The St. Louis Cardinals missed last years’ playoffs for the first time since 2010 and then had to watch their rival, the Chicago Cubs, hoist the World Series trophy for the first time since 1908.
This season, with a new energy and a focus on becoming a more athletic ball club, the Cardinals hope to compete against the Cubs for a division championship and a return to the Fall Classic.
There aren’t a ton of new faces on this year’s Cardinal team with the exception of their new centerfielder, Dexter Fowler and the addition of Brett Cecil in the bullpen, but there are plenty of familiar faces who could be poised for a monster season.
Fowler comes over from the defending champion Cubs and St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak hopes his new addition will provide both flexibility and the spark his team needs as the Cardinal’s new leadoff hitter.
With Fowler tagged as the key offseason addition already expected to perform, who can be this year’s breakout star from last year’s roster?
Stephen Piscotty immediately jumps out as a potential breakout star in 2017. In 2016 Piscotty had solid numbers, hitting 22 home runs and 85 RBI, while carrying a.273 average. Slotted as the team’s everyday right fielder, he has the chance to make an impact on both sides of the ball.
Piscotty also added at the St. Louis Cardinals 2017 Winter Warmup, he was working on in his base running in hopes of becoming a more effective base stealer.
Another guy with quick feet on the base paths is Kolten Wong. Wong, unlike Piscotty, had a disappointing 2016 campaign that resulted in a demotion to the minors and the loss of his second base job.
Revitalized for a strong 2017 season, Wong is ready to earn his starting job back and prove he can be a dependable everyday infielder. Wong has the opportunity to have a breakout season because unlike some of the other guys on the team he is determined to bounce back from a bad year.
Randal Grichuk is in a similar situation. Although his spot in left field is more of a sure thing than Wong’s, Grichuk is looking to rebound from a tough 2016 season at the plate.
Last year Grichuk batted a mediocre.240 and tallied well over 100 strikeouts, but showed his power with 24 long balls. He has the power to be a middle of the order hitter, but his timing and success against off-speed pitching still isn’t 100 percent.
With some time spent in the minors last year and plenty of Spring Training plate appearances ahead, now is the perfect time for Grichuk to show he can be the team’s future cleanup hitter.
What about the teams rising young star Aledmys Diaz?
Diaz went from substitute shortstop to All-Star shortstop in his rookie season. In 2017, he looks prepared for an even bigger year. Where Diaz struggles the most is with his infield range. He committed 16 errors last season, and it remained a major issue for the Cardinals throughout the season.
With a year of experience under his belt and a Spring Training where he already knows his role on the team, it should allow him to make the necessary adjustments and net positive results this year.
The wild card choice is infielder Greg Garcia. Garcia received quite a bit of playing time with Wong’s struggles and Diaz’s injury, and he made the most of it. He registered 59 hits in just over 200 plate appearances in 2016 and said he’s ready to compete for an everyday spot, although that will be tough with the infield depth on the team.
[Feature Image by Scott Kane/Getty Images]