St. Louis Cardinals: Grading the Performance of Each Regular so Far

Jeff Sucher@jeffsucherContributor IIIApril 18, 2012

St. Louis Cardinals: Grading the Performance of Each Regular so Far

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    Albert Who? Maybe it's too soon to make that proclamation, but the Cardinals are off to an excellent start in their quest to defend their World Series title. With outstanding pitching and superb hitting, the Cardinals are moving past Albert Pujols heading west during the offseason and have left him in their rear-view mirror.

    While it's only 11 games into the season, here is an early-season report card for each Cardinals regular.

Yadier Molina

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    Yadi is off to a fantastic start after signing a 5-year $75 million contract in the offseason. If there was any pressure from such a large contract to perform, Molina hasn't showed it. He has picked up with the bat where he left off last year, hitting .324 with three homers and 10 RBI in the Cardinals' first 11 games. 

    His fielding is always stellar and this season is no different. Yadi has always been able to change a game with his glove, now he is becoming a game changer at the plate.

    Early Season Grade: A+

Lance Berkman

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    The Big Puma has started fairly well in the 2012 campaign. While Berkman has missed some time due to a strained left calf, he was in the lineup for the Cardinals' series opener against the Reds on Tuesday night and was ready to continue his solid start.

    Berkman is batting .333 in six games, but only has one RBI.  While he had the chance to be the hero against the Reds on Tuesday night, he popped up with the bases loaded to end the Cardinals' rally in the ninth inning. 

    With a healthy Berkman, the Cardinals' lineup only improves and provides some punch in the middle of the order.

    Early Season Grade: B

Daniel Descalso/Tyler Greene

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    If there has been a weakness in the hot start the Cardinals have gotten off to, it would be at second base. Neither Daniel Descalso or Tyler Greene have taken the opportunity to own the second base starting job. Both are hitting barely .200 and while both have a decent glove, neither one has been a shining star defensively. 

    It is unclear whether Skip Shumaker will get the starting job back at second when he returns from the DL, but it is time for one of these guys to step up and take the job in the interim.

    Early Season Grade: D

Rafael Furcal

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    Rafael Furcal got off to a torrid start to begin the season and has since cooled a bit in recent games, but his two hits last night against Cincinnati lifted his BA to .304.  Add to that his .347 OBP and Furcal is falling right into line with his career OBP average of .348, which is exactly what the Cardinals were hoping for. 

    He has been a catalyst to the early-season hot hitting the Cardinals have been displaying.  Add in his solid defense and the Cardinals are getting what they paid for when they signed him to a two-year deal in the offseason.

    Early Season Grade: B+

David Freese

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    David Freese, AKA Mr. Freese, has picked up right where he left off last postseason when he captured the MVP of the NLCS and the World Series. Freese has been an RBI machine to start the season, driving in 11 runs in the nine games he has played this year. Oh and by the way, he is batting a cool .371 to go along with three home runs. 

    He continues to drive the ball to the opposite field with power and has become a feared presence in the Cardinals' lineup. Hopefully for the Cardinal faithful, Freese will continue to hit and play good defense well into October.

    Early Season Grade: A+

Matt Holliday

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    Matt Holliday has gotten off to a rough start in 2012. It's certainly not panic time in St. Louis yet as Holliday started slow last season but ended up having an All-Star year. 

    Thus far, Holliday isn't even batting his weight (.200 BA versus 235 lbs). He may be feeling the pressure to replace Albert Pujols in the lineup and find himself pressing a bit. But for now, Cardinals fans need to be patient as Holliday should return to form. Don't be surprised to see him around the .300 mark with 25-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI by season's end.

    Early Season Grade: D-

Jon Jay

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    Jon Jay has done everything possible thus far to secure himself the everyday center field position for the St. Louis Cardinals. Jay is getting the chance to be the everyday guy with Allen Craig on the DL to start the season. 

    If Craig was healthy at the start of the year, Jay would have most likely found himself in a rotation situation with Craig and possibly Carlos Beltran. Jay is having none of that, starting the season with a .333 batting average and hitting two home runs in the nine games he has played.

    Add to that his stellar play in center field and Jay will be giving new skipper Mike Matheny something to think about when Craig returns from the DL.

    Early Season Grade: B+

Carlos Beltran

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    Cardinal fans shuttered to hear the words Carlos Beltran in the 2004 NLCS when as a member of the Astros, Beltran carved up the Cardinals' pitching staff at a .417 clip with four home runs and eight walks in seven games.

    Now when Cardinal fans hear Beltran's name, they can't help but smile thus far. Beltran is healthy and has started off the 2012 season with a bang. He has already popped four home runs and has an OBP of .467 and slugging percentage of .676. 

    Beltran not only brought his bat to St. Louis, but his play on the field has been superb. Beltran is running down fly balls and keeping advancing base runners at bay like his is 28 again.  Hopefully for Cardinal nation, Beltran can stay healthy and be a threat in the lineup all season.

    Early Season Grade: A+