The St. Louis Cardinals fell short of their 12th World Series title to Boston, but the National League champions will recharge their batteries and prepare for what many hope to be another deep run next fall.
A number of Cardinals saw their seasons go awry as they failed to meet or exceed expectations. That said, here are three Cardinals who are destined to have bounceback 2014 seasons.
Daniel Descalso, Infielder
Last season was a disappointment for the Cardinals’ middle infield, particularly the shortstop position. Due to the sudden end of Rafael Furcal’s season because of elbow surgery, utility men Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma had to fill the void up the middle.
I’ll get to Kozma in a moment.
First, the 27-year-old Descalso was dreadful during the Cardinals' run to the World Series; he went 4-for-26 for a .154 mark.
He wasn’t much better during the regular season, hitting .238 in 123 games played. More alarming is the fact that Descalso led the team with 14 errors, something he will certainly work on this offseason and during spring training.
Descalso made 48 starts at shortstop last season and turned in a .964 fielding percentage.
Even though he struggled in 2013, the future looks bright in 2014 for one important reason: There won’t be as much pressure on Descalso. At least that’s the common belief after the Cardinals traded third baseman David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels last month.
The move will allow Matt Carpenter to shift over to third base (his natural position), and with Kolten Wong likely penciled in as the Opening Day starter at second base, Descalso will serve an important role as a utility bat and glove off the bench for manager Mike Matheny.
Pete Kozma, Infielder
Pete Kozma is in the same boat as Descalso. He struggled mightily last season and never found his groove at the plate. At times, one could speculate whether a hole was in the middle of Kozma’s mitt. He committed nine errors during the regular season and was erratic in the postseason.
The biggest elephant in the room for Kozma was his porous season at the plate. With Descalso struggling, the Cardinals had no choice but to give the reeling 25-year-old Kozma over 400 plate appearances, in which he managed a slim .217 mark with 91 strikeouts.
What’s the spin on both Descalso and Kozma heading into 2014? Encouraging, really.
General manager John Mozeliak knew he had to make a move this offseason to land a big-name shortstop by free agency or trade.
He elected the former by inking Jhonny Peralta to a four-year deal that could be worth more than $50 million, according to Ben Walker of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Peralta will be the everyday shortstop for the next several years, leaving Descalso and Kozma as reserves.
The signing will benefit Matheny in the long run because the Cardinals’ bench now becomes more flexible.
Jon Jay, Outfielder
Jon Jay got off to a slow start last season, hitting .250 prior to the All-Star break. However, the 28-year-old center fielder revved it up at the plate by posting a .311 average following the Midsummer Classic.
That said, Jay was often streaky at the plate. His .370 slugging percentage ranked lowest of his four-year career.
Like Descalso and Kozma, Jay struggled during the postseason, going 10-for-25 (.192) in 17 games.
But reinforcements have arrived in the form of Peter Bourjos, who will likely start (or platoon?) in center field to start 2014, and Oscar Taveras, the talented rookie. I’d expect Bourjos to get the nod from Matheny on Opening Day.
Jay would then become a bat off the bench, giving Matheny even more wiggle room during late-game situations. Jay will be better off with less pressure riding on his everyday performance with Bourjos and Taveras now in the fold.