Updated: Mar 1, 2021
Nolan Arenado is a Saint Louis Cardinal. It's a phrase Cardinal's fans all over have been touting since he was acquired. What some fans fail to see is the other issues with the team. Cardinals fans need a reality check, so here are three question marks for the 2021 Cardinals.
The Outfield's Offensive Production
The Cardinals have essentially no outfield leadership. They traded Dexter Fowler, who would have been the player to lead the young guys. However, that's not the case. The Cardinals will likely have one of the youngest outfields in the MLB. An outfield of Carlson, Bader, O'Neill has many upsides and has the potential for tragedy, which we have seen from each of them before. We all remember Carlson's first MLB stint, O'Neill's cold streak, and Bader's 5 strikeouts in one game. If the Cardinals do not get the outfield's production, it will be tragic offensively.
The Cardinals will be getting back a lot of pitching they lost last year. Jordan Hicks and Miles Mikolas highlight that group. The important thing is we don't know what we're getting back with those two. Will Jordan Hicks be able to throw 100+ mph after Tommy John Surgery. That is a huge question the Cardinals need to consider. We also do not know how Miles Mikolas will fare after his injury. Especially since he didn't pitch well before his injury. Like the outfield, those two pitchers have a big upside but also a big downside as well.
Carlos Martinez is another big pitching question. While he says he wants to start, the bullpen is the best spot for him. Sure, he pitched well as a starter in the winter league, but the talent level is different. He will thrive as an early to middle relief guy. That's how it always should have been with Carlos. The Bullpen is perfect for him.
Jeff Albert is entering his third year as Cardinals hitting coach. It is evident his philosophy needs to change. It's not working. Players have been thriving outside of the organization. A prime example is Marcell Ozuna. He showed small signs of his greatness as a Cardinal but nothing compared to what he did in Atlanta. As a Cardinal, the percentage of Sliders thrown to Ozuna went up by 5%. That same percentage went down in his first year as an Atlanta Brave.
Other Cardinals have also seen spikes in the Percentage of Sliders thrown. With those increases in sliders, they're striking out more. For example, Harrison Bader saw a significant increase in his K% stat from 2019 to 2020, as it went up 3.2%. He saw a similar increase in the percentage of sliders thrown in that same time frame, which went up 3.7%. It's no secret that sliders are an issue for the Cardinals, a notion that Jeff Albert has to change and fix quickly.