Season Preview: St. Louis Cardinals
Projected MLB Rank: 9th (t) — NL Rank: 6th (t) — NL Central Rank: 2nd –– Record: (88-74)
The Cardinals have all the makings of a run for October, but those makings are somehow overlooked. With a solid rotation, reliable bullpen, and underrated hitters–I will not be suprised when the Cards are still in the playoff hunt come mid-September.
Here’s a look at their projected rotation for the upcoming season:
1. Adam Wainwright
In 20 starts last season, Wainwright posted a 3.20 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and chalked up 11 wins. In his second season as a starter, his numbers were a good improvement on his 2007 season. Expect the Cards ace to top 200 innings and win over 15 games if he pitches a full season.
2. Kyle Lohse
Having a career year in 2008, Lohse proved that he can be reliable as he won the most games (15) and had the lowest ERA of his career (3.78). I would not be suprised to see him do it again.
3. Todd Wellemeyer
Another player who had a career year in 2008 is Wellemeyer. The former reliever tacked up 13 wins and held a 3.71 ERA. I would expect the same out of this year for him, along with some injury potential (having been converted to a starter last year).
4. Chris Carpenter
Finally back from injury, Carpenter posted a 1.88 ERA in three starts late last season. While it would be a suprise to see him 2005 form again, Carpenter is the true number two in this rotation, which pushes Lohse and Wellemeyer back in to more reasonable roles.
5. Joel Pineiro
Pineiro has had a rocky career but seems to have found a nice back of the rotation job in St. Louis. Last year, he went 7-7 with a 5.15 ERA.
The bullpen has great young arms and the veteran experience needed to succeed. The veteran experience is provided by 36-year old Ryan Franklin. Franklin, who was the Cards closer for some time last season, saved 17 games with a 3.55 ERA and is a nice veteran option if the other two potential closers don’t pan out as planned. Lefty Trever Miller is another veteran option who recently had some playoff experience in Tampa Bay.
The closer job looks like it’s gone to Jason Motte. He lacks big league experience with only 12 games last season but in those 12 games he posted a 0.82 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 11 innings. He’s showed more of the same this spring with a 1.74 ERA and 15 strikeouts in about 10 innings. He wins the job over, who I thought had the job from the experience he gained at the end of the year last year, Chris Perez. Saving 7 games last year for St. Louis, Perez provides the option just in case Motte doesn’t get the job done. Perez’s 3.86 ERA in 7 innings is most likely the reason for the job going to Motte. Expect him to be the set-up man. Although I wouldn’t be suprised if the Cards started going closer by committee during the season.
The Cardinals outfield has the potential to be one of the best in the league. Last year, Ryan Ludwick really came out of nowhere to hit for nearly .300 while driving in 113 runs and hitting 37 homeruns. Not to mention his .591 slugging percentage. Ludwick is in his prime, so expect the same kind of year for him. Resurgent pitcher turned outfielder Rick Ankiel has some great power as he hit 25 homeruns and drove in 71 runs last year but doesn’t hit for a high average and whiffs a ton. He’s still only young into his second career though, so the patience has the potential to be there. It now looks as if young stud Colby Rasmus will be the starting leftfielder for the Cardinals this season. The 22 year old is a top prospect, and now that Skip Schumaker has won the second base job, left field seems to be all Rasmus’. Fourth outfielder Chris Duncan provides some nice pop off the bench and a good starting option in case of injury.
Until the return of Troy Glaus, it looks as if David Freese will get the shot to start at third base. This kid tore it up in minors and has the potential to do the same in the big leagues, maybe not this year, but he will show some flashes of potential. Secondbaseman Skip Schumaker should bat at the top of the order and give Albert Pujols a bunch of chances to drive him home. Yadier Molina, who has shown improvement at the plate the past few years batting .216, .275, and .304 last season hopefully keeps up the average and that would be a plus to the catching job he done behind the dish. There is a weak spot here however, it’s spelled K-H-A-L-I-L. If shortstop Khalil Greene can continue what he’s done this spring, then it’s not a weak spot (hitting .418 with 17 RBIs). But if he’s not doing that, well, let’s just say last year he hit .213.
This lineup has all the potential to be productive and drive home runs and the rotation and bullpen will certainly keep the Cards in the game. I expect success out of St. Louis this year but not in the form of the playoffs.
Oh yea, I forgot they have this guy…