Key Additions—Lance Berkman, Ryan Theriot
Key Losses—Brad Penny, Brendan Ryan
Lineup—As long as you have a starting lineup anchored by Albert Pujols, the best hitter in the game, you know you are going to score some runs. Albert is going to once again put up huge numbers despite the contract situation hanging over his head. My big concern is what the rest of the offense will do around him. Offensively, I do like their outfield. I believe Colby Rasmus will improve in center and you know you can count of Matt Holliday in LF. The addition of Berkman should provide a boost to their lineup, although it is anyone’s guess if he can play right field. As much as I like this outfield offensively, I think defensively it could be one of the worst in the game. Outside of Pujols, the infield leaves a lot to be desired. They really don’t have anyone that can hit for much of an average or power. Skip Schumaker, David Freese, and Ryan Theriot are names that don’t scare anyone. And as good as Yadier Molina is behind the plate catching games, he hasn’t provided much of a bat. Pujols will carry this lineup, but in the end it is not balanced enough to win a division.
Rotation—If I had written this before spring training started, it would have been hands down the best in the division. But how things change with one injury. The loss of Adam Wainwright changes the whole perception of this rotation and team. He was a horse at the front of the rotation, and losing him may be too big of a hit to overcome. You can still expect good things from Chris Carpenter, but there is the question mark as to whether he will be a Cardinal all season. Jaime Garcia had a very good year last season, but considering the number of innings he pitched I do expect him to take a step back. I do think they will get solid contributions from Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse, but after these 2 guys the 5th starter is anyone’s guess. With Wainwright, this team is the favorite to win the division. Without him, I am not sure they have enough firepower.
Bullpen—Ryan Franklin has done a great job as the closer considering the type of pitcher he is, and will continue to get the opportunities this season. They do have a few power arms in the pen in Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan. But I just think there is going to come a time when Franklin can no longer fool hitters, and they will need someone else to close, and I just don’t think they have that guy. And I don’t think their rotation is going to consistently deep into games, thus leaving this pen vulnerable.
Impact Rookie—Lance Lynn, RHP. As a junior at Ole Miss in 2008, Lynn teamed up with fellow RHP Cody Satterwhite, to form one of the most talented yet underachieving duos in the nation. Last year he went 13-10 with a 4.77 ERA in AAA. Though he got a fair shake at that open 5th rotation spot this spring, it doesn’t look like he’ll win it initially. St. Louis will need arms sooner rather than later and Lynn should be the first one they call upon.
Outlook—With a healthy Wainwright, there is a pretty good chance I have them winning the division, or I at least have to put them in the conversation. As long as Pujols is here they are going to be relevant, but I just think with that contract situation hanging over their heads, and the Wainwright injury, it may be a long season in St. Louis. They will still be a middle of the pack type of team in the central, but I put their odds at finishing 4th or 5th better than finishing 1st.
Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent
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