Monday, December 16, 2013

Ellis a perfect puzzle piece for the Cardinals

It is difficult to turn to the MLB Depth Charts page for the St. Louis Cardinals and find any holes on the team. While defense might be the only big "if" for the Cardinals, the addition of Mark Ellis will not hurt the defense while solidifying every position on the field. And the fact the Cardinals got Ellis on just a one year deal works perfectly with Kolten Wong being either ready for a bit more seasoning or to spend a year learning from Ellis on the Major League roster.

The Cardinals' off season has been darned near perfect. Last year, they had holes in center field and at shortstop. You could probably add third base to that list depending on how David Freese was going at the time. The additions of Peter Bourjos, Jhonny Peralta and now Mark Ellis solidifies all of those positions.

Jon Jay's weakness in center became manifest in the post season. He was just slightly above average at the plate and a liability in center. Bourjos should be the same kind of hitter as Jay with more speed and has the ability over the course of 150 games to be one of the top fielding center fielders in the game.

And to be honest, he is going to need to be with Allen Craig in right and Matt Holliday in left. While both of those players are excellent offensively, they can be cringe-worthy on defense.

Big Matt Adams has power, something that has become a bit of a shortage in the Majors and thus, he is worth keeping at first for now. I think eventually, he will become a trade chip and Craig will play first with the monster talent of Oscar Taveras coming up by mid-season. Tavaras is one of the most exciting offensive talents in the minors right now.

Matt Carpenter can now follow up his breakout season by playing third base full time, which is his natural position. He held his own at second, but should be better over at third. Peralta will give up some range over Kozma, but the offensive production will be like night and day and Peralta makes all the plays hit at him at least.

But with Ellis, the Cardinals have two viable options at second. They can choose to delay the clock a bit on Wong and have Ellis put in 150 games or they can start Wong at Triple-A and come up for the second half of the season.

Ellis has been one of the most underrated second basemen of his generation. For one, he is not flashy at the plate and while much better than Kozma there, he will come in under league average with his bat. But defensively, Ellis has been consistently excellent and should provide solid up-the-middle defense whenever he is on the field.

Wong has hit at every level in the minors and struggled a bit in his brief tour at the Major League level last year. But if you look at his minor league stats, he should hit in the Majors if given the opportunity. Ellis gives the Cardinals choices on how fast they want to introduce Wong to that opportunity.

People get very annoyed when experts talk about how smart the Cardinals are with their organization. But gosh, the proof is in the pudding (cliche alert!). They came up just short last season and lost the World Series to the Red Sox. With six viable options in the rotation and a great bullpen, with Ellis, Peralta and Bourjos on board, the Cardinals are in even better shape heading into the 2014 season.

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