The St. Louis Cardinals, led by such veteran stars as third baseman Nolan Arenado, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and catcher Yadier Molina, are set to visit the Miami Marlins on Monday night for the start of a three-game series.
The Marlins, meanwhile, have no established stars who have the credentials of the Cardinals trio.
Arenado, acquired from the Colorado Rockies on Feb. 1, hit his first homer as a member of the Cardinals in Saturday's 9-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Arenado is an eight-time Gold Glove winner and a five-time All-Star. From 2015-19, he slugged at least 37 homers in each season.
Goldschmidt, a six-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner, increased his walk rate last season and hit .304. It was his highest batting average since 2015.
Molina is a nine-time All-Star and a nine-time Gold Glove winner. He has also won two World Series titles, and he has respect from virtually everyone in baseball, including Nick Castellanos of the Reds.
Castellanos helped spark a fracas on Saturday when he yelled in the face of Cardinals pitcher Jake Woodford. Molina quickly protected his pitcher, prompting this revealing postgame quote from the Reds player:
"(Molina) could've punched me in the face," Castellanos said, "and I would still ask him for a signed jersey."
Molina is 38, Goldschmidt is 33, and Arenado turns 30 on April 16. All three are hoping to contribute on Monday, when the Cardinals will look to snap their two-game losing streak, including a 12-1 loss to the Reds on Sunday.
Miami, which was off on Sunday, has a young team personified by rookies such as Jazz Chisholm and Trevor Rogers.
Chisholm, Miami's starting second baseman at age 23, smoked a triple on Friday. On Saturday, he walked, stole two bases and scored on a shallow sacrifice fly to right field. He dived to tag home plate just as he had gone head first into second and third.
Rogers, a 23-year-old left-hander, is Miami's scheduled starter for Monday's game. Miami's first-round pick (13th overall) in 2017, Rogers made his major league debut last year, going 1-2 with a 6.11 ERA in seven starts. Although the ERA was high and Rogers allowed 32 hits, including five homers, in 28 innings, he flashed potential with 39 strikeouts.
This year in spring training, Rogers ranked second in the majors with 29 strikeouts, earning praise from Marlins manager Don Mattingly.
Still, Rogers has yet to face the Cardinals in his brief career, and in his two home starts last season he had a 13.50 ERA.
Beyond Rogers and Chisholm, the Marlins do have some veterans who enjoyed success in Miami's season-opening series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Tops on the list is center fielder Starling Marte, 32, who went 4-for-5 with a triple and three runs scored in Saturday's 12-7 win over Tampa Bay.
"Not that we're going to score a ton of runs every night," Mattingly said, "but I do think we're pretty balanced up and down the lineup."
The Marlins on Monday are expected to face Cardinals right-hander Daniel Ponce de Leon, who walked 13 batters in 17 spring-training innings.
Ponce de Leon, 29, has made 33 major league appearances, including 20 starts, and his ERA has risen in each of his three seasons (2.73, 3.70 and 4.96). His walk rate per nine innings has also gone up each year (3.5, 4.8 and 5.5).
The Cardinals are hoping to provide Ponce de Leon with support, especially from that stellar trio of Goldschmidt, Molina and a clearly enthused Arenado.
"When you are on the field with Yadi, you don't want to be the one letting the team down," Arenado said. "And I can't believe I've got Goldschmidt batting in front of me."
--Field Level Media