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The 2011 St. Louis Cardinals by Cards N Stuff

I’ve always wanted to do a player by player prediction post for the entire 25 man roster. Well…this year…I’m doin’ it! Below you’ll find a highly ambitious post regarding every single player on the Cards roster…and even one who isn’t, technically, with the team yet. Please take them all with a grain of salt. I really have no idea what I’m talking about! But, with baseball, I could be right just as easy as I could be wrong. So…grab a beer…plop down in your favorite chair…and enjoy the following predictions from Cards N Stuff!

THE FIVE STARTERS
What can we expect from the 2011 starting rotation in St. Louis?

1. Chris Carpenter
Carp is not the same pitcher we all remember. As a Cardinal fan, whenever I think of Carp, I’m reminded of a night out with friends in downtown Springfield. We were sitting in the basement of a local bar locally known for their wings (since closed) watching the Cards game. Well…I was watching the game…everyone else (not being baseball fans) was engaged in some highly important conversation about politics or education or building a barn with a shop fan that looks like a breast (true story). Eventually, the other Cards fan in our group arrived late. She immediately asked, “How’s the game?” to which I casually answered, “Carp’s going nine again tonight.” That was 2006. He had just completed a season with 7 complete games and was working on a 5 complete game season on his way to a World Series. Flash forward to 2010…second highest innings total with 235, highest games started total with 35, third highest win total with 16, and fourth lowest ERA (with 190+ IP) with 3.22…but only 1 complete game.

Why is that important? Because it indicates two concerns: 1) Carp is showing signs of decline…however slight. As a pitcher who can no longer finish games every fourth or fifth start, Carp is pulling out all the stops an inning or two earlier to get through the lineups. It’s getting harder to get outs in later innings. 2) Carp is leaving more and more games in the hands of the bullpen…a bullpen now without Kyle McClellan, and a bullpen now stretched to cover innings vacated by workhorse Adam Wainwright.

Carp may not be the Carp of old…but he’s still a pretty damn good version of Carp. Don’t expect a Cy Young run in 2011…those days are likely behind him…and don’t expect 2010 numbers either. After the workload of last season, expect Carp to scale it back just a bit. With fewer innings pitched and fewer games started (expect a couple starts missed due to nagging aches and pains), I see Carp going 33 games started and 210 innings pitched with a 3.30 ERA. With an improved offense behind him, that should be good enough to equal his wins total of last season but decrease his loss total a couple of games. Final line: 33 GS   210 IP   3.30 ERA   16 – 7 W-L

2. Jake Westbrook
Westbrook came to the Cardinals with a reputation as a durable pitcher who consistently logs 200+ IP by working groundball outs. Even though he was in his recovery year, he lived up to that reputation. Of course, he’s never been a Chris Carpenter. Pitching in the AL most of his career, Jake has never logged more than 215.2 IP in a season. Expect LaRussa to push that total this year. With Waino down, Carp in decline, K-Mac out of the ‘pen and looking for a huge jump in innings, Lohse in his “bounce-back” year, and Garcia still showing a need for an early hook…it falls to Jake to pick up those extra innings and save the ‘pen. Look for Westbrook to equal his 2005 start total with 34 and up his innings load to 220 IP.

An unexpected side effect…Westbrook has always been known (admittedly) as a second half pitcher. With his groundball focus, that’s no surprise. Later in the season, his body gets worn down and tired making his sinking pitches more effective. With TLR pushing him early to help the ‘pen cover the innings load, expect the “second half” to start earlier than usual for Westbrook. The result will be a 15 win season (equaling his highest mark) with 9 losses (covering innings means you gotta’ take your lumps in long games as well). Expect his second best ERA (with a full season of work) at 4.00 due in large part to his re-location status in the NL and the early jump start to his “second half” statistics. Final Line: 34 GS   220 IP   4.00 ERA   15 – 9 W-L

3. Jaime Garcia
Last season sure was impressive for the young lefty. Garcia finished 13 – 8 with 28 games started, 163.1 innings pitched, and a 2.70 ERA. He will not be so lucky in 2011. Much of 2010, Garcia was handled like radioactive material. Once it was spent, TLR and Dunc came running to dispose of the vulnerable leftovers quickly – before anyone was hurt. They will not be able to do so quite so much this season. In Garcia’s second year as a starter, he needs to up his innings total. I don’t know if his numbers will justify it, but with Waino down and K-Mac out of the ‘pen, Tony will be very protective of his relief pitchers. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Garcia on a 180 IP “hit it or die trying” mark this season. Of course, they’re not going to ruin the pitcher…but he is going to have to take his lumps more often than not in 2011. The bullpen cannot afford to bail him out every other start in the 6th inning while still being asked to cover Waino’s absence and K-Mac’s relocation. Of course, Spring Training performance aside (if you can call it that), Garcia’s arm may be ready for the load. He’s another year removed from surgery with an MLB season under his belt…and is reportedly strong. Ultimately, expect Garcia to struggle a bit but soldier on. His ERA will increase (perhaps dramatically) from 2010 (even Garcia said he hadn’t even done that in the minors) and his durability stats (GS and IP) will both go up by necessity. Final Line: 30 GS   185 IP   3.95 ERA   13 – 8 W-L

4. Kyle Lohse
What a conundrum. The Kyle Lohse express took the NL by storm in 2008. Lohse put up a 3.78 ERA in 200 IP and a 15 – 6 record. His first half was so dominant, Cards fans (and even some media types) were shocked that he wasn’t given more All-Star consideration. Unfortunately, his road since then has been less than smooth. Enter Spring Training 2011…where Kyle has been nothing short of dominant. I know, I know…Spring Training means nothing…except it does mean something. While it doesn’t mean Lohse will post “first half of 2008” numbers this year, it does seem to mean his forearm is finally functioning as expected. Look…Lohse expectations should be kept in check even with the forearm problem seemingly behind him.

In his 10 season career, Kyle has only reached the 200 IP mark twice (200 and 201)…and most seasons, hasn’t even come close. His 15 – 6 record in 08 was such a shock because it was…well…so shocking. It was easily his highest mark yet, and his sub 4 ERA was easily the lowest of his career (and the first sub 4 ERA in his career). Okay…all that perspective to say, even a “return to form” Kyle Lohse is not going to be a staff ace. Kyle will be considered successful if he can log 185 IP (higher than many of his previous marks…and remember, he hasn’t broken 12o IP since 08) with a sub 4 ERA. If he can do that in the fourth position on this rotation, the opposing pitcher match-ups he’ll draw should do the rest. Final Line: 31 GS   185 IP   3.95 ERA   13 – 8 W-L

5. Kyle McClellan
Ah…the X factor in the rotation. McClellan is poised to slide into the spot vacated by Adam Wainwright…sort of. Instead of heading up the staff, he’ll bring up the rear in the fifth spot. Why is that important? Because he’ll get fewer games started and should draw the back-end of the rotation against most teams. Unfortunately for Kyle, unlike Jaime Garcia in 2010, he’s going to have to endure his first MLB season as a starter with 2 key components missing: 1) The obvious…Waino in the rotation to eat innings and save the ‘pen for his starts…2) Himself in the bullpen to bail…um…himself out in the 6th inning. Unlike Garcia, when K-Mac gets in trouble in the 6th, he’s going to have to find a way to pitch out of it more often than not.

It seems McClellan is up for the task. He has a multitude of pitches at his disposal, and he seems to work more efficiently by design and nature than Garcia ever did in 2010. But dealing with a lineup 3 or 4 times in a game is a monumental task for a thus far career reliever. The innings load and increased exposure will be K-Mac’s biggest foes. Also unlike Garcia, K-Mac’s body has been used to about half the innings load he’ll be asked to shoulder in 2011. Even though Garcia had surgery the year before 2010, his body was still comfortable with a starter’s program. K-Mac’s body is going to have to figure it out on the fly…perhaps with a “dead arm” phase mid-season and a “shut down” period late in the year. Final Line: 28 GS   175 IP   4.05 ERA   12 – 7 W-L

THE STARTING EIGHT
With a couple changes to the Opening Day lineup, St. Louis thinks they’ve upgraded their offense just enough to conquer the NL Central.

6. Ryan Theriot SS
Theriot had a horrible Spring. Hitting under .200, no one in Cardinal Nation much cared for the “but I hardly ever struck out” excuse. Claiming he’s working on deeper counts and such, Theriot is clearly attempting to make himself into the leadoff hitter Tony craves. I don’t think he’s it…but TLR does, and that’s all that counts. Ryan has only hit over .300 twice in his 6 season career…and not at all since hitting .307 in 2008 (although his 2010 line was heavily influenced by a .242 post-trade BA). Defensively, he’s not impressive…just “okay.” His range is limited, his arm is suspect, and his instincts concern me after being moved from the position a couple years back. Ultimately, the club likes his league-leading singles total in front of Albert and Holliday as well as his “winning player” reputation. Personally, I think he ends up splitting the leadoff role with a resurgent Skip Schumaker (lefty/righty split?). He’ll provide a bit more offense on a consistent basis than deposed Brendan Ryan, but will the runs Ryan saved in the field outweigh the runs created by Theriot? Final Line: .265 BA   .330 OBP   40 RBI   4 HR

7. Colby Rasmus CF
This is Colby’s year. This young player is only trending upwards. With an improved (more mature) relationship with TLR and the rest of the clubhouse, this kid is going to see a huge year at the plate. Perhaps the biggest question mark for Colby is his defensive improvements. Can he consistently position himself in CF to avoid getting “burned” quite so much in 2011? Is his arm finally ready to showcase the ever popular “five tool” status it was projected to be? If Colby can learn to “hit the cutoff” and simply “hold the runner” with throws to second base at the right time, he can dramatically increase his standing with TLR. And honestly…I think he will. With a renewed focus in the field and a consistently deeper position, he’ll be better prepared to decrease the threat of advancing runners. Combine that with a better 2-strike approach at the plate, and Rasmus (dubbed “The Cheese” by Cardinal faithful) is geared up for a breakout season (perhaps even one where he gradually sees more ABs in the leadoff spot). Final Line: .285 BA   .370 OBP   75 RBI   30 HR

8. Albert Pujols 1B
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…No one plays with a chip on their shoulder better than Albert Pujols. With the 2010 MVP snub, the lack of a credible contract offer by the Cards thus far, and onslaught of “greedy!” tags being thrown his way, Albert is out to show just how valuable he can be in 2011 – as if we didn’t already know. He’ll play Gold Glove caliber first base, make a serious run at the Triple Crown, and finish as the NL MVP for 2011 (and then turn to Bill DeWitt and say, “NOW how much would you pay?”). There’s really not a lot to say about a player like Pujols, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

First, Pujols’ health is clearly more stable this season. The elbow surgery (no, not that surgery) has him feeling “normal” again, and his altered offseason workout has him looking lean and muscled for the first time in a long time (watching him run the bases this Spring was scary in light of the number of times he runs through signs at 3B). Second, his BA seems to be trending slightly downward as he tries to do too much at the plate…but two things about that: 1) Albert learns from his ABs better than any player I’ve seen. He’ll calm that down this season and self-correct a bit. 2) With another season of an improved Rasmus in front of him and a more comfortable Holliday behind him, he’ll have less on his shoulders in the three spot. The conclusion…another Hall of Fame season from Big Albert. Final Line: .330 BA   .450 OBP   120 RBI   43 HR

9. Matt Holliday LF
Holliday had an impressive season in 2010 (.312 BA .390 OBP 103 RBI 28 HR), but a bit below his potential. His first full season as a Cardinal was hampered a bit by a less than stellar first half (even though he consistently starts slow regardless of his situation). Expect that restriction to be over and done with as he enters his second full season in Busch. His offense should see a slight increase while his defense should continue to be surprisingly reliable in LF. Perhaps the best thing to say about Holliday’s 2011…he’s much more comfortable in his multi-million dollar skin. Final Line: .320 BA   .400 OBP   110 RBI   30 HR

 

10. Lance Berkman RF
Oh, boy…Lance Berkman. I was cautiously excited when we signed Berkman. Now, after Spring Training, I’m more cautious than excited. Lance was not pretty this Spring. His swing looked uncomfortable and downright ugly at times. His defense was the talk of camp when camp started…now his offense is the hot topic around “the Nation.” Honestly, I expect his defense will be average. His lack of range in RF will cost us a few runs…and runners certainly won’t fear his arm when rounding third. In fact, the best “throw from RF to the plate” situation is likely dependent on Skip’s arm at 2B on the relay. But all in all, he’ll be fine in RF (it’ll just be hard to watch after seeing Ludwick man the left-handed power alley).

Offensively…I’m not so sure. I expect a Troy Glaus-like season from Berkman. It’ll take a bit for his power swing to develop, but his RBI swing should be in play early in the season. Expect doubles, singles, and “gappers” to be prevalent early on, but don’t expect many HRs in April or May…or perhaps even June. However, around July, Big Puma will get locked in and his HR totals should start to improve. If Berkman can stay healthy and in the lineup, he’ll be effective…if not a true “force” until July. But don’t expect the All-Star to step to the plate until at least late May…oh, and expect a dip in HR totals from the outset (he can’t “flick” one over the LF wall in Busch like he could the wall in Houston). Final Line: .265 BA   .410 OBP   82 RBI   17 HR

11. David Freese 3B
Freese, like Berkman, could suffer from At-Bat-itis…although, it looks as if David is strong and ready to go if Spring Training is any indication. In limited time last season, Freese showed himself to be a credible RBI threat in the 5 spot. He excels in runners in scoring position, and he has the ability to drive the ball to all fields. I would, however, caution fans against unrealistic expectations. David still has not put together a full season at the MLB level. All indications suggest he won’t have any trouble at all – he’s tough-minded and takes strong at-bats – but we really have no idea what a full season of exposure will do to him. Likely, he’ll be fine…but let’s wait until he does “fine” before we predict “outstanding.”

I think David has the ability to hit .300 at some point in his career…but I don’t think it happens this season. Over a full and healthy year, I expect David to start strong, struggle mid-season as pitchers in the Central adjust, and then finish stable as adjustments are made. He’ll be consistent through most of the season and should get plenty of RBI opportunities, but if Berkman does half his job, Freese will be the man pitchers attack (limiting his walk totals). Also, David himself said fans didn’t get to see him at full strength last season. That, and his minor league numbers, suggest an increase in HR totals…but restricted at-bats and increased plate exposure will combine to prevent him from reaching 20. Oh, and in the field…David will be good…perhaps the best third sacker since Rolen…but certainly not the “next Rolen.” Final Line: .287 BA   .350 OBP   70 RBI   15 HR

12. Yadier Molina C
There’s no reason to believe Yadi won’t have another outstanding season behind the plate. If Gerald Laird is the catcher we think he is, Yadi could even see slight improvement as his knees get the occasional day off. But catching this staff with a young, stumbling Garcia and a “new to the rotation” McClellan may take its toll on his offensive numbers. Despite what Pujols thinks, Yadi is not a .300 hitter. But, a healthy Freese and competent Berkman should keep Yadi in the seven spot where he belongs, resulting in improvement from his 2010 BA of .262. Of course, if both of those players succeed – even marginally, in Lance’s case – there won’t be many RBIs left for Yadi to pick up. Expect his RBI totals to regress a bit due to sheer lack of opportunity (old-knees-Berkman and delicate-ankles-Freese won’t exactly be makin’ a living out of scoring from first). Final Line: .275 BA   .340 OBP   50 RBI   6 HR

13. Skip Schumaker 2B
Skip Schumaker is not going to finish his career with a .300+ career batting average…perhaps because he may not make it as a Cardinal post-TLR and another manager/team may not work quite so hard to find him a spot. Personally, I love having Skip on the team, but it seems like every year there is a struggle to find a role for him. Right now, we’re shoe-horning him into a second base position that he clearly struggles with despite all the extra infield work. This season, we should see a more consistent Skip at 2B. He worked hard this offseason to redefine his body and habits as an infielder, and the club is clearly trying to get him comfortable with Theriot as his everyday SS. But any Cards fan will tell you, Skip’s value is found at the plate.

Last season was an aberration for Skip. In 2011, he’ll rebound and find a consistent middle ground between his .300 seasons and his .265 2010 campaign, but his struggles against LHP will continue. In fact, his RHP/LHP split was perhaps the only predictable part of Skip’s season last year. As such, look for Punto/Greene to get work at 2B against lefties. Also, when Theriot shows he can’t handle the leadoff spot everyday and Skip shows he’s offensively sound again, TLR is going to start mix-and-matching Skip/Theriot against RHP/LHP in the leadoff role. Overall, Skip should see an across the board increase in his offensive numbers as an improved BA in the lower half of the order for much of the season will lead to more RBI opportunities and success. Final Line: .290 BA   .355 OBP   45 RBI   4 HR

THE BENCH
This year’s bench looks young at first glance, but many players have MLB level experience in just such a role. The predictions below assume each player will be on the 25-man roster the entire season (not likely).

14. Allen Craig OF/INF
Craig was supposed to be an answer at 3B if Freese coudn’t play more than 4/5 games a week. Limited time at the position in Spring Training suggests that’s not really an option. He could see time at 1B, but El Hombre isn’t exactly begging for time off…especially this year. Instead, most of Craig’s ABs will come in RF (where his glove is adequate) for Berkman. Perhaps a few ABs can be found in LF (where his glove is less than adequate) early on as Holliday requires occasional time off to rest his mysterious toe injury – primarily because Craig’s bat still injects some pop in a power position – but all in all, Craig will struggle to find ABs. Sure, Berkman will need some scheduled time off to keep him strong…but if Berkman can go, then the Cardinals are going to look for a strong and consistent return on their $8 million investment.

Allen Craig had a great Spring Training…but he played nearly everyday. In 2010, his bat struggled to find consistent playing time, and it showed in his plate appearances. I had the opportunity to ask Craig (Cards Caravan) if he had changed anything in his preparation for a spot role. His answer…a cranky, “No…I just didn’t have any experience.” Look…I’m sure he’ll improve a bit from 2010…but he’s still going to struggle in an occasional bench role. He needs to play consistently to be effective. His numbers will see a small bump due to increased MLB experience and a more secure spot on the roster…but he’ll still struggle with fewer ABs (remember, the Ludwick trade created several starts for Jay/Craig). Final Line: .250 BA   .300 OBP   20 RBI   4 HR

15. Jon Jay OF
Jay has shown an ability to hit in any situation – whether starting, pinch hitting, or coming in late as a defensive replacement. His swing is consistent and durable. As a line drive hitter, he can hit to all fields and give Tony an excellent option off the bench against RHP. More capable of spot ABs off the bench than his counterpart – Craig – Jay will have a productive year in 2011, but don’t expect superhuman numbers comparable to his “Ludwick trade” numbers in 2010. It’s likely he’s used to get on base more than drive in runs, so his RBI totals will not be stellar, but his glove will earn him more than a few late-inning mop up ABs in RF for Berkman. Interestingly enough, Jay may suffer a bit from his own success. For some reason, Jon has found himself one of the more “talked about” STL outfielders when trade possibilities come up. As such, he won’t be flying under the radar anymore. Final Line: .295 BA   .350 OBP   25 RBI   2 HR

16. Tyler Greene INF/OF
Greene is a guy that “has to” in 2011; unfortunately, rarely does “has to” translate into “will do.” His 2009 and 2010 numbers were nearly identical (108 ABs/.222 BA…104 ABs/.221 BA) except for his walk totals. In 2010, Tyler walked 13 times compared to just 4 in 09. The trend seems to confirm what the naked eye can see…his plate discipline at the MLB level is getting better. The result was a much better OBP in 2010 (.328) than in 2009 (.270). The book on Greene in Cards camp is simply this: A ton of talent, versatile, and a live bat…but can’t escape his own nerves. The general consensus is that Tyler just needs to calm down and play up to and within his ability. So far, he seems to be doing that. He’s taking better ABs, cutting down on his strikeouts and his errors in the field, and just overall improving.

As the only player on the team that can really play SS other than Theriot, Greene had a secure spot from day one. Add to that his new found ability to play a RH CF when Rasmus needs a break as well as his already established 3B and 2B ability, and Greene may get more ABs than just about any bench player. With his previous two years experience, his increased role on the roster (no options left will do that for you), and his versatility, Tyler should see an improvement over the last two years. He won’t be the second coming of 2006 Aaron Miles, but he’ll be effective. Final Line: .245 BA   .330 OBP   15 RBI   3 HR

17. Daniel Descalso INF
Double D made the team simply because Nick Punto is starting the season on the DL. Keep that in mind when you get to DD’s final line (it will be based on a partial season only…Punto will bump him back to AAA when he returns). He’s versatile. His glove is solid. He’s a tough, “scrappy” player. And he seems to possess a contact bat…but how good is he in a spot role? He’ll likely be used to pinch hit and perhaps as insurance until Punto comes back…as a young guy…with 34 MLB ABs. Don’t expect much out of DD. He’ll get his chances to pinch hit as Tony mix-and-matches his bullpen to find out just exactly what he has in what relievers…but that may be about it. He’ll get a start or two over the first month of the season…but Tony’s going to be focused on pushing with his starting eight to grab a lead in the Central in April. He won’t have time to make sure his utility infielder from AAA who won’t be with the team after mid-May stays fresh. Final Line: .300 BA   .340 OBP   2 RBI   0 HR

*17a. Nick Punto INF
Punto’s injured right now, but he should return late April to mid-May and take Descalso’s spot. When he does come back, he’s going to be the odd man out if everything else goes according to plan. This will be the guy that keeps Tony up at night as he tries to find him ABs. Without a Spring Training behind him, he’s going to start out in a hole…and just when he gets his groove on, the All-Star break is going to hit. He’s got a good glove, he’s versatile, he’s got experience, and he has a history of being a starter in his career…but lack of playing time is going to hurt him. He’ll be insurance only on this team.

On the bright side, finally getting his hernia properly diagnosed and addressed should help out quite a bit. On the down side, without a full Spring Training to build conditioning and strength, he’s going to suffer from decreased punch in his bat. Punto could be that late-inning replacement for Schumaker, and he will likely take ABs away from Tyler Greene at 3B and 2B. In the end, however, he’s coming too late to the party. It’s hard to elbow your way into playing time in a crowded room. In May, that’s exactly what he’ll find. A crowded room. Final Line: .245 BA   .320 OBP   17 RBI   1 HR

18. Gerald Laird C
Our new backup catcher is showing well in Spring Training…but it’s only Spring Training. Still, we should see an increase in offense from the now-retired Jason LaRue. Pitchers apparently like throwing to the defensively strong catcher – in fact, Lohse may be inline for an every start match-up – so we shouldn’t see any trouble getting him about a start a week. While Laird’s no offensive powerhouse, even in his best seasons, the decrease in workload for both catchers should help Gerald and Yadi stay fresh. Final Line: .250 BA   .310 OBP   15 RBI   3 HR

THE BULLPEN
Our bullpen is a borderline mess. That combined with the fact that bullpen numbers tend to be a jumble of unpredictability means we won’t be predicting numbers (not many, anyway)…but we will say a few words about each player’s 2011 season.

19. Ryan Franklin (Closer)
Franky looked pretty good in Spring Training. He’s energized, talking about playing after this year, and looking to show he can do this job to other teams that likely don’t believe he can. Even though he didn’t get many save opportunities in 2010, he still racked up 27 (down from 38) with only 2 blown saves (down from 5) to finish with a 93% save percentage (up from 88%). His ERA took a hit from 09 to 2010, and he does look a bit more vulnerable than he did in his 09 All-Star campaign…but we knew that was going to happen. All in all, the improved offense as well as the lack of Waino and damaged bullpen should result in a significant increase in save opportunities for Franklin. Look for him to be successful early on and then start getting the “save him for late in the season” treatment from Tony and Dunc. Only problem is…Boggs/Motte aren’t inspiring anyone with their recent Spring outings. In other words, Franklin may end up with fewer blown saves than the rest of the bullpen combined.

20. Miguel Batista RHP
Batista has been coveted for quite a while by the Cardinals. He started slow but then finished strong in Spring Training. He’s a veteran with good stuff and a durable arm prepped for multiple innings. He could easily assume the Kyle McClellan role in the bullpen. Keep in mind, Ryan Franklin came into camp expecting to get a chance to be a starter when he first joined the Cardinals. He ended up in the bullpen as a surprisingly successful 8th inning setup man. I can see Batista serving a similar role. With Boggs and Motte struggling, and K-Mac in the rotation, Batista could take his ability to get RH and LH batters out and translate that into a setup role for Ryan Franklin.

21. Trevor Miller LHP
Miller sure proved me wrong a couple years ago. I had next to zero confidence in “Miller Time.” Since then, he’s become perhaps our most reliable reliever…when used correctly. When Trevor came into camp, he was “the other lefty” behind super-celebrated Dennys Reyes. Reyes has since disappeared while Miller soldiers on…pseudo-injured shoulder and all. He’s become the most effective left-handed reliever the Cardinals have seen on their roster in quite a while. But when Miller is exposed to righties, he gets shelled. With the mess that is the bullpen, Tony will have to resist the temptation to use Trevor against right-handed hitters late in games. If he can do that…and if Tallet can actually fulfill the second lefty role…AND if Miller’s arm doesn’t fall off…he’ll enjoy another successful season.

22. Brian Tallet LHP
I don’t know much about Tallet…but from what I’ve seen, he’s not impressive. He looks like he throws in the mid to upper 80’s (look out!!!) with sweeping stuff. A review of his numbers in 2010 suggests his inflated ERA is largely due to improper exposure against RH batters (206 ABs vs. 102 ABs against LHs). That won’t be a mistake TLR makes…which could lead to a significant improvement for his 2011 numbers…but I’ll believe it when I see it. Of course, I didn’t believe in Miller when he joined the team and look where that got me.

23. Jason Motte RHP
This guy is scary…and this time, I don’t mean because of his upper 90s velocity. He’s been struggling. I don’t know what his Spring Training velocity was like, but his ERA was atrocious. His control was all over the place (except the strike zone), and the outs he did get seemed largely aided by poor swings and flyball outs. I’m concerned. Motte has a history of mysterious problems (sudden decrease in velocity, odd shoulder injuries, etc.). Combine that with his as-of-yet inability to develop a strong secondary pitch, and Motte’s fastball just ain’t gonna’ cut it this year. My gut tells me he’ll figure it out if Tony just keeps throwing him in there…but can we afford to do that early in the season when building a strong lead in the division is going to be critical to a Waino-less team? Especially with Grienke out for the Brewers early and the Reds’ staff struggling with nagging injuries early? I think Motte will be okay second half, but the first half is going to be rocky.

24. Mitchell Boggs RHP
I haven’t been near as concerned about Boggs as others seem to be. He hasn’t had a perfect Spring, but he has been sporadically effective (unlike Motte). His velocity combined with his more developed pitch selection will carry him through the early part of the season until he finds his groove. Ultimately, we have to realize what we have in Boggs at this point in time. He’s still new to a relief role. He’s always been vulnerable to the home run. But in the end, I think he’ll be okay…in fact, I believe he projects as our closer of the future. As such, I think you’ll see Boggs spelling Franklin throughout the season in save situations.

25. Bryan Augenstein RHP
No one really knows what to expect from this guy. He’s been nearly perfect in Spring Training with exciting stuff, but he’s struggled to produce at the MLB level thus far. Duncan suggested a small tweak or change will lead to increased success in the majors, but that is all conjecture at this point. I don’t like his three quarter arm angle (I never like that), but I do like his height on the mound. He’ll be used to cover multiple innings out of the ‘pen…and he should be good at it. With a rotation minus Waino and including two young starters expected to throw fewer than 325 innings between them (K-Mac and Garcia), Augenstein could end up in almost a piggy back role like you see in A ball starts. Bottom line, Augenstein could stick with the team all season because of his starter pedigree and ability to throw multiple innings. If he struggles at all, though…watch out Fernando Salas!

WRAP-UP!

That’ll do it for our pre-Opening Day post. The first game of the season is less than 24 hours away, and BOY are we excited!!! So grab your hotdogs and Buds…check the TV…prep the fridge…and…

GO CARDS!!!

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CLICK TO READ: Cardinals Must Win 8 of Next 11 or Sell & Start the Youth Movement

CLICK TO READ: How You Fix the Cardinals Bullpen

CLICK TO READ: FIXING ADAM WAINWRIGHT IS SIMPLE – JUST LEAVE HIM AT HOME

CLICK TO READ: What if the Cardinals are Sellers?

CLICK TO READ: Cardinals are a Bad Team

CLICK TO READ: Inconsistent Cardinals Need to Find Out What Luke Voit Can Do

CLICK TO READ: The Magneuris Sierra Effect…

Player of the Month Luke Voit Leads Plethora of Memphis Mafia Hitmen

CLICK TO READ: Muddled Messages Messing with Cardinals Mojo

CLICK TO READ: Can Jedd Gyorko Rescue the Cardinals from Themselves?

CLICK TO READ: Switch It Up! Cardinals Need to Swap Diaz and Carpenter in the Lineup

CLICK TO READ: If They Won’t Fire Matheny, Here’s 5 Things the Cardinals Must Do ASAP

CLICK TO READ: As Piscotty Goes, So Go the Cardinals…

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