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St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Reasons Carlos Beltran Will Be Sleeper Pickup of the Year

Howard CowanContributor IIIOctober 10, 2016

St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Reasons Carlos Beltran Will Be Sleeper Pickup of the Year

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    Carlos Beltran will have his best season in his first year with the St. Louis Cardinals since he hit 41 HR with the New York Mets in 2006. 

    After the Cardinals signed the 35-year-old outfielder to a two-year, $26 million contract, he has responded by hitting .279 with five home runs while slugging .525.

    With Lance Berkman out of the lineup, Beltran has moved to the No. 4 spot and is batting .265 with only one extra-base hit in nine games. In the last three games, he is 0-for-12 with five strikeouts.

    Despite his recent struggles, here are some reasons why Beltran could be an All-Star again this year.   

Crushes NL Central Pitching

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    The best thing Carlos Beltran did in the offseason was move to the National League Central.  

    Beltran's splits against many of the division's top pitchers are downright ludicrous.

    His lifetime batting average against the current Houston Astros pitching staff is .303 in 108 at-bats.

    Against  J.A. Happ and Wandy Rodriguez, he has 13 hits in 35 AB, with five home runs and 11 RBI.

    Beltran also beats up on the rival Chicago Cubs, batting .321 an OBP of .423. When facing Cubs lefty Paul Maholm, he has nine hits in just 21 AB. He's also destroyed Ryan Dempster with a .625 OBP in 15 plate appearances.

    Cincinnati Reds starters Matt Latos and Johnny Cueto have been torched by Beltran. He is hitting a combined .500 with five home runs in only 18 AB, and against Latos all three of his hits have left the yard.

    Randy Wolf is the only Milwaukee Brewers pitcher who has faced Beltran more than 10 times, and like his counterparts, he can't get him out. The Cardinals right fielder gets on base almost 40 percent of the time and has only struck out twice in 40 at-bats against Wolf.

    The only staff with any success against him is the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have held Beltran to .239/.324/.283 with only one home run in 91 AB.  A.J. Burnett faced him three times on Saturday and struck him out twice.

    Even with that promising performance, it's going to be a long year for central division pitchers.  

2011 Was His Best Season in Five Years

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    Although San Francisco Giants fans may think the Carlos Beltran trade was a waste of a pitching prospect after they didn't make the playoffs, he was one of their best hitters over the last two months

    While the Giants batted only .248 with just 3.48 runs per game in August and September, Beltran hit .323 during their stretch run.

    In September, he slugged .700 with six home runs and 14 RBI.

    Overall, his stat line was impressive for a player who had only played in 125 games in two injury-filled years.

    His .300 average was his best mark since 2003 and OPS-plus was the highest of his career.

    Beltran did hit 101 HR from 2006 to 2008, but his 2011 slugging percentage ranks second since he slugged .594 in 06. 

    Even though Beltran is a few years removed from his power-hitting days, he still is playing at a very high level. 

Hits Well at Busch Stadium

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    Although Carlos Beltran has only played 18 total games at the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, he crushes the ball while in the shadow of the Gateway Arch.

    Before joining the Cardinals, Beltran had 16 hits in 47 at-bats with four home runs in the pitcher-friendly park.

    This year, he has continued to smash the ball at Busch, batting .350 with a .650 slugging percentage.

    During the six-game home stand,  he hit two bombs and scored seven runs as the Cardinals went 4-2. 

    Some players just hit better at certain parks, and for Beltran, one of them is Busch Stadium.

    With the season not even a month old, he will have plenty of opportunities to continue his dominance in St. Louis. 

Produced in Pitcher-Friendly Parks

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    Even though Carlos Beltran's new home may be known to favor the pitcher, in 2011 he played his home games in two the most offensively anemic parks in baseball. 

    When analyzed through park factor, a stat that compares MLB ballparks, AT&T Park and Citi Field ranked near or at the bottom of the league in most offensive categories.

    The San Francisco Giants' home field was last in the HR and runs category, with the home of the New York Mets finishing third-to-last in big-flys as well.

    Beltran actually hit better when playing at home, smacking 14 HR with .317 average. There, he slugged .558 compared to .461 on the road.

    Unlike most players Beltran, seems to be immune to these hitting deathtraps, something that will allow him to have another successful year. 

Protection in the Lineup

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    So the St. Louis Cardinals lineup doesn't have Albert Pujols, but once Lance Berkman returns from the DL, the middle of the order will offer protection for Carlos Beltran.

    Despite a slow start with the bat, Matt Holliday should respond after an injury-shortened season during which he hit 22 HR and batted .296.

    If he heats up, Beltran will get pitches to hit.

    The main question mark is the 35-year-old Berkman.

    Last year he had an unexpected breakout performance where he hit .301 to go with 31 jacks and 94 RBI. This year, after a fast start, he injured his calf.

    World Series MVP David Freese has answered the call batting .315 with 15 RBI out of the five-hole. Although he has cooled off since starting the season .448 with three home runs in his first six games, Freese has the ability to produce in the middle of the Cardinals lineup.

    Unlike with the Giants and Mets last year, the Cardinals do have firepower in their lineup, and Beltran should reap the benefits.  

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