30 Teams in 30 Days: St. Louis Cardinals Preview

Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals
91-71, 1st Place NL Central

2009 Review
2009 was a success for the Cardinals. After signing Denys Reyes to a late contract, the team felt it was set. The team did struggle out of the gate, specifically with third base and left field. They solved these problems in June by trading for Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday (which essentially emptied the minor league system).

One of the bright spots of the team was Skip Schumaker’s conversion to second base. He didn’t kill the team defensively and hit .300, which fits better at second than in the outfield.

The starting pitching was also a bright spot. Adam Wainwright had the most first place Cy Young votes and took 3rd for the award; he led the league with 19 wins. Chris Carpenter was just as good and finished second for Cy Young; he led the league in ERA. Joel Pineiro embraced the sinkerball and saw a much improved season.

Oh, and there was this guy Albert…

The disappointing part was seeing Matt Holliday take one in the junk that essentially eliminated the team from the playoffs. The sweep to the Dodgers left a bad taste in the mouth of the team and the fans.

The Off-Season
The main priority for the off-season was to address left field, whether it be Matt Holliday or someone to replace him. They also needed another starter.

Gains: Felipe Lopez, Brad Penny

Losses: Rick Ankiel, Brian Barden, Mark DeRosa, Troy Glaus, Khalil Greene, Jarrett Hoffpauir, Mike Parisi, Joel Pineiro, John Smoltz, Brad Thompson, Joe Thurston, Todd Wellemeyer

Minor League Deals: Ruben Gotay, Rich Hill, Rich Rundles

So, they re-signed Holliday to a ridiculous 7 year, $120MM contract. People have gone both ways on the deal, figuring $17MM a season for a hitter like Holliday is a fair price, while others didn’t like the 7 year part.

To address they rotation, the team signed Brad Penny to replace Pineiro. Penny looks to be another Dave Duncan project to a degree. He’s had success in the past, and last year wasn’t horrible once he came back to the NL. If he embraces the sinker like others have, he could have a good year.

2010 Preview
Right now, the Cardinals are the team to beat in the Central, and some say in the NL.

Yadi is back catching, and while his batting numbers have improved, his defense has declined slightly. He’s still got an arm and people don’t run on him.

Pujols hasn’t changed, although he’s been banged up this spring. Skip will have another season to progress at second. Short will be handled by Brendan Ryan, who I expect to regress from last year. David Freese will probably see most of the duty at third, with infield back up Julio Lugo and Felipe Lopez probably seeing some time there.

The outfield is set with Holliday, Rasmus, and Ludwick from left to right. They’ll have a full season of Holliday, which would be huge if he puts up his un-realistic 2009 second half numbers. Rasmus is constantly improving and won’t have someone stealing at bats (aka Rick Ankiel). Ludwick is what he is, so they should expect 25 homers and 90 RBIs. They should have Joe Mather and Allen Craig as the back ups, and both can handle the corner infield spots.

The rotation should be just as good as last year. Carp is another year away from his injuries. Wainwright should build upon a successful season. Penny is a solid #3. Lohse is coming back from injury, but I don’t expect his 2008 numbers. Jaime Garcia has been named the 5th starter, but he’ll be better than Lohse.

The bullpen is still a weakness. Ryan Franklin is not a closer, plain and simple. Jason Motte is still struggling with secondary pitches. I think Kyle McClellan is wasted in the bullpen, but needs work being stretched out before he could handle the rotation. Mitchell Boggs and Blake Hawksworth are promising relievers, but can they repeat last year’s success? At least the lefties know their roles.

Prediction
96-66, 1st NL Central

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