MLB MLB Team News NL Central — 23 February 2011
The Cards would have been the odds on favorite to win the central this season. Regardless of Albert Pujols’ ongoing contract dispute he will be in a Cardinals uniform on opening day and for the rest of the year barring some unforeseen trade. The pitching staff was loaded with the emergence of Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook’s bounce back year adding to the already lethal combo of Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. However, with a devastating injury to Wainwright that could cost him the season, St. Louis slips to the third spot in the NL Central.

The offense should remain solid with Pujols and Matt Holliday carrying the weight, and the addition of Lance Berkman is a high risk high reward situation. While Berkman undoubtedly still has some juice left in the tank at the plate, it will be interesting to see if his knees will be able to hold up for an entire season in right field. Colby Rasmus, regardless of his clubhouse disputes with Tony LaRussa, is an elite young talent and should continue his path into the upper tier of major league players. The infield is nothing special outside of Pujols, but should be more than enough to get them by. All in all, this is a solid team that should still be able to contend for the division, but without Wainwright, likely will fall short of the playoffs.

Key Additions: Lance Berkman, Ryan Theriot, Gerald Laird

Key Losses: Brad Penny, Brendan Ryan, Felipe Lopez

Lineup:

C: Yadier Molina
1B: Albert Pujols
2B: Skip Schumaker
3B: David Freese
SS: Ryan Theriot
LF: Matt Holliday
CF: Colby Rasmus
RF: Lance Berkman

Rotation:

1: Adam Wainwright
2: Chris Carpenter
3: Jaime Garcia
4: Jake Westbrook
5: Kyle Lohse
CL: Ryan Franklin

Critical Players to Success:

Ryan Theriot, David Freese, Skip Shumaker: The Cardinals don’t have any big names in the infield outside of Pujols, and will need at least one of these three to be a consistent hitter in their lineup to bridge the gap to the middle of the order. If all three of these guys start struggling at the plate, the Cardinals will have a huge hole in their lineup.

Jaime Garcia: Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter form one of the deadliest 1-2 punches in the majors, but the Cards could use a strong season from at least one of their 3-4-5 guys if they want to win what should be a tough central division. Garcia had a tremendous rookie year, and if he can continue his success, is more than capable of being that guy.

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