This and next month, Outside the Beltway Sports will be taking a trip around the Major Leagues profiling the 30 major league teams. We begin today with the defending Champions.
St. Louis Cardinals
Last season: 83-78 First Place NL Central, Won World Series 4-1 over Detroit
Manager: Tony Larussa
Meet the new guys
RP Ryan Franklin, 2B Adam Kennedy, RP Russ Springer, SP Kip Wells, RF/1B Eli Marrero
Gone and hardly remembered
SP Jason Marquis (to Chicago Cubs), RP Jorge Sosa (to NY Mets), SP Jeff Suppan (to Milwaukee), SP Jeff Weaver (to Seattle), SS Jose Vizcaino (Free Agent), 2B Ronnie Belliard (Free Agent)
And now your starting lineup
- SS David Eckstein
- LF Chris Duncan
- 1B Albert Pujols
- 3B Scott Rolen
- CF Jim Edmonds
- RF Juan Encarnacion
- 2B Adam Kennedy
- C Yadier Molina
OF Preston Wilson
OF So Taguchi
1B/3B Scott Spiezio
IF Aaron Miles
C Gary Bennett
The lineup is pretty very good. Eckstein is a steady table setter. The modest power punch is gone, but he gets on base at an acceptable clip and does not hurt the team in the field. Duncan, Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds can all thump the ball. Encarnacion’s on-base skills are lacking, but has enough pop in the bat to drive in some runs with the tablesetters in place. Adam Kennedy has a little more pop and a little less discipline than Eckstein and Yadier Molina is unacceptable any way you slice it.
Off the bench, So Taguchi is a good role player, but should not get the nearly 350 plate appearances he got last season. Scott Spiezio has nice pop off the bench and is a useful reserve. Preston Wilson redicovered his power stroke when he came to St. Louis, but struggled making contact and getting on base. At this point he is a useful spare part, most of the time and a hopelessly futile out the remainder of the time. Miles’ defense elevates him slightly above replacement level. Bennett defines replacement level.
- Cris Carpenter
- Mark Mulder
- Anthony Reyes
- Kip Wells
- Adam Wainwright
- Ryan Franklin
Closer Jason Isringhausen
The pitching staff does not have the same level of acceptable competence. Cris Carpenter is excellent. And Mark Mulder, if healthy can be quite effective. After that, the Cardinals are piecing together a rotation after the devastating defections of Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver and Jason Marquis. Anthony Reyes has carried the tag of can’t miss prospect for awhile. His K rates and walk rates were always good in the minor leagues. If his low walk rates can carry over to the bigs, which they haven’t yet, then he should be a solid middle of the rotation starter. Wells, Wainwright and Franklin are below average innings eaters. Those are okay on a team with a very good offense. The Cardinal offense is better than average, but not very good.
In the pen, it’s a little better, but not by much. If healthy, Isringhausen is effective closing down the game. Flores, Hancock, Rincon, Springer and Looper are okay at getting to Isringhausen, but are nothing like the more impressive bullpen in Queens or the one that the Braves are putting together in Atlanta. They will leak out a few games here and there. But they will steal a few here and there too.
Help is on the way…
Top prospect Colby Rasmus has been in the Cardinals system for two years. He’s a toolsy outfielder with nice speed, decent power and plenty of room to fill out his six-foot-one frame. Like most tools first players, he is very hit or miss. His Rookie ball and A ball results were solid hits. Advanced A though presented some problems. Fielding questions may push him to a corner, where he’d need a power surge to contribute as a regular. He’s still at least two or three years away. Repeating High A with a midseason promotion to Double A would be completely in order for him.
Other prospects who may be called on
None really. The rest of the Cardinals top prospects are also far away from the Majors. Cardinals GM Walt Jockety has typically used top prospects to acquire major league ready talent and the Cardinal development system is not inspiring. A number of last year’s Baseball America top ten prospects slipped out of the top ten, replaced by prospects who had not been previously noticed or ’06 draft picks. It is just as likely that St. Louis turns a prospect like Josh Kinney or Mark McCormick for a retread starter like Carl Pavano or Byung-Hyun Kim. Farm Director Jeff Lunhow has run the last two drafts and now controls the entire farm system. That may yield more talent.
The success of the Cardinals last year was in overcoming adversity and getting hot in October. This team has too many holes to count on a post season appearance in 2007. But they cannot be counted out either. As improved as Chicago is, they are not run away division winners, either. The Astros and the Reds and the Brewers should all contend as well. How St. Louis does depends largely on Albert Pujols and his bat. The best hitter in baseball and one of America’s newest citizens carries the offense of his club. Albert can count on another good year, and if he stays healthy, that’s worth another couple of wins for the Cards. Besides Carpenter, who is capable of winning twenty games, the staff will be baling wire, bubble gum and duct tape for April and May. But once they get their legs underneath them, they should settle in. I do not expect a successful title defense, but they can make the playoffs, where it is anyone’s ballgame.
Predicted finish: 88-74 First place in a close NL Central race.
- Opening Night: New York at St. Louis
- St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series Champions
- Wells, Padres Agree to 1yr $3M Deal
- St. Louis Manager Tony LaRussa gets to 2,500 career wins
- Battered- Chris Carpenter hits grand slam, gets 17th win, St. Louis beats Cincinnati 13-0
- Pirates Pursuing Jeff Suppan – Wait, WHAT? The PIRATES?!?
- 2007 AL West Stat Projections
- GM Doug Melvin interviewed, recap
- Reds In First
- St. Louis Cardinals sign P John Smoltz
- Eight is Enough- Edmonton beats Chicago 8-4
- Lydia Ko wins New South Wales Open
- The Comeback I- Pittsburgh Penguins beat NY Islanders 5-0
- Seattle Mariners Outfielder Greg Halman stabbed to death at age 24
- Hee Young Park wins CME Titleholders Championship
- Oklahoma State Women’s Basketball Coach Kurt Budke dead at 50
- Costly mistake- Blackhawks waive Rostislav Olesz
- Manager Tony La Russa announces retirement
- Puck Drop- Florida Panthers start the 2011-12 NHL season
- 13-time PGA Tour winner Dave Hill dead at 74
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