We are well on our way through January, and the Winter Warm Up is just a couple weeks away. Once the warm up is over, the reporting of pitchers and catchers will be just around the corner.
Spring Training is a time to start focusing on what needs to be done in order to have a successful forthcoming season. This Spring Training is especially important for the Cardinals as they try to figure out who needs to go where. If the Cardinals have a successful Spring Training this year, they will be setting themselves up for a successful season.
Here, I'm going to be putting together a "checklist" for Spring Training this year. These are actions that I find to be essential in order to have a triumphant return to the top of the standings in 2017.
First and foremost, stay healthy
This is the most important aspect to keep in mind during Spring Training. Of course, it's important to maintain good health throughout the whole season. But if the Cardinals can get through Spring Training with little to no injuries, they will have a good start.
As mentioned, Spring Training is a time to carefully observe who can get the job done. Obviously, the fewer injuries, the more playing time a player can potentially get. The Cardinals have just enough players to have a solid roster. When it comes to internal options, the Cardinals have some secret weapons that they can use to win games.
Of course, if the weapon breaks, you can't fight with it. Stay healthy and take the proper precautions of staying healthy and injury-free.
Play the minor leaguers
The farm system is one of the backbones of every ball club; it consists of young players who make up an organization's future.
As important as it is to take a close look at the every-day major leaguers, it is also crucial to see what potential lies within the organization. This spring, the Cardinals should look at players such as left-handed pitcher Ryan Sherriff, second baseman Breyvic Valera and Luke Weaver. These are just a few players that have the talent to become something big within the Cardinals.
Luke Weaver is a perfect example when it comes to needing to play these guys. Luke Weaver was exposed to the big leagues nine times in 2016.
Did he throw out ideal numbers? Not exactly, but that is exactly why the Cardinals need to put in some playing time for these guys. The more they learn about themselves, the more likely they will better themselves to become great ball players.
Consider losses as wins
You read that correctly. Take every loss as a win in Spring Training. These games don't matter as opposed to regular season games. More mistakes will be made in Spring Training than there ever will be throughout a year. Take every loss, error, strikeout, pop fly, ground ball and walk into consideration.
This is a time to take every loss and dissect it. See what went wrong and improve upon it. This is Sports 101, but it's a basic rule that cannot be forgotten or taken for granted.
The more the Cardinals learn from their mistakes, the more prepared they will be for the regular season.
Speaking of preparation, be prepared
Every player should do all they can to avoid injury. Although, injury waits for no man. This is why it is important to prepare every play to take another player's role.
This goes back to making sure the Cardinals play those prospects and younger guys. Once the regular season comes around, the best thing to do is feel confident in those backup players. As a player recovers from an injury, the club needs that solid fill-in so there will be less risk in more losses.
Never hesitate to play guys outside of their position every once and a while. Of course, they need as much practice as possible in the positions they perform the best, but it never hurts to see what players can do at each position. That way if someone gets hurt, then the coaches have an idea of who to play in certain postilion and who not to play.
Don't be afraid to go back to the basics
A major problem that stood out to me from last season is base running. For example, the Cardinals' extra base taken percentage in 2016 was 38%. It is a pivotal role for the Cardinals to take as many extra bases as possible. This defines the difference between a win and a loss in those 1-0, 2-1 and 10-9 wins.
Whether it be base running, ground balls, fly balls, or detailing a player's swing — these things are the meat and potatoes of winning games. While it's important to take a look at the more complex fundamentals, never forget to take a good amount of time practicing the basics.
As soon as you overlook the basics, that's when the team's overall performance starts to fall apart.
Pitching, pitching, pitching
The main theme of my past couple of articles was pitching. As the starting rotation and bullpen start to look more constructed, it's important to see if the Cardinals have the right men in the right places.
The first player that comes to mind in this situation is Michael Wacha. Wacha is predicted to start the season off in the bullpen. With a 5.09 ERA, 3.91 Fielder Independent Pitching, and 1.49 WHIP in 138.0 innings, this prediction isn't unusual.
He does, however, have this time in Spring Training to bounce back. If Wacha ends up pitching solid innings in Spring Training games, there could be some reconsideration in regards to him having what it takes to be back in the starting rotation.
Pitch as many prospects as possible and make those big leaguers pitch a handful of innings. It is of paramount importance for the Cardinals to be confident in who they are putting on the mound in each inning.
These are six things on which the Cardinals need to be focused. If the Cardinals can hit these nails on the head, 2017 is going to be a very successful season.
What do you think the Cardinals need to focus on as they head into Spring Training? As always, you can tweet me here @Carly_Schaber.