I didn’t check the numbers, but I’m assuming the greater St. Louis area saw marked increases in antacid sales after the gut-churning NLCS that seemed to directly channel 1996. Hopefully Cardinal Nation has recovered and is willing to look forward. Sure the end result was disappointing, but the fact of the matter is that this team was playing with house money and no one really expected them to get as far as they did. Not to mention there are a lot of exciting things to look forward to next year.

For the first time in God knows how long, the Cardinals have a crop of very impressive young talent that is either ready or very close to making an impact at the major league level. It may take until midseason or even September of 2013, but there are sure to be some new faces doing some damage next year. In fact, there is a chance the lineup and rotation could look like this:

C: Yadier Molina
1B: Allen Craig
2B: Kolten Wong
3B: David Freese
SS: Pete Kozma/Daniel Descalso
LF: Matt Holliday
CF: Jon Jay/Oscar Taveras
RF: Oscar Taveras/Carlos Beltran

SP: Adam Wainwright
SP: Chris Carpenter
SP: Lance Lynn
SP: Shelby Miller
SP: Trevor Rosenthall

Bear with me here as I run down the list.

C: Yadi isn’t going anywhere for a long while and should see several more Gold Gloves and maybe even a few Silver Sluggers in his future.

1B: Craig established himself as a powerful enough bat to be cemented at first base, and should be a force there for the foreseeable future. Matt Adams appears to be a plus backup should Craig go down with another injury.

2B: Matt Carpenter, Descalso and Skip Schumaker will all factor in at the start of the season, but if any of them struggle – offensively or defensively – Wong will likely get a shot. Matheny seems more prone to give youngsters a shot than Tony LaRussa did, which works in Wong’s favor. He’s likely set to start the season at Triple-A, but he is the second baseman of the foreseeable future and if he shines early he will get a shot. It will be nice to have someone put a stopper in the revolving door that has been spinning since the days of Fernando Vina.

3B: The Cards seem smitten with Freese at the hot corner. And why shouldn’t they? He performed admirably in his first full season and would seem to have plenty of cost effective stability at third for multiple years. Assuming he stays healthy. If injuries arise Matt Carpenter will likely see time there.

SS: If Wong gets the nod at second he’ll likely play most days, leaving Descalso without a position. Knowing that Kozma is probably not the long-term answer at short, expect to see a lefty-right platoon between the two for the remainder of the year.

OF: Holliday is inked in left field for the next several years, but there could be some turnover at right or center. Jay hit .300 and played Gold Glove defense in center, so he wouldn’t appear to be going anywhere, but could take a back seat if the offense needs more punch. Beltran will certainly start the year in right, but injuries are rapidly creeping up on his aging frame and the Cards could be in store for a 2012 Lance Berkman type season from him. Enter the savior of the outfield: Oscar Taveras. This kid is really, really good. He hits like Tony Gwynn with power and the organization loves everything about him. He’s only 20 so he’ll start the season at Triple-A, but should be an immediate call-up at the first sign of injury or trouble. He has the potential to be a perennial All Star and batting champion, and will quickly become Cardinal Nation’s new favorite son.

SP: Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright appear to be the only locks for the rotation next year at present time. Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia are signed for 2013, but are unreliable options and are not in Mike Matheny’s good graces at the moment. Both he and GM John Mozeliak have publicly stated that Lynn, Miller and Rosenthall should prepare all winter and preseason as if they will be starters, and there’s a chance that right out of the gate they could be the final three in the rotation. Garcia could very easily be trade bait for an organization that sees something in him (great stuff, but a headcase who needs a fresh start), and Westbrook has the look of a swingman (see: Joe Kelly) more than that of a reliable starter. Rosenthall and Miller have unparalleled stuff and should have the arm strength to get through a full season if they train properly – meaning they can avoid what happened to Lynn last year). Lynn, the 18-game winner, should have that very same opportunity. That is a rotation of two legitimate aces (assuming Carp and Waino return to form) and three young power arms with the potential to blow away hitters in any situation. If this rotation comes to fruition, I’ll bet dollars to donuts they lead the league in strikeouts.

Granted, there are lots of reasons why this “team of the not too distant future” won’t actually work out, but it certainly could happen. And that is a very exciting thing for Cardinal Nation. The future appears to be very bright.

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