Spring training is in full swing and the St. Louis Cardinals will have a new look atop their lineup once the season starts.
Newly acquired center fielder Dexter Fowler is poised to be the team’s leadoff man. Fowler brings speed and consistency to the lineup, as general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny move towards a more athletic club.
Fowler hit.276 and swiped 13 bases in 2016 for the Chicago Cubs, which is good news for a Cardinals team looking to focus more this year on speed rather than power. More importantly, Fowler produced a.393 on base percentage, the highest of his career.
Sliding in the two-hole for St. Louis is the Cardinals’ best prospect from a season ago, Aledmys Diaz. With Matt Carpenter moving down in the lineup, Diaz is a perfect fit for this spot in the batting order. Diaz hit.300 with over 120 hits and while he brings power to the top of the order, he also brings stability.
Carpenter fits in at the three spot as a 20-HR-per-year player the past two seasons. He isn’t the most powerful hitter on the team, but with Matt Holliday moving to the New York Yankees, the Cardinals are without a true power hitter.
The cleanup spot is the biggest question going into spring training when it comes to the Cardinals’ batting order. The leading favorite for the spot right now is Randal Grichuk. Grichuk brings the most power to the lineup with 24 home runs last year and 68 RBI. The main issue with Grichuk are the strikeouts; he piled up 141 in 2016.
Stephen Piscotty has the potential to take over the cleanup spot later in the year, but to start the season, he is probably better suited in the fifth spot. Having Piscotty in the middle of the order balances out the speed, something Piscotty is focusing on this spring.
Moving down the order into the sixth spot is Yadier Molina. Molina has always been a dependable plus hitter for the Cardinals, but his stellar defense often masks what he can do on the offensive side.
Molina rarely strikes out and carried a.303 batting average in 2016, which makes him a perfect fit for the middle of the order. He’s not a high-power guy and doesn’t add a ton of speed on the base paths, but with runners in scoring position, he gets the job done.
Jhonny Peralta is lower in the batting order after suffering a thumb injury that sidelined him for a good portion of last year. Once a productive middle-of-the-order power hitter, Peralta will find himself competing for an everyday spot in the lineup.
If Peralta can’t produce at the plate, he could very easily be replaced by Jedd Gyorko, who’s surely going to see plenty of playing time even, if he’s not in the everyday lineup.
Kolten Wong will either bat eighth or ninth in the lineup depending on how Matheny wants to use him. He could bat Wong traditionally in the eighth spot with the pitcher ninth or he could take a page out of La Russa’s book and bat Wong ninth. The advantage in batting Wong at the bottom of the order could benefit St. Louis in late game situations, similar to having two leadoff hitters.
Overall, the Cardinals have a pretty balanced batting order. Matt Adams, Greg Garcia, Gyorko, and Tommy Pham add depth off the bench, but as far as the batting order goes, the only really decision is at cleanup.
[Featured Image by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images]