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Early Predictions for the St. Louis Cardinals’ 25-Man Roster on Opening Day

Spring Training can’t come soon enough for rabid Cardinal fans, and with the turning of the new year, it’s a good time to preview the Cardinals‘ 25-man Opening Day roster.

As usual, the team has question marks in the middle infield and in the starting rotation.

Even with a completely clean bill of health, it’s difficult to envision a full season at shortstop from Rafael Furcal. We are going to wager that GM John Mozeliak leverages some of the Cards’ high-end pitching prospects for a long-term solution at short.

Mozeliak could move Trevor Rosenthal, first baseman Matt Adams—who has no path to St. Louis—and Pete Kozma (or other minor prospects) to Cleveland for Asdrubal Cabrera, whose name has come up repeatedly. This would put Jon Jay back in the leadoff spot of the lineup, where he was effective for much of 2012.

The status of Jaime Garcia is the other major mystery.

As we’ve noted in other articles, Mozeliak will use Garcia’s work in the World Baseball Classic as an early gauge of the lefty’s health.

If Garcia doesn’t have it, Shelby Miller is the best option. And in all honesty, Miller probably is, even if Garcia’s shoulder is sound.

Miller was one of the few Cardinal starters who was effective against the Giants in the NLCS.

If the above moves are made, the Cards’ Opening Day roster will look something like this:


  • CF Jon Jay
  • RF Carlos Beltran
  • LF Matt Holliday
  • 1B Allen Craig
  • C   Yadier Molina
  • SS Asdrubal Cabrera
  • 3B  David Freese
  • 2B  Daniel Descalso


The Cardinals are in need of another left-handed bat in the middle of the order, which switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera gives them. It also gives the team a strong one-through-seven batting order that will be tough for NL pitchers to navigate.

Starting Rotation:

  • SP1 Chris Carpenter
  • SP2 Adam Wainwright
  • SP3 Jake Westbrook
  • SP4 Lance Lynn
  • SP5 Jaime Garcia / Shelby Miller


If Chris Carpenter can go a full season in the rotation, the Cards will be in good shape. And if only Adam Wainwright’s luck improves in 2013, he’ll be good for 16-18 wins. Realistically, though, he’ll be stronger and sharper this coming year, and should be an elite starter.


  • Closer RHP Jason Motte
  • Set-Up RHP Mitchell Boggs
  • Set-Up RHP Edward Mujica
  • LOOGY LHP Randy Choate
  • Middle RHP Joe Kelly
  • Middle LHP Marc Rzepczynski
  • Long-man RHP Fernando Salas


For the first time in three seasons, the Cards’ bullpen will be ready from Day 1. Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs each had their best seasons yet in 2012. Motte tied for the league lead in saves with 42. Randy Choate will be their most effective “Loogy” (Lefty one-out guy) since Trever Miller was on his game.


  • C Tony Cruz
  • IF Rafael Furcal
  • IF/OF Ty Wigginton
  • IF/OF Matt Carpenter
  • OF Shane Robinson


Ty Wigginton adds a veteran right-handed bat the team has craved, but it’s questionable how effective he will be at his advancing age. Matt Carpenter has been working on his defense at second in the offseason, and may push Daniel Descalso to the bench. But the bench is probably the best place for Descalso and Rafael Furcal.

With the team winning just one division title in the last six years, the Cards are overdue to have a wire-to-wire division-leading season.

Manager Mike Matheny has his first playoff-quality season under his belt and should confidently lead St. Louis past the tough Reds in 2013.

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5 Reasons the Michael Young Trade Won’t Help the Phillies Win the NL East

As young and talented as the Washington Nationals are, there’s probably not a single trade the Phillies can make to give them a chance to win the NL East in 2013.

Compared to Placido Polanco, anything has to be an upgrade for the Philadelphia Phillies at third base, but we’re not sure Michael Young would even rank as that.

The Phillies and Texas Rangers have agreed to a trade that will send Young to Philadelphia to be the Phillies’ third baseman.

This just shows how thin teams are at third base.

The Indians and Yankees are fighting over an over-the-hill Kevin Youkilis. Scott Rolen has been in the league far too long and may finally be done. Career nomad Jeff Keppinger scored a three-year deal to play third for Tampa if (when) Evan Longoria gets hurt again.

So it may just be a sign of the times—teams can no longer rely on free agency to fill major holes in their roster. Or at least they shouldn’t.

Here are five reasons why the Young trade will not put the Phillies in contention in 2013.

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5 Ex-Cardinals Free Agents St. Louis Should Avoid at All Costs

The Cardinals as an organization generally avoid signing free agents of any kind (at all costs) so the title of this slideshow is a little misleading, admittedly.

However, the club does like to work in the realm of the familiar—the known quantity—and like some middle-aged group of buddies in a garage band, sometimes they bring old friends back into the fold for one last gig.

Even if they can’t play a note.

At age 35, Jeff Suppan returned in 2010 after taking his free-agent lumps in Milwaukee for three years, but only went 3-6 for the Cards.

Ray Lankford came home in his final season in 2004 and somehow accumulated 200 at-bats. He only batted .255 and struck out 55 times, which was always one of his specialties.

And our favorite example: Ken Hill.

The plus-armed 25-year-old was included in a trade with Montreal to bring Andres Galarraga to St. Louis to fill their first-base vacancy.

Galarraga was a bust while Hill won 16 games in two of three seasons for the Expos, even finishing second in the 1994 NL Cy Young vote.

The Cardinals saw the chance to bring Hill back to anchor their pitching staff for the 1995 season. So of course he flopped again as he went 6-7 in 18 starts with a 5.06 ERA before being shipped off to Cleveland.

To add insult to injury, he won 16 games for a third time the very next season with the Rangers.

So while the team has very few holes to plug this offseason, the Cards always seem vaguely tempted to bring an old familiar face back into the fold.

While there is little chance any of the following former Cardinals will be signed by John Mozeliak, in case he has a momentary lack of reason, here are the reasons why the team should pass.

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Can Pete Kozma Turn into a Star at Shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals?

You remember what your father used to tell you about baseball, right?

“Son, baseball players don’t learn to hit at the major league level after compiling a .652 OPS in six minor league seasons.”

Or something like that.

If that “axiom” is true, then what are the Cardinals and their fans to make of Pete Kozma‘s shocking 26-game performance at the end of 2012 where he batted .333, had 15 of his 24 hits go for extra bases and essentially saved their season when Rafael Furcal was felled by a torn elbow ligament?

Does St. Louis have the next Ozzie Smith on its hands or just another Bo Hart or Joe McEwing

Truth be told, sometimes it takes a player a couple years for the offensive side of his game to click.

Smith, a Cardinals’ icon, didn’t bat above .260 until he was 30-years-old.

Omar Vizquel’s first meaningful offensive season came at age 29.

Poor ex-Cardinal Brendan Ryan was the best defensive shortstop in the majors this year at age 30, but hit just .194 in 407 at-bats this year—the worst batting average of his career.

Let’s look at the early-career slash lines of two batters that Cardinal fans know fairly well:

Player A
2004 21 .267 .329 .356 .684
2005 22 .252 .295 .358 .654
2006 23 .216 .274 .321 .595
2007 24 .275 .340 .368 .708

In this sample, Player A started out with a fairly weak stick, really bottomed-out in 2006 and then rebounded very nicely in 2007 at age 24 with a much better feel for the strike zone, as the batting average and on-base percentage trended upward.

Player B
2009 21 .231 .302 .323 .625
2010 22 .243 .318 .384 .702
2011 23 .214 .280 .289 .569
2012 24 .246 .303 .386 .689

Eerily similar, no?

Player B seems to have a similar offensive profile to Player A. He is a weak batter to begin with, seriously struggles at age 23, but then seems to turn a corner of sorts at age 24.

Now, for the hidden details.

Player A’s stats are at the major league level while B’s are from the minors, except for 2012 which includes his hot stint in St. Louis.

So yes, it’s not a pure comparison, but it does illustrate the early offensive struggles each hitter had relative to their own context.

And if you haven’t guessed yet, Player B is Kozma and Player A—well, he just finished fourth in the National League Most Valuable Player voting for 2012.

Now, I’m not saying that our “Wizard of Koz” is going to develop into a hitter like perennial All-Star, Yadier Molina. In fact, it’s a ridiculous comparison; guilty as charged.

But the point is, baseball is littered with productive players, even All-Stars, who were late bloomers with the bat.

Kozma will be turning 25 next April and it may behoove general manager John Mozeliak to see what they have in the former “bust” first-round pick by giving him one more extended look in St. Louis.

In addition to the fabulous .952 OPS Kozma put up this year, he also showed great poise for an un-heralded rookie.

In his postseason interviews, he dryly answered questions like a ten-year veteran. He certainly didn’t look like he was in over his head.

Perhaps after six nondescript minor league seasons, Kozma has learned to temper his excitement and just focus on the job at hand. Maybe that was difficult to do in Memphis with no hope of getting major league work, but perhaps his fire has been rekindled in St. Louis.

For a realistic comparison, let’s look at Zack Cozart of the NL Central rival Reds.

Cozart has an infinitely better pedigree than Kozma—like a career OPS in the minors that is 100 points better than Kozma‘s—but the 2012 season that Cozart just put up at age 26 doesn’t seem at all beyond what Kozma could produce in St. Louis next year (.246/.288/.399/.687).

Who knows?

Furcal’s recovery seems to be going swimmingly and this has to factor into the club’s decision to trade for a shortstop this offseason.

Fans may be treated to another helping of Kozmania if the fragile Furcal goes down early in 2013.

We may just find out if Kozma is the real deal.

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St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Signs Jon Jay Is the Leadoff Hitter of the Future

As the 2012 Major League Baseball regular season nears the final month of play, the St. Louis Cardinals are poised to reach the playoffs for an impressive 10th time in the past 17 seasons.

Since 1996, the Cardinals have a .544 winning percentage, yet even during this extended run of quality baseball, the team has had some traditional “soft spots” in the roster—namely second base, the bullpen and leadoff batter.

Not that the Cards have received poor production in these areas; in most cases, far from it.

But the organization has tended to have turnover at these positions for various reasons—be it salary-saving measures, a series of stop-gap veterans or draftees who simply never panned out.

Oh, you say leadoff hitter is not a position?

Tell that to Pete Rose, Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson. Actually, Rickey probably already told Rickey how important the leadoff batter is.

In the case of the leadoff spot, the Cards have had some nice production over the past decade from guys such as Fernando Vina, David Eckstein, Skip Schumaker and, most recently, an aging Rafael Furcal.

All tended to provide an on-base percentage between .350 and .360. Most were tough to strike out and offered some speed at the top of the order, but none ever gave the impression that they were long-term solutions.

As Colby Rasmus failed in center field, Jon Jay began filling the void defensively, and as Furcal has declined sharply midseason, Jay has began to settle in as the Cards’ new leadoff hitter.

Here are five reasons why Jay could be the Cards’ long-term solution at leadoff.

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Cardinals Trade Rumors: 5 Potential Deals to Shore Up St. Louis Bullpen

Last night against the Miami Marlins the Cardinals came back to win a game in which they trailed in the eighth inning for the first time this season. They were 0-26 in those situations until Monday night.

However, the Redbirds’ bullpen tried their best to punt the game to the Marlins in the seventh as Fernando Salas got just one out while allowing runners to reach second and third. Scatter-armed Eduardo Sanchez followed and walked three men in a row—the first intentionally with the other two coming Rick Ankiel-style.

The Cardinal relievers walked eight batters on the night in 10 innings.

Fortunately for St. Louis, Heath Bell and the Marlins’ bullpen have had continuing struggles of their own and blew a four-run lead in the ninth (but at least they forced the Cards to, you know—hit the ball).

Jason Motte was fortunate that Jose Reyes’ scorching liner to center was right at outfielder Shane Robinson to end a strange night of baseball.

While we give manager Mike Matheny and GM John Mozeliak a moment to wipe their brows, let’s look at five trades that would immediately help the Cardinals’ stressed bullpen.

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Josh Hamilton: Texas Rangers OF Erupts for 4 Home Runs Against Baltimore Orioles

Josh Hamilton hit for the “cycle” Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles. But when the ball flies out of the park, they don’t let you stop at first, second or third.

Hamilton hit four two-run home runs against the shell-shocked Orioles. He finished a perfect five-for-five with eight RBIs.  He now sits at 14 homers on the year with 36 RBI and appears to be steam-rolling toward another MVP award.

The first two long balls came at the expense of Orioles starter Jake Arrieta, who was coming off eight shutout innings against the New York Yankees in his last start. Hamilton’s third came off Zach Phillips and the fourth off of Darren O’Day. 

It’s somewhat surprising the O’s lost by a final tally of only 10-3.

Hamilton also set a new American League record with 18 total bases in one game and he set a personal best with those eight driven in. He also doubled in the fifth inning as he was perhaps pacing himself, taking a moment to rest at second.

The Rangers are now 20-10 and have tied the St. Louis Cardinals for the best run-differential in baseball at +65 (going into the Cardinals late game against Arizona).

He is the first player to have a four-homer game since Carlos Delgado did nine years ago with Toronto.

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Derek Jeter, Fallen Angels, and Other Early Surprises of the 2012 MLB Season

After a 2011 Major League Baseball season that left us amazed, confounded and breathless for seven months, Opening Day 2012 couldn’t get here fast enough.  

There were huge free-agent signings in the off-season (Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder among the largest), risky managerial appointments (Mike Matheny in St. Louis and Robin Ventura with the White Sox top that list), and the promise of amazingly talented rookies ready for their first full year in the majors (Matt Moore, Brett Lawrie, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout won’t disappoint).  

Of course, it’s still early in 2012 and with “Warning: Small Sample Size” announcements abound, there are some real surprises in the first month of the baseball season.  

Here are the Top 10 surprises in the MLB through the first month of the 2012 season.

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