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St. Louis Cardinals 2013 Preview

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals had a rough offseason last year, losing arguably the best player in the league in Albert Pujols, arguably the best manager in the league in Tony LaRussa, and the best pitching coach in the league in Dave Duncan. To make matters worse, they lost Chris Carpenter to injury for the entire regular season. Rather than cut their losses and rebuild, the Cards signed Carlos Beltran to replace Pujols and former St. Louis catcher Mike Matheny to manage them and by season’s end they were just two wins short of their 2011 total.

This year the Cards are losing Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman and aren’t looking to acquire any big free agents. That means we can expect a younger Cards team in 2013 behind the familiar faces we’re used to. Let’s take a look at what the Cards roster is shaping up to be on Opening Day.

2012 Team Rankings:

Wins: 88

Runs: 5th Overall

Batting Average: 4th Overall

ERA: 8th Overall

WHIP: 11th Overall

Catchers: Yadier Molina, Tony Cruz – Grade: B+

Yadier has always been a great defensive catcher but with 14 HR in 2011 and 22 HR (and a combined .310 BAA) he has come on strong as an offensive force as well. He rarely strikes out and stays healthy, it’s hard to come by a better catcher.

Cruz is a young backup catcher prone to the strike out but doesn’t play much with Yadier holding down the plate.

First Base: Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Ty Wigginton – Grade: A-

In his first full season in the league, Craig batted .307 with 22 HR and 92 RBI in just 119 games. With Pujols and Berkman gone, the Cards have definitely found yet another star to take over the first base bag.

Carpenter will find his way into the lineup all over the infield. In his first major league season, he gave the Cards plenty to be excited about batting .294 with solid all-around numbers and gives this team some serious depth.

As if they weren’t deep enough, the Cards added Wigginton who had a rough year in Philly last year batting just .235 but is a reliable veteran power hitter who plays as hard as anyone.

Second Base: Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma – Grade: C-

Descalso has his moments, but after batting just .227 in 426 at-bats last year he hardly seems like more than just a guy who can play all over the infield.

Kozma has only played 42 regular season games the last two seasons but with a career .236 BAA in six minor league years, the former first round pick doesn’t inspire much to be excited about at second base either.

Shortstop: Rafael Furcal, Pete Kozma, Ryan Jackson – Grade: C

Furcal isn’t the player he once was but put up a solid season at short batting .264 with 69 R, 49 RBI, and 12 SB. At 35, he’ll continue to decline this season, if he can even stay healthy.

Jackson only played a couple of weeks in 2012 but has looked pretty good in the minors and looks to have the potential to be a .270-.280 hitter who can put up a lot of doubles, some homers, and 70+ RBI per season if given the chance.

Third Base: David Freese, Matt Carpenter, Ty Wigginton – Grade: B

Although he’s been up since 2009, last season was Freese’s first full season starting at third. He has proven to be a .290+ hitter in every season he’s been up and put up 20 HR and 79 RBI last season. As far as third basemen go, Freese is among the best if he is healthy.

Outfield: Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, John Jay, Shane Robinson – Grade: B+

Beltran turned out to be a great get for St. Louis and helped soften the blow off Pujols’ departure with 32 HR, 97 RBI, 83 R, and 13 SB. He turns 36 next April but appears to be in his best form since 2008.

Holliday is as good as they come when healthy. In 2012 he batted .295 with 27 HR and 102 RBI – expect him to do about the same in 2013.

A .300 hitter in three seasons, Jay was key for the Cards outfield last season batting .305 with 19 SB and 70 R. He’s a reliable defender with very solid skills though he’s just a singles hitter on offense.

Robinson is another young outfielder in the not-going-to-blow-anyone-away John Jay mold. He was mostly limited to pinch hit opportunities last season and may get more time on the field this season.

Starting Rotation: Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller – Grade: A-

Wainwright missed all of 2011 but was solid in his return going 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. At the same time, Wainwright had a 2.53 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in the two seasons before going down so we’ll have to see if the 31-year-old ace can return to that kind of production.

Carpenter essentially missed all of last season, just as he missed 2007 and 2008. Of course, when he’s healthy, he eats up 230+ innings a season and dominates. From 2009-2011, Carpenter went 44-22 with a 3.02 ERA and 1.16 WHIP.

Lynn was huge down the stretch for the Cards moving from the bullpen to the rotation. He went 18-7 with a 3.78 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. The former first-round pick looks like he is only going to improve in 2013.

The 35-year-old Westbrook has continued to be reliable for the Cardinals as he went 13-11 with a 3.97 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. He’s not going to blow anyone away but is definitely a reliable arm to send out every four days.

Garcia spent much of the season on the disabled list but managed to go 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 20 starts.

The loss of Kyle Lohse is a big one but it opens up the door for Shelby Miller, the eighth top prospect in the country. The 21-year-old allowed just two runs in 13.2 innings last season while striking out 16. Miller has future ace written all over him.

Bullpen: Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Marc Rzepczynski, Edward Mujica, Trevor Rosenthal, Fernando Salas, Randy Choate – Grade: B+

In his first season as closer, Jason Motte proved that he is already one of the best. He led the league with 42 saves while putting up a 2.75 ERA and .92 WHIP. I’d expect more of the same in 2013.

Boggs put up a career year in 2012 with a 2.21 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 73 innings proving to be a reliable set up man.

Mujica was struggling with a 4.38 ERA in Miami last season but put up a 1.03 ERA and .87 WHIP in 26 innings after coming over to St. Louis.

Rzepczynski and Salas both had mediocre 4.00+ ERA seasons but are still young and reliable.

The 22-year-old Rosenthal had a 2.78 ERA and .93 WHIP in his first 22.2 major league innings. He is a natural starter but obviously the Cards are stacked in the rotation.

Choate is a proven left-handed specialist and although he is 37 he owns a 2.56 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over the last two seasons.

Team Grade: B+

Fearless Prediction: 90-72, 1st in the NL Central

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