The 2020 MLB season is looming with spring training underway, and so MLB Network has released its Top 100 Right Now list. It certainly looks great for some teams, but for last season’s National League runners up, St. Louis Cardinals, the list isn’t easy reading!
There are only two Cardinals present in the Top 100 list for 2020 which is a drop from three in 2019. This is fewer than all other teams in the National League Central other than the Pittsburgh Pirates (who last season won only 69 games), and there are only three teams with fewer than two players in the entire National League!
This won’t surprise a lot of St. Louis fans who have been very active on Twitter throughout the offseason regarding the team’s lack of signings, but will this absence of Top 100 MLB players be an indication of how the team will perform in 2020?
Coming in at No.43 on the list is first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt.
Goldy was ranked at number 16 in 2019 for the Cards, so has seen a significant drop. But that is no real surprise following his 2019 season. He recorded his worst offensive numbers with a 116 wRC+, which is significantly less than his career 126 wRC+. The team and the fans will all be hoping for a bounceback year from Goldschmidt and hoping to see him step closer back to his career offensive stats.
The St. Louis Cardinals highest-ranked player on the list was Jack Flaherty at No.28.
Flaherty was not ranked in the top 100 in 2019, but after a near-historic end to the 2019 season where Flaherty recorded an MLB-low 0.93 ERA with 0.51 HR/9 across his final 16 starts, the Cardinals ace is deservedly in the MLB Top 100 list. Cardinals fans will be expecting another big season to push the Cards back to winning the NL Central.
Two Cardinals present in the 2019 list but not making it into the 2020 list are Matt Carpenter and Marcell Ozuna.
Ozuna firstly is no longer a Cardinal after his one-year, $18 million move to the Atlanta Braves. But the fact he has been omitted from this list in 2020 will go towards reassuring the St. Louis front office it was the right move not re-signing Ozuna after another below-expectation season. Ozuna recorded the largest negative difference (-.46) between his expected weighted on-base xwOBA (.382) and his actual weighted on-base wOBA (.336) of any qualified player in MLB in 2019, showing a significant under-performance against expectations.
Secondly, Carpenter was ranked 33rd in 2019 but didn’t make the Top 100 in 2020. His 1.2 fWAR was significantly the worst season of his career. Carpenter had a 95 wRC+ and spent nine games in the minors trying to improve his offensive production. The fanbase will be very hopeful of a comeback season, otherwise, his position in the team will be under pressure from up-and-coming star Tommy Edman (the 2019 Cards best offensive player with 123 wRC+).
So anyone that should have been included?
As noted above, Edman was the Cardinals standout star in 2019, but it would be hard to include him in the list as he only made his major league debut in mid-June 2019. The question for 2020 is whether the Cardinals’ Swiss-army knife player will be in the starting lineup or have to force his way into the team again. And can Edman keep up his excellent numbers of last season?
Finally, Kolten Wong is an interesting candidate.
He had the strongest offensive season of his career (108 wRC+) and won the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for National League second baseman. So these combined gave Wong his best season to date with 3.7 fWAR. Although omitted from the Top 100, Cardinals fans will be hoping Kolten can continue his strong defence and offer above-average production with the bat in the coming season.
2020 will be extremely interesting in the National League Central with four teams realistically in contention.
Matt Benson is part of the team covering the St Louis Cardinals for Bat Flips and Nerds in 2020. Follow him on Twitter @STLAnalyticsUK