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St. Louis Cardinals: 3 Players with the Most Pressure to Perform in 2012

Ryan BothmannSenior Analyst IIDecember 21, 2014

St. Louis Cardinals: 3 Players with the Most Pressure to Perform in 2012

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    On Monday, the Cardinals will be back out on the field for their first spring training game of 2012. Monday's game against Miami will begin the season-long quest in which St. Louis will look to repeat as World Series champions.

    As the defending champs, though, you are always feeling the heat to perform like the best team in baseball. The Cardinals will be no different.

    Even though they are the defending champions, there are still many doubters who think St. Louis is not the best. The Cardinals are out to prove them wrong once again.

    For St. Louis to repeat as champions, it will take an entire team effort, just like it took when they won the title last year. There are some Cardinals, though, who are being called upon to have big seasons for their team.

    Although the whole team is under pressure to perform, here are the top three players on the St. Louis Cardinals who are under the most pressure to perform at a high level in 2012.

Carlos Beltran

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    I think a lot of fans, myself included, believed that with the signing of Carlos Beltran, we would see another Lance Berkman comeback story in right field.

    Obviously, Beltran is not as bad off as Berkman was when he arrived onto the scene last year, but with that being said, the best years of Beltran's career are likely behind him.

    The 14-year veteran will definitely provide a solid bat in the St. Louis lineup, but I doubt we will see a 31-home run season like we did from Lance Berkman.

    I feel that no matter what Beltran contributes to the Cardinals in 2012, there will be many people who will just not be satisfied with him unless he betters the numbers that Berkman had last year.

    I know Cardinals fans are the best and smartest fans in baseball, so many of them will not try to compare the two seasons, but I also know there are many people out there who will.

    You never know though, Beltran could just make it easy on everyone and put up way better numbers than Berkman did last year. I think everyone would be happy with that.

Lance Berkman

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    Welcome to first base, also known as Albert Pujols' former position.

    That is enough pressure for any player, but I need to throw on a little more pressure for Berkman: Do you think you can have the kind of season you did last year?

    Lance Berkman is now 36 years old, and although what he did for the Cardinals last year was wonderful, the end of his career has to be coming up on him soon. I don't mean I expect Berkman to come out and have a terrible season this year, but another 31-home run year is probably a little unrealistic.

    I expect Berkman to have another solid season in 2012. I think he can do a great job in helping the Cardinals transition out of the Albert Pujols era, but I think, like Beltran, many fans are going to expect him to put up the numbers he did last season.

    Although it is totally possible for Berkman to do what he did last season, I hope fans do not throw him under the bus too quickly if he does not have the same numbers.

    If Berkman hits anything above a .290 average, has 20 or more home runs and drives in 80 or more RBI, then I would be very happy with his contributions to the Cardinals.

    Let's just try to not make the goals too unrealistic for Lance Berkman this season.

Adam Wainwright

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    I don't think there is more pressure on a single player in baseball than there is on Adam Wainwright.

    When many players come off of surgery, there is a slow transition for them to get back into the game. The Cardinals have done an excellent job slowly bringing Wainwright back and making sure they don't rush the recovery process, but now it is time for him to go.

    With the loss of Pujols, the Cardinals are going to rely heavily on a solid starting rotation to get them through a lot of this season. Wainwright is likely going to need to be the ace of that rotation.

    That is pressure enough, but after coming off of reconstructive surgery, I think we can say the pressure is really on.

    I think every player on this list will handle the pressure fine all season long. Just because I put these players on the list does not mean I think they will crack and come apart during the season—it just means that their team, the front office and the fans are expecting them to perform.

    I think Wainwright will perform the best, though. I expect him to be back in top form by the start of the season in April and, like I predicted in a previous article, I expect Adam Wainwright to win the National League Cy Young Award in 2012.

    Wainwright has shown all throughout his career that he can deal with pressure, just ask Carlos Beltran how nasty Wainwright's pitches get when the game is on the line.

    I look for Wainwright to step up and handle the pressure all season long.

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