2009 Finish: 91-71, 1st Place (Lost NLDS)
Offseason Grade (B+)
The re-signing of Matt Holliday alone assured the Red Birds of a good offseason grade. They wouldn't have signed him if they weren't certain they were going to be able to resign Albert Pujols, so I'm not worried about that.
I like that rather than possibly overpaying Joel Pineiro, they made bargain signings in Brad Penny and Rich Hill, hoping Dave Duncan can work his magic on those two.
Strengths: They've got this guy over at first named Albert Pujols; word around the campfire is that he's pretty good. Holliday provides Pujols great protection.
Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter are interchangeable as the one and two starter.
Yadier Molina is a defensive stalwart and fine hitting catcher who does not get the recognition he deserves.
Weaknesses: Though he's an ace while healthy, Carpenter is always an injury risk; even last year he spent time on the DL.
Third base looks like a big question mark at the moment. If Ryan Franklin has a down year, their bullpen could really be in trouble.
Breakout Candidate: Jaime Garcia. The Mexican lefty has been somewhat forgotten outside of St. Louis after missing most of last season due to Tommy John surgery.
He's looked awesome thus far in Spring Training, striking out 12 in just over 8.2 innings with a 1.04 ERA. As if he wasn't helping his chances enough, his competitors for the fifth rotation
spot have been hurting their chances lately.
2010 All Stars: Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright
2010 Outlook: A year after the Cubs were viewed as heavy favorites in this division, the Cardinals have supplanted them in this position. An offensive tandem of Pujols and Holliday and co-aces Wainwright and Carpenter sitting atop the rotation ensures their success going forward.
Aside from those four, there's some question marks, but few managers are better at working out problem areas than the legendary Tony La Russa.
While the Phillies get more press, the Cardinals are quite the NL powerhouse themselves.