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Running down the rosters: St. Louis Cardinals

Feb 13, 2012, 6:00 PM EDT

2011 World Series Game 7 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals Getty Images

The World Series champion Cardinals will go it without Albert Pujols, but the additions of Adam Wainwright (back from Tommy John surgery) and Carlos Beltran should sufficiently make up for that. On paper this year’s team looks just as good as the one that won it all. Of course, last year’s winners wouldn’t have sniffed the postseason playing in any division besides the NL Central, so there is room for improvement.

Rotation
Adam Wainwright – R
Chris Carpenter – R
Jaime Garcia – L
Kyle Lohse – R
Jake Westbrook – R

Bullpen
Jason Motte – R
Fernando Salas – R
Mark Rzepczynski – L
Kyle McClellan – R
Mitchell Boggs – R
J.C. Romero – L
Eduardo Sanchez – R

SP next in line: Lance Lynn (R), McClellan, Shelby Miller (R), Brandon Dickson (R)
RP next in line: Scott Linebrink (R), Lynn, Jess Todd (R), Maikel Cleto (R), Adam Reifer (R), Samuel Freeman (L)

I didn’t leave a spot for Lynn here, even though I project him as the Cardinals’ fourth best starter. He’s quite a luxury for the team at the moment. The Cardinals could try to dump Westbrook’s salary and slide him into the rotation or move McClellan and use him as a long man. The best option, though, is probably to stand pat and see what happens this spring. I doubt Carpenter and Garcia are going to combine to make 66 starts again. The Cards are sure to need at least six starters, and as great as Miller will be someday, they’re not going to want to have to call on him in the first half.

The bullpen should be strong, even if neither Motte nor Salas can quite duplicate their 2.2x ERAs from last season. The closer’s gig is Motte’s to lose after a fine postseason that included five saves.

Lineup
SS Rafael Furcal – S
RF Carlos Beltran – S
LF Matt Holliday – R
1B Lance Berkman – S
3B David Freese – R
CF Jon Jay – L
C Yadier Molina – R
2B Daniel Descalso – L

Bench
C Tony Cruz – R
INF Tyler Greene – R
INF Alex Cora – L
2B/OF Skip Schumaker – L
OF Shane Robinson – R

Disabled list: Allen Craig (R)
Next in line: C Bryan Anderson (L), C Koyie Hill (S), 1B/OF Mark Hamilton (L), 1B Matt Adams (L), 3B Matt Carpenter (L), INF Pete Kozma (R), INF-OF Eugenio Velez (S), OF Adron Chambers (L), OF Erik Komatsu (L)(Rule 5)

The offense doesn’t lack for big names even with Pujols gone, but I do have my concerns. Berkman and Molina are due for at least mild declines, and Berkman, Furcal, Beltran and Freese all rank among the biggest injury risks at their positions. Given those issues, one would think the Cardinals would have invested more in their bench this winter.

Of course, the bench situation would look a lot better if Craig makes a quick return from knee surgery. He’s the team’s third best outfielder, and he’ll be great insurance for Beltran and Berkman if healthy.

As is, the bench spots are largely up for grabs, with only Schumaker completely assured of his place (though Greene is probably safe). Cruz will battle Anderson to become Molina’s backup, with Hill possibly sneaking in if neither youngster impresses. Cora, Hamilton and Carpenter are the candidates for the sixth infield spot. Robinson, Chambers and Komatsu will compete for one gig in the outfield. I don’t have much faith in anyone from that group, but that’ll be Craig’s spot eventually.

My guess is that the Cardinals start strong, but that injuries take a toll as the year goes on. There may be enough pitching depth to get them back to 90 wins anyway, but the NL Central crown could come down to whether Furcal, Beltran and others are close to 100 percent come September.

  1. proudlycanadian - Feb 13, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    Any room for Oswalt? How would he fit in if he signed with St. Louis?

    • okwhitefalcon - Feb 13, 2012 at 6:26 PM

      They either trade McClellan or get Westbrook or Lohse to waive (or buy out) their no trade.

      It’s a good roster but questions exist up and down with health concerns.

      Holliday, Furcal, Berkman and Beltran have got to stay healthy while Freese has to do the same and hit like he did in October. Sobering news coming from Cards beat reporter Joe Strauss today concerning Allen Craig and the fact he has not swung a bat or sprinted since WS Game 7 – and he won’t for rest of February.

      Wainwright has to come back and be Wainwright immediately, there’s not much room for error with the starting rotation and the bullpen has to pitch like it did in the late season and through the playoff run.

      I really have no idea how this group will do, could finish .500 or win the division going away.

      • brewcitybummer - Feb 13, 2012 at 6:39 PM

        If someone could guarantee you now that the winner of the NL central would win it by 10+ games, you would have to guess Cincy right?

      • okwhitefalcon - Feb 13, 2012 at 7:03 PM

        No.

        I like what Cincy has done with their bullpen but that’s about it.

        Latos could prove to be a valuable pick up or could go 10-15 and give up 40 bombs in GABP. Either way, he’s going to have to stay healthy and throw 200 innings+ and I don’t see that happening.

        Health concerns at 3rd with Rolen, Cozart is an aging inexperienced prospect coming off an injury and their outfield rotation may very well strike out 600 times.

        Votto will be Votto, Phillips maybe the best 2nd baseman in the game and the kid catcher Mesocaro maybe ROY.

        Plenty to win the division but they’re not winning it by 10 games, especially with Dusty Baker running the show.

        This probably shoulda gone in a Reds Roster thread but I took the bait, apologies.

      • brewcitybummer - Feb 13, 2012 at 7:22 PM

        I might add to your Reds analysis that Stubbs still has a chance to be a 30-30 guy and Jay Bruce could become an elite hitter this year. I’m not asking who will win the Central, just who could most realistically run away with it. I would say 50% Red, 40% Cards, 5% Brewers and 5% among the other 3.

      • paperlions - Feb 13, 2012 at 7:24 PM

        Cinci won 79 games last year; they haven’t done that much to improve the roster. Same offense (Votto, Bruce, Phillips and a bunch of below average to bad hitters), Latos helps, bullpen will be a little better…..assuming last year represents the talent level of the roster…they win, what? 85 games? They could creep up to 90, but the just aren’t a good enough team to walk away with the division.

      • paperlions - Feb 13, 2012 at 7:52 PM

        Yes, if everything goes perfectly, the Reds could run away with the division….that is what happened 2 years ago. It isn’t likely to repeat itself. If the Reds play like they are capable, they should be competitive….but the current roster isn’t going to scare anyone.

  2. fearlessleader - Feb 13, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    “Of course, last year’s winners wouldn’t have sniffed the postseason playing in any division besides the NL Central….”

    That’s not entirely fair, is it? The Cards won the Wild Card, for starters, meaning they didn’t simply triumph with a poor record in a weak division. They admittedly struggled against NL West teams (16-17), but within their own division (44-35) and against the vaunted NL East (22-13) they were solid.

  3. westtribetobe - Feb 13, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    Gotta look at it this way… you lose Pujols, OK. You get Carlos Beltran and Adam Wainwright… Jaime’s a year older/ better, Freese is the man… If Oswalt joins then this club becomes a force, and even without him, I’d say the central is already won. Fielder = 3x Aramis and 1/3 of the season without Braun is too big a hole for a recovering Weeks to work out of. Probably get a lot of dislikes for this one but watch the cards go deep in the playoffs yet again in 2012.

  4. spudchukar - Feb 13, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    Critics need to keep in mind, that the Cards didn’t have a shortstop, or bullpen in the first half of 2011. So it isn’t just the addition of a returning Wainwright, and Beltran that helps balance out the loss of Pujols. Other questions marks lean positive. Freeze, Jay, and Craig have now proved for 2 years that they are legitimate offensive threats. Descalso emerged as a clutch stick, and a marvel defensively, including SS in a pinch.

    The bullpen was getting it done with smoke and mirrors, and now it is teeming with talented young arms. Motte, Salas, Sanchez, Lynn, Boggs, and Scrabble all took a giant steps forward. With this much depth it is hard to imagine anything but a stellar performances.

    The primary difference between the Reds and Cards reside with the question marks. St. Louis’ youngsters have a couple of years of success to support the optimism, while Cincinnati, has to hope for improvement or a return to form.

    If the Cards have a weakness it would reside in the starting pitching. A positive 2012 for Westmark is certainly not a given. This is why the addition of Oswalt, is vital. While some consider his acquisition a luxury, I contend it plugs the one obvious hole.

    No one knows how the season will shake out, but if you honestly assess your roster, and see only one obvious weakness, why roll the dice? Particularly, when the other 4 starters all have arm trouble in their collective histories.

    • paperlions - Feb 13, 2012 at 7:55 PM

      This.

      The Cardinal roster that finished last year was a LOT better than the one that started the year….and to that they have added Beltran and Wainright while losing Pujols. If they can replace Westbrook with Oswalt; this team could win 95 games.

    • okwhitefalcon - Feb 13, 2012 at 7:56 PM

      I’d love for them to roll the dice and add Oswalt and worry about the subtraction later, that seems like the obvious move.

      My gut feeling is that they just don’t trust the monetary risk reaping high reward, they know not signing him leaves them spending flexibility as the season goes on if addtional needs become more clear.

      They also know they’ve got Shelby Miller waiting in Memphis if something goes wrong rotation wise. It would be great to wait til September to give him a look but let’s face it, if the kid starts out 6-1 with a sub 3 ERA, a barely over 1 WHIP and a 5 to 1 K/BB ratio he’s gonna get called
      up if something goes awry.

  5. jason1214 - Feb 13, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    Forget Albert, Cards will really miss LaRussa & Duncan. Mark it down. If everything goes right, 87-88 wins.

    Reds fans, enjoy Dusty wearing out your bullpen, signed Cub fans.

  6. redbirdfan81 - Feb 14, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Okay, you completely lost credibility when you said that in any other division they wouldn’t have sniffed the playoffs…they earned their way into the playoffs by winning the Wild Card which is comparison against the REST OF THE NATIONAL LEAGUE! Get with it if you want to be viable. Yes we’ll miss AP & TLR & Dunc, but with Waino coming back, Beltran added and a solid year from Mr. MVP, David Freese, this team has to be considered the front runner for the NL Central!

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