MLB Team by Team Previews 2010 : St. Louis Cardinals

MLB Team by Team Previews 2010 : Are the Cardinals A Serious Threat to Win the National League?

3/17/10 in MLB   |   Scott   |   54124 respect

The St. Louis Cardinals entered the 2009 season as a team with alot of question marks and as a result, were overlooked by alot of the so called experts.  The Cardinals ended up surprising alot of people and won the NL Central by 7.5 games before being swept in the NLDS by the Los Angeles Dodgers.  With the core players returning from that team and the Cardinals ability to resign Matt Holliday to a long term deal, the only surprise in 2010 would be if the Cardinals finish anywhere but first in the division.  That said, every team has questions when the season begins and the Cardinals are no different.  Can Colby Rasmus be the every day centerfielder?  Can Brad Penny or Kyle Lohse be the #3 starter the Cardinals need to go deep into October?  Is David Freese the answer at 3B?  Can Ryan Franklin find his 2009 early to midseason form as the closer?  Can the young arms in the bullpen hold there own?  Who will stake there claim as the #5 starter?  Here is your 2010 St. Louis Cardinals season preview

KEY LOSSES -

Joel Pineiro - (to Angels)
John Smoltz - (unsigned)
Rick Ankiel - (to Royals)
Chris Duncan - (to Nationals)
Todd Wellemeyer - (to Brewers)

Key Additions -

Matt Holliday
Brad Penny

Projected Lineup -

2B - Skip Schumaker
CF - Colby Rasmus
1B - Albert Pujols
LF - Matt Holliday
RF - Ryan Ludwick
C - Yadier Molina
3B - David Freese/Felipe Lopez
Pitchers Spot
SS - Brendan Ryan/Julio Lugo

Projected Rotation


Chris Carpenter
Adam Wainwright
Kyle Lohse
Brad Penny
Kyle McClellan/Rich Hill/Jamie Garcia

Closer - Ryan Franklin

Strengths

Offensively, the Cardinals have the lineup to put up runs with any team in baseball.  Everybody knows how good Albert Pujols has been and now with Holliday protecting him in the lineup, the Cardinals have one of the best 3/4 hitting combinations in baseball.  Throw in Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina and 3-6 is a very formidable group of hitters.  The keys will be whether the table setters can get on base.  Skip Schumaker, Colby Rasmus and Brendan Ryan will be looked at to try and get on base so the heavy hitters can drive them in. 

Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright finished a close 2nd and 3rd to Tim Lincecum in the 2009 Cy Young race and they are as good of 1-2 punch as you'll find in baseball.  The key for the Cardinals will be whether Kyle Lohse can rebound after a subpar 2009 season and be that #3 starter the Cardinals are looking for.  Free agent pickup Brad Penny has been solid in spring training and he looks to be the next reclamation project in store for Dave Duncan.

Weaknesses

Ryan Franklin was nearly unhittable through the first 3/4's of the 2009 season.  However, once the month of September rolled around Franklin lost his command and was hit around frequently.  He struggled down the stretch and was the pitcher of record in game 2 of the NLDS when the Dodgers staged a comeback to go up 2-0.  While all the press was on the flyball dropped by Holliday, it was Franklin who allowed that comeback to even begin.  Franklin hasnt been all that great this spring and if it comes to it, dont be surprised if the Cardinals go out and sign John Smoltz to bolster the bullpen.  As for the setup guys, Jason Motte, Blake Hawksworth and Mitchell Boggs are young guns who are going to be asked to play huge roles.  How they adapt game in and game out will be something that alot of Cardinal fans will be watching.

Players to Watch

David Freese - The Cardinals chose to not resign Mark DeRosa to play 3rd base and in early December, announced that the job was Freese's to lose.  After a DUI arrest earlier this year, Freese has done everything that the Cardinals have asked of him and it has showed with his numbers this spring.  However, hitting in spring training is alot different then hitting in the regular season and with the bright lights of his hometown shining down on him, Freese will have some big shoes to fill.

Colby Rasmus - Now in his 2nd year, Rasmus finds himself as the everyday centerfielder.  With Rick Ankiel playing on the other side of the state, Rasmus will be asked to show alot more discipline and maturity as a player.  Ramsus showed glimpses of brilliance in 2009 but often showed the inconsistency that comes with most first year players not named Albert Pujols.  For Rasmus to continue to play everyday, he must show improvement hitting against left handed pitching, especially with the Cardinals lack of right handed hitting off the bench.

Jamie Garcia - A year and a half removed from Tommy John's surgery, Garcia has been very impressive this spring.  Should Kyle McClellan or Rich Hill struggle to take hold of the 5th and final spot in the rotation, dont be surprised if Garcia starts the season solidly in as the #5 starter.


Projected Finish

The Cardinals have the game's best player in Albert Pujols. They have the National League's best catcher in Yadier Molina. They have what is arguably the NL's best 1-2 rotation punch in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. They have a future Hall of Fame manager in Tony La Russa.  If all that isn't enough, they also have a top slugger in Holliday, an All-Star closer in Ryan Franklin and the resources to spend money for improvements during the season.  If the Cardinals dont win the NL Central, it would be a huge shock.  The question is though, do they have enough to challenge the Phillies as the best team in the NL?

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3/18/10   |   woody050681   |   13690 respect

ms_hippie_queen wrote:
yep

Next question. Who did they lose to today? Please don't throw anything up to Michigan, I'm afraid it'll hurt!

3/18/10   |   ms_hippie_queen   |   30316 respect

WhoDat12 wrote:

Ok, cool...next question, do they still have Roy Oswalt?

yep

3/18/10   |   WhoDat12   |   2252 respect

ms_hippie_queen wrote:
that's a yes, man.

Ok, cool...next question, do they still have Roy Oswalt?

3/18/10   |   ms_hippie_queen   |   30316 respect

WhoDat12 wrote:
So is that a yes or a no to the Astros still being around?

that's a yes, man.

3/18/10   |   WhoDat12   |   2252 respect

ms_hippie_queen wrote:

So is that a yes or a no to the Astros still being around?

3/18/10   |   ms_hippie_queen   |   30316 respect

WhoDat12 wrote:
Wait....you mean the Astros are still around?

3/18/10   |   WhoDat12   |   2252 respect

wrote:
 And not the 'stros? I see Houston challenging for contention... if you call 4th place "contention."

(It's a good thing you can't throw anything all the way from Texas )

Wait....you mean the Astros are still around?

3/18/10   |   ms_hippie_queen   |   30316 respect

wrote:
 And not the 'stros? I see Houston challenging for contention... if you call 4th place "contention."

(It's a good thing you can't throw anything all the way from Texas )

hardy-har....see if this reaches ya from here
Poor Quality 

3/17/10   |   ms_hippie_queen   |   30316 respect

i think for the third year in a row, the phillies are gonna be a hell of a force to be dealt with

3/17/10   |   ML31   |   3675 respect

The Cards, as good as they look, are also helped out a great deal by playing in what is by far the weakest of the three NL divisions.  If they can't win the central, something went disastrously wrong.

3/17/10   |   Scott   |   54124 respect

MarkTheShark wrote:
Scott, will you make your yearly pilgrimage down to Florida?..or have you already?

I was down there last week to watch them play the Nationals and the Marlins and I came away impressed with quite a few things, especially the depth in the minor leagues.  The Cardinals may not have the 5 star prospects but they do have players that can hold there own and help the big club should they need it.

3/17/10   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

Scott, will you make your yearly pilgrimage down to Florida?..or have you already?

3/17/10   |   Boski93   |   375 respect

Great article sir, as always.

The have a nice blend of bats, well any lineup looks good with #5 in it. It will be interesting to see what Holliday can do for an encore. The true measure of success will be what the supporting player behind Albert can do. They have to make teams pay for the times they pitch around Pujols. The rotation has a great foundation with Carpenter and Wainwright, can La Russa and Duncan coax any magic from the others. The bullpen should be fine La Russa and Duncan have always found ways to have ways to cobble an effective bullpen.

It comes down to being able to put enough pieces around Pujols and that the dynamic duo. It would be a shame for Card fans to see these performance go to waste if there is no one else who can help carry the load. I foresee a division title but if the Big Three have to do all the lifting then that is about as far I foresee their path.