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(BaseballStL) -- Under Tony La Russa, trying to figure out where certain players were going to hit on a consistent basis was an exercise in futility. He’d move around his hitters more than a chess master moves his pieces in a match.
Under Mike Matheny, however, things are a little bit more consistent. Where someone hits is typically where they’re going to hit for a while. Barring drastic events warranting a change you have a pretty good idea as to what his order will look like in the future.
Last year Matt Carpenter - duh - was your leadoff hitter with Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig hitting 2-4. Yadier Molina and David Freese typically hit 5-6 in some order. Jon Jay was it the 7 spot more often than not followed by Pete Kozma.
It was a good mix, well, when things were clicking.
GM John Mozeliak then took an ax, kind of, to that offense and made quite a few changes. Carlos Beltran? Gone. David Freese? Adios. Jon Jay and Pete Kozma? There’s the bench.
Hello Matt Adams and Kolten Wong to the starting lineup and welcome Peter Bourjos and Jhonny Peralta to St. Louis.
So what in the world is Matheny going to do now? The fact Freese and Beltran are no longer here and he actually has a shortstop who can hit changes everything.
Having said all of that, I think we have a pretty good projection as to what this order will look like once the season begins. Some of the pieces from 2013 remain and won’t be changed a bit.
Matt Carpenter hits 1st, Matt Holliday is 3rd followed by Allen Craig. Yadier Molina will also be in that 5-6 range like he was last year.
It’s been all but announced Bourjos, acquired in the David Freese trade with the Angels, will hit 8th. He’s a bottom of the order hitter who will attempt to use his speed to get on in front of the pitcher. Bourjos also doesn’t walk much so he doesn’t project to hit near the top.
Matt Adams is a perfect fit along with Molina in that 5-6 range. If Holliday and Craig (two right handed hitters) are 3-4, it might make sense to have the left-handed Adams break up that run of righties by hitting 5th. Even if Molina hits there Adams wouldn’t be any lower than 6. He’s a middle of the order run producer.
That leaves the numbers 2 and 7 spots with Peralta and Wong to fill.
In the ideal world, and I have little doubt it will reach this point once he gets comfortable in the big leagues, Wong will hit near the top of the order. The guy projects to be a very nice offensive player who does everything necessary to win games. He has underrated gap to gap power, he doesn’t strike out a lot and he has pretty decent speed.
Plus, historically, Peralta has hit either 6th or 7th in a lineup.
The thing here is, early on, Mike Matheny won’t want to put too much pressure on Wong to hit near the top. He’s basically brand new to the Major Leagues and is brand new to starting every day. There’s no need to rush his role. If and when the second baseman hits they can always move him up. But that day won’t come for at least a few weeks or even months.
Until then, to begin 2014, I would suspect you’ll see the Cards starting lineup to look like this:
1) Matt Carpenter - 3B
2) Jhonny Peralta - SS
3) Matt Holliday - LF
4) Allen Craig - RF
5) Matt Adams - 1B
6) Yadier Molina - C
7) Kolten Wong - 2B
8) Peter Bourjos - CF
9) Pitcher’s spot