April 02, 2006

NL Central - Cardinals

For some reason, everyone expects the Cards to just roll over everyone else in the division. Let's look at what they have though.

On offense, Pujols is the best offensive player in the league, no argument. If Edmonds and Rolen stay healthy they should also form a great core for this offense. However, Edmonds is getting older and is always banged up, and Rolen still isn't 100% from his injury last year. Eckstein is a quality sparkplug-type leadoff guy and great defensively. Yadier Molina has a little pop but only really has value as a defensive catcher. But 2b, LF and to a lesser extent RF are holes in this lineup. Encarnacion is a above average outfielder...but that's all you can ever say about him. In left, we have the Taguchi/Bigbie/Rodriguez quasi-platoon. Which is a combination of veteran utility guy, average player, and emerging above-average player. Worst of all, Spivey had a terrible spring offensively and defensively and lost the 2b job to Aaron Miles, who could only post a 661 OPS in Coors field last year.

Pitching wise, the Cardinals have a quality rotation and bullpen. Carpenter is great, and Mulder is great when he isn't fighting nagging injuries. Marquis is their 3rd starter, and he feels like a guy who is prime to have a bad year (his 1.33 WHIP last year is a bad sign). Suppan is a quality back-end of the rotation kind of guy, and Ponson...well he should fall apart sometime in May leaving the door open for the emerging Reyes. Their bullpen is once again quite good, despite the loss of Taveras and King (who were two of their best last year). The only question mark is Isringhausen, who has not been 100% this spring. If he falters, Looper will be their closer and things will be more interesting at the back of the pen.

This team is still quite good, but from a preseason standpoint it's more vulnerable than it was the past few seasons.