John Mozeliak said in an interview, after the Paul Goldschmidt acquisition, that his starting eight was likely set for 2019. Consequently, Mike Shildt was asked at the winter meetings what his lineup might look like. He was very candid about what his plans are as of now.
One Through Three
The most definite answer Shildt gave about the lineup was in regards to the leadoff spot. As most of us thought, that spot will still belong to Matt Carpenter. Mike said, “if it’s not broke don’t fix it. I would say in heavy pencil that you could expect to see Matt Carpenter in the leadoff spot.”
Last season the two spot belonged to Yadier Molina more than any other Cardinal hitter. Shildt made it clear without just plainly saying it, that wouldn’t be the case next season. A big part of that is the Redbirds’ new best hitter, Paul Goldschmidt. The Cards skipper said that he could see the benefit of batting Goldy second, behind Carpenter. It’s safe to say that he’ll either be in the two or three hole in 2019.
Should Goldy hit second, that leaves the third spot up for grabs. One possibility that Shildt hinted to hitting there was Paul DeJong, saying, “he’s already proven he can perform there, and I think it would be great even for those guys to help his production even more.”
Four Through Six
The cleanup spot will again belong to last year’s big acquisition, Marcell Ozuna. Mozeliak brought him in to hit fourth, and that’s where he will remain, despite having a less than impressive 2018.
After Ozuna things are a little more unclear. It’s possible that whoever is in right field, which right now is Dexter Fowler, will hit fifth. The other current options in right, Tyler O’Neill and Jose Martinez, would both slide into that spot nicely when Fowler is on the bench. Obviously if the Cardinals were to sign Harper he would likely hit third, swapping places with DeJong.
That leaves Yadi to hit sixth. Over his career he’s only hit fifth more times than he’s hit sixth. He doesn’t have great power numbers when hitting in the six spot, but his career average and OBP are both good there at .296 and .347, respectively.
Seven Through Nine
Some combination of Kolten Wong and Harrison Bader will make up the seventh and eighth spots. It makes sense to bat Wong seventh, though. That would keep the mix of right and left handed hitters steady and would allow Bader to hit behind a faster runner.
With Bader in the eighth spot behind Wong, he won’t always be stuck behind Yadi on the bases. This will allow him to utilize his speed well at the bottom of the order. Both his and Wong’s speed could cause problems for a pitching staff at the bottom of the lineup.
One thing Mike Shildt shut down when discussing the lineup was hitting the pitcher eighth, a strategy championed by former Redbird skipper Tony LaRussa. He dismissed the idea, leaving the ninth spot solely to the pitchers.
The bench right now will be made up of Jedd Gyorko, Drew Robinson, Yairo Munoz and the aforementioned Jose Martinez and Tyler O’Neill. There will be one addition to that before the season starts, in the form of a back up catcher.
Gyorko’s role, right now, will be what it was supposed to be initially. Despite playing nearly full time over the past two seasons, he was originally traded for to fill a utility spot on the bench. His playing time in 2019 will likely be made up of sporadic starts to give the everyday guys days off. He’s also made it known that after the Cards grabbed another first baseman, he would be willing to play in the outfield when he was needed. On that possibility, Shildt said they would explore it on some level during Spring Training.
Munoz will play a similar role as Gyorko, but will definitely get some time in the outfield. Drew Robinson will also fill that role, though he will do it with a left handed bat. Shildt didn’t have much to say about Robinson other than he’s from Las Vegas.
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