2012 Organizational Rankings: #6 – St. Louis

Read the methodology behind the ratings here. Remember that the grading scale is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.

2012 Organizational Rankings

#30 – Baltimore
#29 – Houston
#28 – Oakland
#27 – Pittsburgh
#26 – San Diego
#25 – Minnesota
#24 – Chicago White Sox
#23 – Seattle
#22 – Kansas City
#21 – Cleveland
#20 – New York Mets
#19 – Los Angeles Dodgers
#18 – Colorado
#17 — Miami
#16 — Diamondbacks
#15 — Cincinnati
#14 — Cubs
#13 — Milwaukee
#12 — San Francisco
#11 — Washington

#10 — Tampa Bay
#9 – Toronto
#8 – Atlanta
#7 – Detroit

St. Louis’s 2011 Ranking: 13th

2012 Outlook – 60 (8th)

One down, 161 to go, right?

I think the assumption around baseball was if Albert Pujols left the Cardinals, he would leave a husk of a team behind him. If his teammates didn’t prove their worth enough throughout their playoff run in 2011, they’ll get ample chance to do so in 2012. They should be up to the challenge, as this roster was especially well suited to replacing a departing first baseman. With Lance Berkman moving in from right field to a more suiting first base and Carlos Beltran filling the hole left by Pujols, the Cardinals’ offense has a chance to repeat as the best in the National League (as measured by both runs scored and wRC+).

Throw in more games from David Freese (just 97 last year), Rafael Furcal (and therefore less Ryan Theriot) and Allen Craig (either off the bench or as an intriguing second base option) and one can make a good argument that the Cardinals can replace Pujols’s sheer star power with depth in the lineup that is unrivaled in the National League. It is a team that is solid defensively across the board as well, particularly with Daniel Descalso at second base instead of Craig.

The pitching staff contains the question marks for the Cardinals this season, particularly with regards to health. Chris Carpenter is 37 and already without a timetable for return from a shoulder injury involving nerve damage — a dreaded diagnosis for any pitcher and any organization. Adam Wainwright returns, but any season coming off Tommy John surgery is usually a worrisome one. When healthy, a top three of Carpenter, Wainwright and Jaime Garcia is devastating; the question is how often it will be those three and not, say, Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn or Jake Westbrook — a far less intimidating prospect.

The bullpen didn’t have a set closer for much of the season but Jason Motte has emerged with one of the major league’s toughest fastballs as an excellent closer. There are plenty of solid relief pieces around him as well, chief among them Fernando Salas and Mark Rzepczynski, and Eduardo Sanchez should make his way up from the minors at some point. Simply not having Ryan Franklin on board should serve as addition by subtraction.

The absence of Dave Duncan this season could play a factor — can Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist perform anywhere close to the same alchemy Duncan routinely managed with leaden pitching arms? And of course, it would be remiss to leave out Tony LaRussa‘s departure — he was masterful with his bullpen management in the postseason (particularly in the final two series) and has been an important force in that city for years.

Still, even with the turnover in management, between an excellent offense and the quality pitchers on the roster, the Cardinals certainly have enough to compete with the Brewers and Reds for the NL Central crown. The Cardinals are justifiably the favorites in this three-headed race in many circles and should have an excellent chance at grabbing a Wild Card slot should they fail to win back the division title.

2013+ Outlook – 53 (12th)

We do not doubt the producing potential of the Cardinals’ minor league system. St. Louis has three big-time pitching prospects in Shelby Miller (a top-five prospect overall), Tyrell Jenkins and Carlos Martinez. There can be some questions about the depth, but there are quality position player prospects as well, including Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong and Zack Cox. The Cardinals have routinely owned a solid system and there is little reason to expect the current instance to be any different.

The Cardinals biggest issue is the age of their core and the money that will be spent on it. Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Rafael Furcal, Jaime Garcia and Skip Schumaker — an eight-player group — will be owed roughly $81.5 million next season, just $27 million less than the current payroll, the Cardinals’ highest ever (just edging out last season’s). Luckily, many of their players are still in pre-arbitration, and some $40 million of that comes off the books in 2014 — as many of the (currently) secondary players enter expensive arbitration seasons.

The Cardinals will therefore need that loaded system to deliver some cheap talent to the major leagues, and soon. The future of the organization won’t be quite so simple without the reliable talent of Albert Pujols, but John Mozeliak and crew has put the pieces in place to live up to the challenge.

Revenues – 54 (8th)

Flags fly forever. And on their way to the stadium, they bring cash. Still, the Cardinals very much profile as a mid-market team, not a large market one. The franchise is ranked 11th in terms of overall value by Forbes, but could be held down by a middling metro area population (2.6 million) and more importantly, a TV deal that will not expire until 2017.

The Cardinals should not have trouble packing Busch Stadium, though, and can keep the gate receipts flowing like few other teams. St. Louis has finished third in attendance in the National League every year since 2007 and has a good shot to do so again in 2012 (finishing behind Philadelphia and San Francisco) and would only fall to fourth if the Dodgers’ fanbase is galvanized by the new purchase of the team — that is, through no fault of their own.

St. Louis will never challenge teams like the Red Sox or Yankees in terms of payroll, but they should have enough of a budget to compete with the smaller markets in the division. Their revenue stream can’t quite approach that of the Cubs, but the competitive advantage for Chicago isn’t too much to overcome — just see the last century or so.

Baseball Operations – 54 (T-8th)

The Mozeliak years in St. Louis began somewhat tumultuously, as the franchise missed the playoffs in three of the new general manager’s first four seasons — something that hadn’t happened since missing three straight from 1997-1999. But Mozeliak inherited an old team in the one that was victorious in the 2006 World Series, and one that managed just 83 regular season wins the season before at that. Although he was handed many of the bigger pieces (Pujols, Wainwright, Carpenter), he added two of the biggest contributors to the 2011 World Series through free agency in Matt Holliday and a real steal in Lance Berkman. He acquired David Freese in a little-heralded trade in 2007, giving up much-loved veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds — a shrewd trade, as Edmonds was largely ineffective for his remaining MLB career.

His two biggest contracts do have a high bust potential, as both Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina will make eight figures well into their 30s, partially leading to the concentration of big-money deals the Cardinals are responsible for over the next two seasons. His decision to trade Colby Rasmus could be a big long-term loss if he finds his way in Toronto, but again, flags fly forever. Was the World Series possible without the contributions of Edwin Jackson, Mark Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel? Possibly, but as the final day of the season taught us, every little bit counts.

Largely, under Mozeliak, the Cardinals have maintained a level of solid talent — even in missing the playoffs, the Cardinals won 86 games in both 2010 and 2008. The post-Pujols years will provide a tougher test and give us a clearer look at Mozeliak and his crew’s abilities as decision makers and player developers, but the Mozeliak administration has given us little reason to believe they will fail.

Overall – 56 (6th)

The Cardinals have no specific strength of their organization, no one area in which they clearly outclass the league. But they have been above-average in every aspect a franchise needs to succeed, and for that, they have been rewarded with consistent playoff appearances and two World Series championships in the past decade. Even with Albert Pujols gone, the Cardinals have a solid core of players, a good minor league system, and the resources and personnel necessary to keep them in place — an excellent recipe for continued success.

That is, as long as they can avoid the curse of the #6org.



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Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
RationalSportsFan
Guest

The curse is on. Have fun with your 52 win season, Cardinals fans.

Will
Guest
Will

The thing is, realistically, the Cards could just fall apart this year.

Beltran, Carpenter, Freese, Wainwright and Furcal are all HUGE injury concerns, and (besides Berkman and Holliday) form the core of the team. It wouldn’t be too far fetched if all four of these guys missed 40+ games.

Don’t forget that Berkman reinvented himself last year after two years of sub 3 WAR. Can he maintain his play from last year?

I don’t think it’s all that likely, but I can foresee a reasonably plausible scenario in which the Cardinals turn into the 2011 Twins. Their best players (swap Morneau, Mauer and Span for Beltran, Carpenter, Freese and Wainwright) miss significant periods of time, while their other key players have poor seasons (swap Liriano for Berkman).

The Cardinals are good, but Holliday and Garcia are about the only two players without giant question marks next to their name. Maybe the curse will continue this year…

Richie
Member
Member
Richie

What he says.

Beltran and Furcal are HUGE! injury risks, and Jack doesn’t even mention that aspect at all. A hilariously rosy 2012 prospective here.

johnorpheus
Guest
johnorpheus

Yeah, maybe everybody on the roster gets injured and they suck. Oh wait, that can’t be said about every other team in baseball, can it? Sounds like a hopeful Brewers or Reds fan.

Will
Guest
Will

johnorpheus,

I’m not saying it’s likely, just plausible. You could make this scenario up for any team (probably even better for the Phillies), but you cannot deny that Beltran, Freese, Furcal and Carpenter are huge injury risks.

Over the last 3 years, Beltran, Freese and Furcal have played more than 105 games in a season (including minor league games in Freese’s case) 2 times COMBINED. Furcal in 2009, Beltran in 2011. That’s it. You have to be terribly optimistic to expect 100+ games from any of them, much less all of them.

Carpenter is now out with nerve damage in his shoulder. That’s not good news- at all. And Wainwright is coming off TJ. He’s healthy, but it’s also something worth noting and to be extremely careful about.

Even Matt Holliday (one of the healthy ones) missed 38 games last year!

There’s simply a lot of question marks, but doesn’t mean they’re doomed to 100 losses like the 2011 Twins.

J
Guest
J

WAY too much depth this year to pull a Twins. Any hole except catcher or CF could be patched with a solid player (Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Shelby Miller, Matt Adams, Eduardo Sanchez etc)

cpebbles
Guest
cpebbles

The only position where the Cardinals could really use more depth is in the rotation, and Roy Oswalt is sitting by his phone hoping the Cardinals call. Ranking them 8th for 2012 is probably too low, not hilariously rosy.

cpebbles
Guest
cpebbles

Er, ranked too high, I guess. They are comfortably in that blurry set of rankings just below the Yankees and Tigers.

vivaelpujols
Guest
vivaelpujols

Any team could realistically fall apart if everyone gets injured or plays like crap.

Great fucking comment.

chuckb
Member
Member
chuckb

at least we’ve got 1 in the bank!

CardinalRules
Guest
CardinalRules

I think these rankings need to be like buildings that don’t have a 13th floor.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas

the thing about that is that the Cards have a higher chance. You can’t say “well same can be said about every team”. When your key guys have a track record of getting hurt, trying to say the injury likelihood is the same for every team is like comparing winning a poker game with linning the lottery. Yea, everyone involved in either situation has the likelihood of a poor outcome, but not everyone’s is the same.

Plus, with old guys, the other strong possibility is that they have a quick dropoff in ability.

The Cards farm system has a lot of talent, but a LOT of those guys are lower level guys. How often do guys get to AA and then drop off the face of the earth?

I don’t think the Cards are a bad organization by any means, however, I don’t think they’re the 6th best. Tampa, Toronto, and Atlanta all have better teams this year and arguably also better farms.

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