OK, I am back to doing regular sports chats. Jim Thomas will soon take over the hockey-only chat as he enters Year 2 on the beat.
Hard to say. I look at Buffalo with the top overall 2018 pick, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, along with center Casey Mittlestadt having a big impact this season. And the lesser Nylander, Alexander, has been on the cusp for a while. The Hurricanes have Andrei Svechnikov ready to make an impact right out of the draft and fellow forwards Martin Necas and Valentin Zykov prepared to make a mark. Those are just some of examples. But the Blues have good position coverage with Husso in goal, Walman and Reinke on defense and Kostin and Blais up front, not to mention Kyrou and Thomas coming in. And scouts like Kostin, Thomas and Kyrou very much.
Carson Kelly has been terrific at Memphis and obvious he comes back as the third catcher. Adolis Garcia will be back in the outfield. Tyler Webb will return to the bullpen. Reliever Dominic Leone, on a rehab assignment, is also a good bet. Since Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez will all come back from injuries, I'm not sure what else will happen with the pitching. Matt Bowman is at Memphis, but he fell back onto the DL. Edmundo Sosa could get his first look on the infield, since he can play everywhere. Newly acquired outfielder Justin Williams is also on the 40-man roster but are they any at bats for him?
Weaver delivered four quality starts in his last six outings, although he didn't get past six innings even on his best days. With Tyson Ross positioned to back him up, Shildt can probably ride him a bit longer knowing that Michael Wacha is on the comeback trail September will bring the endless bullpen through roster expansion.
Yeah, a few weeks ago I, too, had no hope for the group. But they are right there for the wild card play-in game and they should add some high-end pitching for the final four weeks of the season. That puts them in prime position to slide through the back door. Given uneven state of Chicago's pitching these days, I would not be surprised to see the Cardinals win the division and go through the front door.
Well, there were a few mishaps but that was hardly an embarrassment. Wong got gobbled up by a grounder and tried to salvage the play, unsuccessfully. But he is off the charts with his defensive runs saved overall due to his crazy range. As for Carpenter at first base, well, we know he is not in there for his glove.
Given the success of all the young pitching plus Bader in center field, I don't know that we'll see a ton of change and this summer's purge. This team is clicking. It will add Alex Reyes to the pitching staff and try to get Carlos Martinez back into the rotation. I'd bring Norris back as bullpen protection but keep featuring the younger arms. I'd stick with the infield of Gyorko, DeJong, Wong and Carpenter around the horn and leave Martinez in right field. Suddenly the Cardinals have some real long-term hope at third base with Elehuris Montero and Nolan Gorman in development. Gorman is legit, but can he stick at third base? And is Montero for real? Next season could tell, but I wouldn't recommend blocking either of them long-term with a big offseason move.
I don't see Vegas making that deal. Why would it? Reaves is not only a big hitter, he is a great team guy. As for Jaskin, maybe he will finally develop into a reliable fourth-liner or maybe he won't. I could see him exiting for a middling draft pick at some point if the Blues stay healthy and the young forward develop on schedule.
Well, if he was dreaming of landing a Peloton endorsement before the season, that's over. Apparently he has not been on the exercise bike pretending to be at the Tour de France. The Blues took some weight off his shoulders with these additions . . . and he put it shifted it right to his waist. (Rim shot). But let's see what he looks like closer to camp before panicking.
Jim Thomas will be the hockey-only guy going forward. He can't wait to resume sparring with fans after his many years on the epic Rams chats.
(Editor's note: JT's debut Blues chat will be at 1 p.m. next Wednesday, Aug. 22. For now, we're going to stick with 1 p.m. Wednesdays on the Blues chat. We'll see how that works when the season starts.)
Ah, life on the bubble. He is the No. 8 Blues defenseman, when everybody is healthy, yet he is due a one-way contract guaranteeing him full NHL salary if he ends up back in the AHL. He finished out his entry-level deal and now it's time. I believe this is the season he sticks in the NHL, here or elsewhere. With Gunnarsson and Bouwmeester entering the last year of their contract and Schmaltz already proven to be no worse than a No. 7 at this level, I'd vote for keeping Schmaltz and moving Gunnarsson at some point for cap/injury flexibility.
There has been more emphasis on contact hitting and new ways of communicating that and preparing for games. The realigned field staff is preaching the same gospel Joe Maddon is preaching with the Small Bears. But, yes, subtracting Fowler from the mix helps. And Pham was in a funk as well. Bader strikes out, but the combination of him and Martinez is performing at a much higher level than Pham and Fowler. Also, the Cardinals have gotten a better version of Paul DeJong upon his return. Molina missed a month and Pena struck out a lot in his absence. Wong is cutting down on his strikeouts with regular work. So the lineup does factor into this as well.
I don't see free agency as being central to this team's strategy going forward. One, there is a lot of high-priced mediocrity in the market after the few top guys and the odds of landing the few top guys are long. I believe the Cardinals will stay the course on developing talent and keeping Shildt seems to fit that plan well. That allows the team to stick with a coaching staff that has been heavily involved in player development, Oquendo included. Barring a collapse that somehow makes Shildt look overmatched, I see him keeping the job.
He is REALLY slow, but, yeah, I kind of wondered about removing him for a pitcher pinch-runner in what could have become a tied game. Is John Gant really going to steal the team a run? As for why the team plays better with Martinez in the lineup, that's easy. He is the Cards' most consistently good hitter. Shildt's initial plan was to relegate him to part-time duty, but Martinez's hitting and Fowler's timely injury changed that. Just leave the guy in right field and let him hit.
Ideally Fowler comes back refreshed next spring and proves he can still play every day. Then the Cards might be able to trade him and even some of his contract as well. But, again, Martinez needs to play and O'Neill appears to be no worse than a good No. 5 outfielder. Unless the 2017 Fowler returns, he can't play here. That would drag the team down a notch.
As for Garcia, yeah, he could be running out of time. Munoz can play everywhere and he has more pop. Sosa can play everywhere as well and Wisdom could make the case for a bench role as well. Good corner infield glove with some pop in his bat.
Agreed. Garcia has been a great utility guy here, but he hasn't done much with his limited duty this season. Shildt is trying to keep him involved because of his history of providing tough at bats off the bench, but Wisdom has already helped this team win a couple of games.
I don't see how that could be a good idea. His exit from the lineup is one big reason why the team is winning. Fowler is a well-liked teammate and he has been a real pro in his career, but no. Even if he healed up by the end of the season, he would not have a chance to get rehab at bats in the minors because the minors will be done playing.
Like I said, this team has a recent history of filling needs internally. Most of its free agent signings have backfired, so that gives DeWitt a reason to back off that market. The prospect of having to eat much or all of Fowler's contract plays into that as well. The changes already made this summer created openings for younger players to shine and so far they have. So it's easy to see them stay the course with both the team and a revamped field staff that is heavily invested in the development of these players.
I'm not sold on Donaldson at this point. He turns 33 this winter and he is coming off an injury-ruined season. If is willing to come here to be another Mark Reynolds, great. But Fowler's collapse and Jhonny Peralta's final season fade reminds us that happens to players in their 30s.
Neither guy had a great game Thursday but both had been playing at a very high level. With the team rolling, I saw nothing wrong with trying to extend that roll. Now, if both guys show signs of lagging this weekend, then maybe you revisit that topic next week.