St. Louis Cardinals 2012 Starting Lineup and Rotation Predictions
After the departure of Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals needed to re-tool their lineup and rotation in order to have a chance at defending their World Series title. La Russa's departure was filled by the youthful and inexperienced Mike Matheny, who, as expected, retained much of La Russa's staff. Matheny will need their experience and support as he ventures into his first managing position. Pujols' departure shocked Cardinals Nation; however, as soon as the decision was made, John Mozeliak went to work to replace him.
This appears to be the answer to the question: What now after Pujols?
Right Field: Carlos Beltran
As the primary replacement for Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran just stepped into a pressure cooker. John Mozeliak and the Cardinals surely do not expect Beltran to produce the same statistics Pujols did over his 11 year career in St. Louis, but they do need similar numbers to what Beltran produced last season to fill the void Pujols left.
2012 Prediction: Beltran will likely bat in the No. 4 slot, and his bat does provide protection for Matt Holliday. The Cardinals would love Beltran to perform like the "Cardinal Killer" that he once was. While that is unlikely, Beltran should produce numbers similar to last season.
Center Field: Jon Jay
Jon Jay stepped into the role of starting center fielder last season after Colby Rasmus was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Jay performed well at the position defensively; however, the Cardinals need more out of Jay's bat and a higher OBP, so Jay can become more of a threat on the base paths. With Pujols' slugging leaving the lineup, the Cardinals may be forced to manufacture runs during the 2012 campaign.
2012 Prediction: Jay will continue to perform well defensively and provide the occasional spectacular catch, but his offensive production will remain comparable to last season. On the bright side, that is better than it was during the 2011 playoffs.
Left Field: Matt Holliday
Matt Holliday's season was, by MLB standards, above average. However, looking at Holliday's career statistics it was well below average for him. The St. Louis Cardinals will certainly need more production out of Holliday in 2012, as he is expected to move up to No. 3 in the batting order. Holliday will join Beltran and Berkman in the proverbial pressure cooker, since they will be the primary source of runs for the Redbirds in 2012.
2012 Prediction: Holliday will return to form this season in the No. 3 spot, and will earn his big money contract, which has, at times, been questioned. There is no doubt that Holliday is supremely talented, but he has to produce more, and needs to eliminate crucial fielding errors in clutch moments (i.e. Game 6 of the World Series). I say he gets it done in 2012.
Shortstop: Rafael Furcal
Besides David Eckstein's short stint with the team, since the departure of Edgar Renteria in the early 2000's the St. Louis Cardinals have been constantly searching for their next shortstop. Many have tried to fill this spot, but have done so with only limited success.
As the 2011 season progressed, the Cardinals front office made the decision to trade for Rafael Furcal. Furcal's production at the plate was average at best, but his speed and glove provided a boost to a Cardinals team that had holes defensively.
2012 Prediction: Furcal will continue to provide solid defense and speed on the bases, despite his age, and his production at the plate will improve after posting career-worsts in batting average (.231) and OBP (.298) in 2011.
Third Base: David Freese
The St. Louis Cardinals have known for awhile what David Freese was capable of and what he showed in the 2011 postseason. Unfortunately, his career has been marred by injuries that have kept him off the field for long periods of time. Freese is a tremendous talent at third base, and the Cardinals' better start praying to the Baseball Gods that he stays healthy in 2012 because his bat will be essential to the lineup "post-Pujols."
2012 Prediction: David Freese will stay off the DL for the first time in his major league career, answering John Mozeliak's prayers, and will produce solid numbers for the Cardinals, helping to fill the hole in the lineup.
Second Base: Skip Schumaker
Second base is once again the most difficult position to predict for the St. Louis Cardinals in the upcoming season. The Cardinals have not had a solid player at the position in quite sometime, and it doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon. While there are many players that will be contending for the position during spring training (Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene, etc.) I think Skip Schumaker will earn the job again, at least for awhile.
2012 Prediction: The Cardinals need Skip to produce more in the batter's box, and I am not sold on Schumaker making this happen. Schumaker is a decent fielder with a cannon, but the Cardinals need to start looking at developing a more stable middle infield, and this could be happening soon, but for the time being, and with Schumaker signing a two-year deal, he is in the mix to be the second baseman.
First Base: Lance Berkman
For the better part of the last decade this position has been filled by Albert Pujols, but with his offseason departure the Cardinals will now have to look elsewhere for a first baseman. Look no further than the 2011 MLB Comeback Player of the Year, Lance Berkman, who returned to form during the 2011 season: hitting over 30 home runs, 94 RBIs and 90 runs scored. Cardinals fans hope that Berkman can continue his renewed success, and produce MVP caliber numbers again next season.
2012 Prediction: The move from the outfield to first base will save Berkman's legs for the season, and Cardinal fans can expect less of a drop off in production after the All-Star break. Overall, Lance Berkman will produce similar, but slightly less, stunning numbers and be a reliable first baseman.
Catcher: Yadier Molina
Yadier Molina, a staple at catcher and fan favorite, has been, arguably, the best defensive catcher in baseball since he stepped into the starting role in 2005. His production at the plate has not always been there, but last season he produced career bests in batting average, slugging and OPS. The Cardinals need Molina to build off of that success and continue to post solid numbers at the plate.
2012 Prediction: Yadier Molina will continue to be, arguably, the best defensive catcher in baseball, and his numbers at the plate will be comparable to last season.
Starting Rotation: Chris Carpenter
Chris Carpenter proved to everyone during the 2011 playoffs that he still has something left in the tank, and after rebounding from a dismal start to his 2011 regular season Carp produced a decent year overall. With the possibility of a drop-off in run production in 2012, the Cardinals will rely more heavily on their starting pitching to go deep into games and shut down the opposition.
2012 Prediction: Carpenter will start his 2012 campaign much better than his 2011 season, and build off a dominant postseason, despite breaking his toe on a fishing trip to the Amazon. Expect Carpenter to be in the discussion for the Cy Young Award at season's end.
Starting Rotation: Adam Wainwright
The loss of Adam Wainwright was a huge blow to the Cardinals for the 2011 season. Amazingly, the Cardinals were able to overcome that loss, and in magical fashion won the World Series. However, they will need Wainwright for the 2012 season, as one can expect starting pitching to be more important this upcoming season, and with recent news that Wain-o will be ready for spring training Cardinals fans are buzzing about the projected rotation.
2012 Prediction: Wainwright will return to his previous glory in 2012, but expect him to have a rough starts to begin the season. The St. Louis Cardinals get their best starter back, and Wainwright back in the rotation gives the Cardinals two legitimate aces with him and Carpenter anchoring the rotation.
Starting Rotation: Jaime Garcia
Jaime Garcia had a slight sophomore slump compared to his spectacular rookie season and an up and down postseason in 2011. However, Garcia's presence in the rotation solidifies the top three of the rotation and gives the Cardinals a very dangerous postseason rotation.
2012 Prediction: Garcia will continue to improve. With work and instruction from pitching coach Dave Duncan, he will develop into the dominant starter that he has shown flashes of. Garcia is on the list of players that could possibly cash in from the departure of Albert Pujols, and the Cardinals need to secure him for the future because it seems very likely that Garcia has a tremendous upside.
Starting Rotation: Kyle Lohse
Kyle Lohse successfully rebounded from injury in 2011 and performed to satisfaction in the regular season while stumbling in the postseason. Additionally, Lohse improved in his return to the mound posting a top-10 WHIP and top-15 ERA. The Cardinals will need similar results in 2012 from Lohse to shore up the back-end of the rotation.
2012 Prediction: Lohse's 2012 will be much like his 2011—up and down. However, Lohse will be a solid fourth or fifth starter for the St. Louis Cardinals. I do not expect him to be in the top 10 in WHIP, but he will perform well enough for St. Louis.
Starting Rotation: Roy Oswalt
In the boldest prediction of this slide show, and perhaps out of my own hope, Roy Oswalt will be added to the St. Louis Cardinals rotation soon. Oswalt has previously expressed interest in joining the Cardinals, and is reportedly willing to signing a one-year deal, which is an attractive option to the Cardinals who do have young pitchers that still need time to develop.
2012 Prediction: The Cardinals sign Oswalt, and he is the third or fourth starter in the rotation. During the season, Oswalt performs well, with the help of Dave Duncan, and once again is a high-performing starter in MLB.