1993 Season Preview
"Youthful Cardinals Look to Take Step Forward"
The recent trend for many major league teams trying to improve has been to spend big money on free agents while their farm systems take a back seat. Realizing it’s nearly impossible to contend over a period of time with out a productive farm system, the St. Louis Cardinals’ investment in that area is beginning to provide dividends. In fact, six of the eight probable starting position players in 1993 were signed by the Cardinals and came up through their own farm system. This home-grown talent pool positions the team to be a contender in 1993 while establishing a strong base for the future.
Center fielder Ray Lankford is a prime example of the Cardinals’ productive farm system. The 25-year-old blossomed into a star last season, combining speed (42 steals), power (20HR, 86 RBI), average (.293) and gold-glove caliber defense. With only two full seasons under his belt, Lankford has the potential to develop into one of the best players in the league.
St. Louis native Bernard Gilkey is certainly familiar with Lankford’s talents, playing alongside of him since 1988 in Springfield as they both worked their way up the minor league ladder. Although less heralded than is teammate, Gilkey last season began to make a name for himself. The speedy left-fielder rebounded from a disappointing rookie season to hit .302 while displaying extra-base power, fine defense and a good arm. In right-field, the incumbent, Felix Jose was traded, leaving a battle for the position this spring. The candidate fans know best is former Atlanta Falcons defensive back Brian Jordan. Jordan’s lack of baseball experience showed at times in a 55 game stint in St. Louis last year. Bur now concentrating exclusively on baseball, he will try to transform his great talent and athletic ability into an all-around player with big-time power. Big-time power is what another right field candidate, Ozzie Canseco, displayed at AAA Louisville last year. In 98 games, the 28-year-old had 19 doubles and 22 home runs, many being of the tape-measure variety, along with 57 RBIs and a .266 average.
The man acquired for Felix Jose, Gregg Jefferies, is a line-drive hitter perfectly suited for spacious Busch Stadium. He hopes to find a home at first base after playing second and third earlier in his career. Jefferies has put together an impressive resume with the bat in four-plus big league seasons with the Mets and Royals, compiling a .278 career average, and leading the NL in doubles in 1990. At second base, manager Joe Torre will give Geronimo Pena the chance to establish himself as an everyday player. Last year, the speedy switch-hitter was impressive when healthy, batting .305 with 31 runs, 7HRs, and 31 RBIs in 62 games. If Pena falters, Jose Oquendo, who’s injury plagued season was limited to only 14 games and switch-hitter Luis Alicea are both fine defensive player who are capable with the bat.
Cardinals fans will have the pleasure to see the Wizard of Oz, Ozzie Smith, in a Cardinals’ uniform for the rest of his career, thanks to an off-season contract agreement. The Hall-of-Famer-to-be is a known commodity – he’ll provide gold glove defense at shortstop, hit for a decent average and swipe a base when necessary. At third, Todd Zeile will try to regain the form that made him a top hitting prospect and key run producer in the lineup. Last year Zeile slumped to .257 with 7HRs and 48 RBIs but at age 27, he’s still young enough to rebound.
Handling the pitching staff again is Tom Pagnozzi, who has developed in to one of the top catchers in the league. Hector Villanueva was signed to provide a little offense to back up Pags. With the departures of veterans Bryn Smith and Jose DeLeon, the catchers will be able to work with a more youthful staff. The youngest of the bunch, 23-year-old lefty Donovan Osborne, displayed the promise that made him the Card’s first round selection in the 1990 draft by winning 11 games his rookie year. Canadian Rheal Cormier is another young lefty who impressed in 1992. The 25-year-old won seven straight games to finish at 10-10. Both men exhibited control beyond their years, walking only 71 batters in a combined 365 innings. Another youngster, right-hander Omar Olivares slipped a bit from his impressive rookie season, but still was second on the staff with 197 innings. Olivares posted a 9-9 record and 3.84 ERA to go with his team-leading 124 strikeouts.
Despite impressive performances by some of the youngsters, the Cards’ king of the hill in 1992 was unquestionably Bob Tewksbury. Once a top pitching prospect in the Yankees’ organization, Tewksbury’s major league future was in doubt after an arm injury. But he erased all doubts last year as his 16-5 record led the NL in winning percentage and his 2.16 ERA was the second base make in the majors. The righty displayed more confidence in his fastball and used his pinpoint control to become one of the best pitchers in the league. Count on the All-Star to anchor the staff again in 1993. LHP Joe Magrane will be attempting to follow the path of Tewksbury and come back from arm surgery. A return to form from the past 18-game winner would be a tremendous boost to the staff.
When manager Joe Torre turns to his bullpen, he will again have the luxury of having one of the top closers in the game on his side. Lee Smith led the NL in saves for the second straight year and with 90 saves over the last two seasons, the 13-year veteran shows little sign of letting up. Rookie Mike Perez had an outstanding season in middle relief, winning 9 games and posting a 1.84 ERA. The remainder of the relief corps will have a different look in 1993 with the departures of Todd Worrell to free agency and Chris Carpenter, who as drafted by the Florida Marlins. Look for rookie Rene Arocha, RHP Les Lancaster, LHP Rob Murphy and possibly youngsters Mark Clark and Mike Milchin to fill the voids.
As with most young teams, the success of the 1993 St. Louis Cardinals will depend upon the speed at which the young players develop. Although the emphasis has been on young, home-grown talent, the team sill has veteran leadership in both Ozzie and Lee Smith. One of the main goals of Joe Torre and his staff is to emphasize fundamentally sound play in order to reduce the number of mental mistakes made last season. If that can be accomplished and the farm system’s home-cooking contains the right ingredients, the Cardinals may have the right recipe for a winner in 1993.
- 1993 Official Spring Training Program
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