With 2013 just days away, it's time for St. Louis Cardinals fans to start looking to the next baseball season.
After ending the season within one win of a second consecutive World Series berth, the front office has remained rather mellow in the offseason. While there are minor issues the team has or still plans to address, the key pieces don't seem to be seeing a lot of change.
As a result, the batting order won't see much of a shakeup either.
There will be a couple of new faces sprinkled in, like Ty Wigginton, but their place in the lineup will depend on who is out for the day.
Following is a projection for the Cardinals' 2013 batting order:
1. Jon Jay
Jay seemed to find his home when moved to the top of the lineup.
He hit .303 in 221 at-bats and managed 18 RBI.
Shortstop Rafael Furcal had some difficulty at leadoff in 2012 and left Jay an opportunity to show what he could do.
Jay gets on base (.362 OBP) and even had a decent slugging percentage for a leadoff man (.403).
Expect to see him return to the top spot in 2013.
2. Carlos Beltran
Beltran spent time batting both second and fourth in 2012, but put up his best numbers (.296/.375/.574) in the No. 2 slot.
He hit more two more home runs in the four spot, but he did it in 184 additional at-bats.
Depending on the health of other players and any surprise developments, expect him to split time again between the two lineup slots.
3. Matt Holliday
Holliday has the three spot sewn up. Of his 599 at-bats in 2012, 596 of them came in the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
He hit for power, average and in the meantime racked up 27 home runs and 102 RBI while hitting third.
There's not a lot to say here.
4. Allen Craig
Craig, presumably the Cardinals' first baseman of the future, will hold down the cleanup spot in the lineup.
In 119 games, Craig spent the majority of his time batting fourth, and with good reason. Simply put: He is a beast with the bat when he's on his game.
He hit .303/.348/.494 and drove in 52 of his 92 RBI as well as 12 of his 22 home runs while hitting fourth.
While Craig has never played a full season (2012 was his highest total), if he can keep up a similar pace he should stand out at the position.
5. Yadier Molina
This is where I expect to see possibly the biggest lineup change for 2013.
Given how Molina has proved himself at the plate over the last two seasons, I fully expect him to see more time at a higher position in the batting order.
It's entirely like that he and David Freese will platoon the five and six slots throughout the season.
When you take into account the number of at-bats, he has roughly the same success at fifth and sixth slots; so, it could depend on the pitching matchup who hits when between this pair.
6. David Freese
Freese only had 129 at-bats in the No. 6 spot in 2012, but actually seemed to have more success there with a much higher average, a better walk rate and a lower strikeout rate.
Based on last year, the sixth spot in the order seems to be the spot that would give him the best chance for long-term success over the course of 2013.
7. Rafael Furcal
Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal presents another question mark, but not in terms of ability.
If Furcal can stay health, he will likely be in the bottom of the order this year. Given Jay's success in the top spot, it's likely they will be reluctant to move him around much.
Furcal seemed to come out of his funk when he was moved to the bottom of the order in 2012 and that's a formula they will likely stick with.
If an additional shortstop is picked up before the beginning of the season, it's possible that player could bat somewhere else in the lineup; but in general, this is where you can expect to see Furcal.
8. Daniel Descalso/Matt Carpenter
This is where Descalso will most likely be when he's in the lineup. Matt Carpenter, who was told during the offseason to start taking reps at second base, would likely be moved up a spot if he was in the lineup, but is capable of hitting anywhere.
Last season he hit everywhere except the three spot.
There will be a battle between these two for everyday playing time in 2013.
This spot is what it is. In 2012, Kyle Lohse led the pack with a .094 batting average.
There's only so much you can do here to help, short of bringing back a slugging pitcher like Woody Williams.
All in all, 2013 will look very much like 2012 in terms of batting order.
No, there haven't been any major moves, but when you get within one game of the World Series, there shouldn't be a lot to fix.
Stats via baseball-reference.com.