St. Louis Cardinals 2009 Position Preview: Outfield
Previous Position: Third Base
It's been a while since I've been able to write up a position preview for the Redbirds, but maybe that's a good thing in the case of the outfield.
The Cardinals had a lot of question marks in the outfield going into spring training, but some if not all of them have been answered with only a week left before spring training breaks.
There are two very unique outfielders that we should address before even discussing the starters.
Joe Mather and Skip Schumaker are career outfielders that have tried to make the transition to infield positions this spring. It looks like Schumaker will open the season as the team's main second baseman, but Mather might not even make the club.
With David Freese coming off an Achilles injury and hitting the cover off of the ball at third, and Mather struggling at the dish and with his glove, I have strong doubts to whether he'll even be able to make the club. Tony La Russa has made it clear that he likes him (I'm not quite sure why. He's not the TLR type), but the stats don't lie, and Freese has got to be considered the favorite right now.
Now on to the guys that will actually be playing in the outfield. The Redbirds have a plethora of talent. Chris Duncan is finally healthy and displayed the gaudy power in spring training that we've seen flashes of in past years.
Ryan Ludwick has struggled, but had an MVP-type year last season, and Brian Barton is still improving and brings speed and energy to the position.
Rick Ankiel has been the best outfielder this spring, and that is proof that he's still improving. His average has been around .400, he's had great power, and he's focusing on the quality of his swings, rather than the quantity. His improved patience at the plate might lead to less strikeouts, something that would definitely complete him as a hitter.
The last and most interesting outfielder is Colby Rasmus. The 22-year-old über prospect is considered by some the best outfielding prospect in the game right now, and it looks like he'll probably make his first big league club this year. How he'll respond will dictate a lot.
TLR has made it obvious that he's not going to have Rasmus sit on the bench. If he doesn't hit well immediately and earn his spot, he'll be returned to Triple-A to get regular reps. However, if he does play well enough to be a starter or platoon player, it opens up a lot of options for the Cardinals to get active on the trading wire.
The Birds on the Bat are absolutely loaded at the outfield positions. They have versatile guys who can play anywhere, hitters from both sides of the plate, and a group that can field their positions as well. The question is, how long can that last?
John Mozeliak has shown that he's not afraid to deal any player, and if a player like Rasmus or even Duncan starts playing well, anybody could be on the trading block.
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