5 St. Louis Cardinals Who Need Big Years in 2012
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals are expecting big things in 2012. Coming off their wild postseason ride, the Cardinals believe they are once again one of the favorites to win the World Series in 2012.
Obviously, the loss of Albert Pujols this offseason was extremely disappointing for this franchise. There is not one player who can replace what Pujols brought to the Cardinals' franchise, but a combination of players will need to step up.
Here are five players who need to have big season for the St. Louis Cardinals if they want to be competitive in 2012.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
With the departure of Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday will become the focal point of the St. Louis lineup. Holliday missed a large part of the 2011 season due to injury, and struggled at times throughout the playoffs.
Holliday's performance has been good over the past two years for St. Louis, but with the contract he is signed to, St. Louis needs him to be great. I expect Holliday to have his best season in St. Louis this year.
If he can hit 30 home runs, drive in 100 RBIs and hit for a .300 average, I think the Cardinals will be extremely happy with the production from Matt Holliday.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Is there a more famous person in St. Louis right now then David Freese?
The World Series MVP drove in 21 runs in the postseason and hit for a blistering .397 average. He also saved the Cardinals' season with his dramatic ninth inning triple off of Rangers' closer Neftali Feliz.
Freese has all the talent to be an All-Star third baseman for the Cardinals in 2012. The main question is his health. Freese only played in 97 games in last year's regular season for St. Louis.
That will definitely not get the job done this year.
The Cardinals can definitely get Freese some days off thanks to Daniel Descalso being a solid backup at third, but they can not afford a significant injury. If Freese can stay healthy, I can definitely see him contributing a .300 batting average to the lineup. As far as home runs and RBIs go, look for Freese to have about 25 homers and 100-plus RBIs.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
It will be weird to not see Albert at first base for the Cardinals this year, but the sight of Lance Berkman standing in his place should make Cardinal fans happy.
Berkman was the Comeback Player of the Year last year, and needless to say his contributions came out of nowhere. Berkman's career appeared to be in its final stages, but with a huge season that included a .301 average and 31 home runs, Berkman is not ready to say goodbye to the game of baseball yet.
No one can replace Albert Pujols, but that is not what the Cardinals are asking Berkman to do. He just needs another solid season. I do not expect the same type of numbers from Berkman in 2012 that we saw in 2011.
With Lance becoming more of a focal point in the offense, I expect pitchers to be more careful with him this year.
With that being said, Berkman will still have a great year. I expect him to hit anywhere from .290 to .300, hit about 25 home runs and add 80 to 90 RBIs.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The first three people I said needed to step up for St. Louis this year seemed a little obvious, so I decided to give you guys a less obvious choice.
Jaime Garcia showed flashes of brilliance last season. Garcia was one of the best pitchers in baseball throughout the first few months of the season in 2011. His ERA was unmatched throughout baseball and the Cardinals had an ace pitcher to fill in for the loss of Adam Wainwright.
Garcia was not great to finish the season. Sure, he put together a solid 13-7 record with an ERA of 3.56, but he was hardly brilliant. Many of Garcia's problems came when he pitched on the road, but those problems soon translated to when he pitched at home.
I am excited to see what Garcia can do this year.
With Adam Wainwright coming back to the rotation, a lot of the pressure is going to be taken off of Jaime. The need for Garcia to be the ace of the staff is not there now. Still, St. Louis needs him to produce. I think Garcia will have an ERA around 3.00 this season and I expect him to give St. Louis a win total in the range of 15 to 18.
Ralph Freso/Getty Images
Well, you knew he was coming on this list eventually. The former Cardinal killer himself will put the Cardinal uniform on this season.
The arrival of Carlos Beltran will not only help fill the void Albert Pujols leaves, but he will also help replace Allen Craig in right field for the first few months of the season as Craig recovers from knee surgery.
Beltran is not the player he used to be, but he still has a lot left in the tank to help St. Louis. The slugger hit for a .300 average last year, along with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs as he split time with New York and San Francisco.
Beltran does not have as much speed as he used to, but he still has the ability to hit the ball in the gap and get doubles and triples. In 2011, Beltran hit 39 doubles and six triples—an indication that he still has some speed.
I think Beltran will have a big year for St. Louis. In New York and San Francisco, Beltran was the focal point in each lineup. St. Louis will be different.
Beltran will either hit before Holliday or after Berkman this year, making him a key piece to the lineup, but not the focal point. I expect Beltran to still hit for a .300 average, but the power and production will increase. I would look for a 30-home run season from Beltran and 100 RBIs.