eat innings because COVID lineups) on a day where he didn't have his best stuff. Here is his stat line from the other 28 games:
166 1/3 innings, 98 hits, 34 runs, 33 earned runs, 203 K, 44 BB, 12 HR allowed
That's good for an ERA of 1.79, a WHIP of 0.85, and a K:BB of 4.61.
The fourth item I'd like to go over today is brought to us again by Twitter:
Between Jordan Hicks and Miles Mikolas coming back, that's a lot to be thankful for. You don't even have to believe that Hicks is going to be a dominant closer or setup man his first year back nor do you have to think Mikolas is going to be an ace to get excited about the possibilities.
The fifth and final item that we will talk about today in a positive light is this:
The St. Louis Cardinals can go in many directions after the 2021 season. Supposing they allow Carpenter, Fowler, and Andrew Miller to all depart after their contracts expire AND they do not pick up the option on Carlos Martinez, the Cardinals are looking at having a current 2022 payroll of $51M according to Cot's Contracts. That is before adding in pre-arbitration and arbitration players, but it goes to show just how much dry powder the Cardinals could potentially have leading in to an offseason that has names available, like:
Not only that, but the St. Louis Cardinals frequently attempt to trade for players with a year or two left on their contracts and then re-sign them long term rather than go after free agents in the offseason. Here are players the Cardinals could go after next offseason with one year on their contract and extensions in mind:
(Pardon my spelling error and red squiggly line. My bad!)
So there you have it. That's your dose of optimism entering the 2021 season.
Happy Monday, thanks for reading and interacting with me on Twitter!