Thursday, March 17, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: St. Louis Cardinals

A year removed from missing the playoffs, the Cardinals had very high hopes for this season. Then, they got hit with the double whammy. First, Albert Pujols is still not exteneded past this season. And now Adam Wainwright is done for the season before it begins. So, will the Cards have enough?

What they Have: They still have Albert Pujols, contract or no, who is the best player in the game right now. He'll still do what he's always done, even with the contract shadow looming over him. Around him, the Cards have other pieces like LF Matt Holliday, new SS Ryan Theriot, and CF Colby Rasmus. These guys plus the rest of the lineup is as good as you can get in the NL, but the new guys like Lance Berkman and Ryan Theriot will have to contribute. Pitching wise, behind Wainwright the Cards still have Chris Carpenter, who is a Cy Young candidate every year. They have Jake Westbrook, who came over from the Padres last July, and he's been good enough. And, they have good young pitcher in Jaime Garcia, who finished third in NL Rookie of the Year balloting despite not playing at all in September. The 2 guys behind the top 3 are still up in the air, but look for Kyle Lohse and others to fill out the rotation. The bullpen is good, lead by closer Ryan Franklin, who is one of the best in the game. Behind him, the Cards have Mitchell Boggs, Trever Miller and others who fill out a solid rotation.

What they Don't Have: Defense. Lance Berkman is at the end of his career, and Ryan Theriot isn't quite Brendan Ryan at SS. Colby Rasmus will likely have to carry the defensive load in the outfield. And, also look to the back end of the rotation to be a sore spot with the hole left voided by Adam Wainwright. Who will get that spot remains to be seen, but he'll have to hold up in order for the Cards to be in a sound position in the division. The rest of the team is good, but watch out for the shadow of the Pujols contract talks to maybe play a role this season.

Any Help Coming? RHP Shelby Miller may be one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He has 3 great pitches, and has great velocity too. 3B Zack Cox is an interesting prospect, because he is a well polished hitter, and was maybe the best coming out of college last season. He's also a great defender. RHP Seth Blair is a developing pitcher with some great potential plus pitches like a slider and sinker.

Outlook: They were the favorite in the division until Wainwright's injury. Now, they may be second behind the Reds. They'll need some help at the back end of the rotation and great offense from the new guys and mainstays in order to win the division. The loss of Wainwright may be the sole reason why the Cardinals don't win the NL Central.

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