The St. Louis Cardinals boasted one of baseball’s most dynamic offenses in baseball this past season. They could hit the long ball, for an average and for extra bases. That trend should continue in 2013, as the same core of players haven’t moved, but the middle infield positions will separate their offense from being dominant. Here’s a breakdown of the main problems at second base and shortstop.
Can the Cardinals actually count on the 38-year-old Rafael Furcal to sustain any type of consistency over a full season? My bid is for “no.”
Injuries are beginning to become an area of concern for the aging veteran. Well, second that. Injuries have always been a concern, but now that his body is even more brittle, the odds of Furcal getting injured balloon dramatically.
Most recently is an elbow injury he suffered in late August which saw him miss the remainder of the season and playoffs. Although, an MRI taken in late November revealed that the ligament in his elbowed is completely healed. With Furcal’s injury record in mind, though, one minor incident could easily put him back on the shelve.
Since 2008, he is averaging roughly 100 games per season. In fact, 2012 was the first time he has reached triple digits since 2009. I’d guess you can call that an accomplishment. But more importantly, it attests to his weak durability. I wouldn’t even call it durability at this point.
So with injuries and all the rehab that’s put into recovering from each and every one of them, Furcal’s numbers have naturally taken a turn for the worse. This past season he compiled a slash of .264/.325/.346 along with a .671 OPS. Yes, not terribly bad, but with limited power that slash isn’t great.
So the question is, do the Cardinals hand the starting job over to Pete Kozma? It may be too soon, but you have to admit, Kozma did a pretty nifty job in place of Furcal. He totaled a .952 OPS in 72 at-bats during the regular season, which then earned him a starting job in the postseason where he came up with a huge hit in Game 5 of the NLDS.
So with both of those experiences under his belt, he is capable of fully taking over shortstop. Barring any significant changes, however, Kozma will start the season behind Furcal in the depth chart. Either way, shortstop will continue to be a concern for St.Louis until it’s repaired.
Perhaps even more of a concern than the shortstop position, second base for the Cardinals doesn’t consist of much power fire either. If the season began today, Daniel Descalso would probably get the call to start. He is indeed a defensive-specialist, but his offense is a far cry away from specialist status, sporting a career .245 Batting Average.
But the Cardinals don’t have any alternatives to replace Descalso with, especially after trading Skip Schumaker to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Come to think of it, the Cardinals could also run into trouble with their depth, as Schumaker served as the primary utility tool. Kozma could assume that position if need be.
However, the Cardinals cannot be faulted for not trying to improve.
They were initially involved in talks regarding Marco Scutaro. Scutaro, the NLCS MVP, who hit .362 for the San Francisco Giants in 61 games, and would surely be an upgrade at second base for the Cards. In fact, St.Louis reportedly offered him a higher annual salary than the Giants, but he chose the three years over more money.
So who are they still left with? Descalso. And they will likely still be left with him come April.