2010 St. Louis Cardinals Preview

Chris Carpenter, RHP
Adam Wainwright, RHP
Brad Penny, RHP
Kyle Lohse, RHP
Rich Hill, LHP

Closers and Setup
Ryan Franklin, RHP
Jason Motte, RHP

Starting Lineup
Skip Schumaker, 2B
Brendan Ryan, SS
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Holliday, LF
Ryan Ludwick, RF
Yadier Molina, C
Colby Rasmus, CF
David Freese, 3B

Player in Decline
Even though he saved 38 games and posted an ERA of 1.92, Ryan Franklin was not that spectacular. His xFIP of 4.27 and BABIP of .269 indicate a turnaround is likely in 2010. He still may pick up saves, but the outstanding ERA will not return.

Player on the Rise
Colby Rasmus was a very effective base stealer in the minors, but swiped only three bags last season. His average, power numbers, and steals should all increase this year.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Albert Pujols – Elite
Matt Holliday – Elite
Adam Wainwright – Elite
Chris Carpenter – Elite
Ryan Ludwick – Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Shelby Miller, RHP
2. Lance Lynn, RHP
3. Jaime Garcia, LHP
4. Daryl Jones, OF
5. Allen Craig, 3B
6. Eduardo Sanchez, RHP
7. Dan Descalso, IF
8. Adam Reifer, RHP
9. David Freese, 3B
10. Robert Stock, C

Overall Team Outlook: After being a trendy pick to win the National League crown, the Cardinals faltered early in the playoffs. However, 2009 was the first playoff trip since 2006, and with building blocks in place, the club will look to continue that streak.

The Starting Rotation: The Cardinals rotation features two Cy Young contenders on top of their rotation in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. Wainwright sports an outstanding curveball and is working towards improving his sinking fastball. Carpenter has long been an ace-caliber pitcher, but has never stayed healthy long enough to be reliable. Newcomer Brad Penny will be the No. 3 starter this year. After being released by the Red Sox, Penny returned to the NL last year and showed that he can be a big-time pitcher. He throws a nice fastball and, if he can stay healthy, he should provide adequate output for the Cards. Kyle Lohse will help anchor the back of the rotation and is nothing to get excited about. Battling for the fifth spot will be reclamation project Rich Hill, along with Mitchell Boggs and a host of others. Hill is on a minor league deal, and should get the first shot if Dave Duncan can work his magic.

The Bullpen: As with any Tony LaRussa club, the Cardinals bullpen could be defined as a “mess.” Ryan Franklin was the closer last season and surprised everyone with a superb season. However, the advanced statistics show that he was extremely lucky, so projections for 2010 are way down. Other options for the Cards include flamethrower Jason Motte, who blew all of his 2009 save chances, and Kyle McClellan, who will need to lower his walk rate to stay successful.

The Starting Lineup: The Cardinals lineup is filled with absolute studs, as well as some question marks. Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Ludwick are all big, right-handed bats that will occupy the middle of the order in St. Louis. Center fielder Colby Rasmus will have full control of his spot with the departure of Rick Ankiel. The left side of the infield is a big question mark, with rookie David Freese stepping in as the third baseman. Freese had some great seasons in the minors and playing in a good lineup will help him. Brendan Ryan, moustache and all, will be returning as the everyday shortstop, and should provide some nice cheap steals. Skip Schumaker will be back for his second full season at second base, but may have to split time with Julio Lugo. Lugo, acquired from the Red Sox late last year, played well for the Cardinals in his brief time with the team and could also fight Ryan for playing time at short. Behind the plate it is another year of “Name that Molina,” with Yadier Molina anchoring the defense. While he may not add anything special at the plate, the Cardinals rely on him to not hurt them on offense and to drive in runs whenever he can.

The Bench: The previously mentioned Lugo will be the first player off the bench for the Cards, but after that it remains a mystery. Veteran catcher Jason LaRue could see some playing time should Molina become run down or injured, but will not be a big part of the Cardinals’ plans. Infielder Tyler Greene will also be on the roster, but the back-up outfield spots are up for grabs.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

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