As the St. Louis Cardinals begin the second half of the season, we have prognostications for all three categories of the roster : The Good, The Bad and The Injured.
From boosting their flaccid offense to maintaining solid pitching, the Redbirds have the talent and ability to make the playoffs.
We'll assess each players chance to make a difference in the hopes to take advantage of the extra home game won in the All—Star Game and win their 11th World Series championship.
First we'll look at the 10 players to count on during the stretch run to the playoffs.
All Cardinal success begins and ends with Albert Pujols. Despite having a first half that wasn't up to his incredible standards of brilliance and performance, Pujols' .308/.416/.576 slash line is in the top three in the NL in all categories.
The Prediction : Albert will pick up his game and end the year with stats near his career average. He will finish in the top three in MVP voting. Albert will get hot and push the Cardinals atop the NL Central to stay.
If not, all hope is lost.
His bat always heats up with the weather, and this year is no exception. A noted second-half player, Holliday struggled early to produce in run-scoring opportunities. But now he is on fire, hitting .345/.404/.810 with 10 HR and 26 RBI in his last month. And his career second half numbers are Hall of Fame material
The Prediction: Holliday may end up as National League's MVP.
Last year, he had the most first-place votes for the Cy Young award. He finished third. This season he is not getting the respect nationwide that Major League players and insiders give him. Frankly, Wainwright is as good as any starting pitcher in the game.
The Prediction : He will be acclaimed as ace of the staff, and no longer hide in Chris Carpenter's shadow. He has the frame, youth and mindset to bear the weight of the innings pitched this year, as well as last year. He will outlast Ubaldo Jimenez for NL Cy Young award. It should be his second.
Tommy John surgery cost him his 2009 season. Coming in to spring training, he was ticketed for Triple-A, Now he's currently sitting in third place in the NL in ERA. No player was a valuable to St. Louis in the first-half as rookie LH Jaime Garcia.
The Prediction : As a rookie coming off injury, his innings will be limited by the organization. Unhittable at times, he has also shown his inexperience at times. Garcia is the tipping point for the franchise's season. If he continues to produce like he has so far, this season will live as legend. He might do it, or he might end up ruined like Mark Pryor.
June 28, 2010. Arizona's Kelly Johnson hits a line-drive off Carpenter's right forearm for a 1-3 put out. It seem's ordinary. But after starting the season in his usual sensational fashion as a Redbird, Carpenter "just hasn't been right" since that moment. Pitching coach Dave Duncan insists the struggles originate from mechanical issues.
The Prediction : The forearm is hurt, but Carpenter learns to rely on his experience more than his stuff. No longer the ace of the staff, Carpenter continues to put the team in position to win - start after start.
The Kid is in the midst of a breakout season. Blessed with speed and instincts, power is becoming the hall-mark of the slender 23-year old CF from Russell County, Alabama. Rasmus came into the break with an outstanding .914 OPS for a good defensive center fielder (we'll work on his throws to the plate).
The Prediction : Heaven's Be! If this kid stays strong and healthy, he'll be touted as a pre-season MVP candidate in March 2012. And he is only 23 years old. Look at that picture, Cardinal fans. That's the future face of the franchise.
The Canadian-born Hawksworth is the sleeper addition to this list, but the team may have found a low-cost fifth starter for the future. Filling in for the injured Brad Penny, he has posted a respectable 3.42 ERA in his 4 starts. He allows a lot of baserunners, but has shown an ability to get out of jams. Hawksworth's inability to go deep into games is sometimes the manager's fault, and sometimes the pitchers fault.
The Prediction : Hawksworth proves to be a worthy fifth starter on a contending team. If Brad Penny returns to limit his exposure to the league, he will might a starting job next year.
It is easy to dismiss Jon Jay as a simple fill in. But Jay has played in 34 games this season, and has nothing but impressive. A second-round draft choice from the University of Miami, Jay is sporting a NL-leading 11-game hit streak going into the second half. He is a talent, and his play with the Cardinals has been a needed spark of youth and enthusiasm.
The Prediction : Say good-bye Randy Winn. Jay is exactly the young play-maker the Cardinals need to balance their small market with their big market ambitions. Don't look for Jay to replace anyone in a formidable outfield, but his LH bat off the bench is key to St. Louis' playoff hopes.
First off, I am a huge Ryan Ludwick fan. He has repeatedly come back from devastating injury to fulfill his draft promise. There is simply no other RF I'd rather have in the field or at the bat for my Cardinals. With all the promises made about Matt Holliday hitting clean-up to protect Albert Pujols, Ludwick is jas important hitting, .308/.389/.524 hitting ahead of El Hombre. That's an OPS of .913, folks. Add in his exceptional defense, and you have a core player on a contending team. But Ludwick must prove - as always - that his body can hold up as much as his talents do.
The Prediction : If his calf heals, the time on the DL may be a blessing. A healthy Ludwick in September and October is a match-up most teams cannot match.