This continues my 2010 MLB preview. I intend to touch every team in the major leagues in installments by division. The lineups I provide will be what I predict will be the most productive for each team for the MAJORITY of the season (e.g., Jason Heyward will be listed as the Braves RF even though he may not begin the season as the starter).
I will also provide the stereotypical letter grade to each team's lineup, rotation, bullpen, and depth/bench. Though it is trite, I think all baseball fans can identify with the letter grade system.
Teams will be addressed respective to their predicted finish in their division.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
Skip Schumaker - 2B
Brendan Ryan - SS
Albert Pujols - 1B
Matt Holliday - LF
Ryan Ludwick - RF
Colby Rasmus - CF
David Freese - 3B
Yadier Molina - C
OUTFIELD: The outfield is very solid with Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus, and Ryan Ludwick. Holliday is the best compliment to Pujols, and all three are 20+ HR guys.
INFIELD: Brendan Ryan was brilliant at SS and Schumaker made a seamless transition to 2B. Both hit around .300 too. That's good luck for the Cardinals. David Freese is the favorite to win the 3B job, and I think he'll perform well. Some guy named Pujols plays first.
CATCHING: Yadier Monlina is the best defensive catcher in the NL and has somehow turned into a nice hitter. Veteran Jason LaRue figures to be his backup.
Chris Carpenter - R
Adam Wainwright - R
Brad Penny - R
Kyle Lohse - R
Mitchell Boggs/Jaime Garcia/Blake Hawksworth - R/L/R
Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are a deadly one-two punch at the top. Brad Penny was a nice signing for them and I think he should pitch ahead of Kyle Lohse in the rotation. Lohse needs a strong year. The 5th spot is up for grabs, but one would think Jaime Garcia might have the inside edge over his competition because he is the only lefty candidate for the rotation.
The bullpen is really solid. Trever Miller was the lefty specialist, and he earned the moniker, "special", by posting a 2.06 ERA. Of the Boggs, Garcia, Hawksworth battle, my guess is that Garcia will win the rotation job, while Boggs will settle into the bullpen, and Hawksworth will be sent down to the Triple A Memphis for additional seasoning as a starter. Kyle McKlellan and Dennys Reyes are strong contributors and Ryan Franklin is a superior closer.
The Cards have depth. For some reason, they decided that having two starting-caliber shortstops and second basemen was a good idea, so they signed the switch-hitting Felipe Lopez. Julio Lugo will back up Ryan at SS. If Freese doesn't definitively take over 3B, Tyler Greene will be more than happy to oblige.
Nick Stavinoha can help out at most of the corner spots on the field, if not all. In the outfield, it's time Allen Craig got some ABs. Look for him as a sleeper Rookie of the Year candidate, if any of the starting outfielders get hurt early. He's 6'3", 210 lbs. At Triple A last season, he hit .322 with 26 HR and 83 RBI in 472 ABs.
THOUGHTS: The Cardinals aren't great in any one part of their team, but every part of their team-- from pitching to the offense-- is good to very good. The stability and overall strength of their squad will allow them to still win games if a part of their game lags at various points during the season. That is why the Cardinals will win the division-- they don't have to rely on any one part too heavily.