The 2012 St. Louis Cardinals by the numbers:
3 Carlos Beltran -- Formerly a well known villain at Busch Stadium, Beltran no longer wears the colors of the Mets or the Astros. He's in red now. His job is to fill the offensive crater left by the defection of Albert Pujols. And, if he is healthy, he is capable of being a superstar. But he hasn't been in the last couple of years because of on-going knee problems. The Cardinals hope Beltran can continue to build on the recovery he enjoyed last season with the Giants and be an offensive force in the middle or at the top of the batting order. Manager Mike Matheny has been batting him second in spring training games. I'd rather see him batting fifth behind Matt Holliday and Berkman.
4 Yadier Molina -- I think most of us thought that this was the last season in which we would see Molina in St. Louis red. But the Cardinals shocked the baseball universe by signing Molina to a huge contract that should keep him behind the plate at Busch Stadium until he's 34. The fact that the team opened up the pocketbook so widely is testament to the fact that Molina is a coach on the field in charge of keeping the pitching staff on the straight and narrow. He's also the best defensive catcher in baseball. Yadi had his best season at the plate in 2011. Will he continue to trend upward in batting average and production numbers? That's doubtful. But if he hits .270 plus with 10 homers and a decent batting average with runners in scoring position, the rest is icing on the cake.
7 Matt Holliday -- He was one of the top five hitters in the National League before the Cardinals signed him to the richest deal in team history to be Pujols' sidekick. Now we'll get to see how he does as the headlining act. Holliday was slowed by health problems and other odd events last year. But he was brilliant in between absences. So here's to hoping that he goes back to being that .325 hitting guy with 25 or so homers that the Redbirds invested in three years ago.
Never miss a local story.
12 Lance Berkman -- When the Birds inked Berkman last off-season it seemed like a pretty risky move. He hadn't had a season anywhere near his lofty standards in three years and in 2010 he sure looked like his bat speed was a thing of the past. But, finally playing on a healthy knee, Berkman was able in the first half of 2011 to put the Cardinals on his back and carry them to the All-Star break at the top of the division standings. Does he have another year like that in him? I don't know. But he really doesn't have to be an MVP candidate. He just needs to be a reliable and productive part of the St. Louis offense. I'd take .280 with 25 homers and some clutch hits sprinkled in.
15 Rafeal Furcal -- One thing is certain. If Furcal plays everyday, the Cardinals will enjoy much better infield defense than they did in 2011. But the thing that is uncertain is whether Furcal can still hit. He's a career lead-off man who did nothing in spring training to dispel the thought that he has declined into a .220 hitter. Furcal suffered through some health problems over the off-season so he reported to camp a bit out of shape. Hopefully he is still getting better and he'll be able to stay on the field and be a productive player in 2012. Otherwise, the team is very short on capable major league shortstops and may have to make a move to shore up a position it invested $14 million in over the next two seasons.
16 J.C. Romero -- He's the second lefty out of the pen and the one out specialist against lefty hitters. He was one of the best in the game at that role a couple of years ago before a rough patch in 2011. Hopefully he'll regain his form and give the Cardinals a chance to save their other bullpen bullets for longer stints.
19 Jon Jay -- I don't get all the Jon Jay bashing. It seems some folks want to compare him to what they thought Colby Rasmus was going to be -- not what he really turned out to be. Either way, it's unfair. Rasmus was thought of as an offensive centerpiece when he was drafted. And it turned out the only offensive characteristic he had was his bad attitude. Jay is a good defensive outfielder and a COMPLILENTARY player. No one ever expected him to bat clean-up and hit 25 homers. His job is to get on base and let the big boys do there thing and to catch everything in his area code in the outfield. No one every said he was going to challenge for batting titles, steal 50 bases or pop 40 homers. But that doesn't mean he isn't doing his job.
21 Allen Craig -- A lot of people thought Craig was going to be the starting right fielder. But a problem with his knee combined with the availability of Beltran multiplied by the loss of Pujols caused the Birds to change their plans. The team hopes Craig can recover fully by May and be a virtual full-time player, finding time in right field when Beltran needs a break or when he shifts over to center against tough lefties to give Jay a breather. He can also play first base when Lance Berkman needs to sit and can be the teams number one guy off the bench when it needs a pinch hitter.
23 David Freese -- Is he the guy who went nuts in October and launched homers all over the place, or the guy who can't stay healthy for more than half of the season in his first three years in the majors? Ask me in nine months. But if you need me to make a prediction now, I would say he's somewhere in between. Freese seems to have learned an awful lot about hitting in 2011 and he comes to the plate with a smart approach and a chance to succeed every time. Is he a 30 homer guy? I'd be surprised since he has seemed to have more of a doubles swing in the past. No one wants to see him try to remake who he is is to fill the superstar-sized shoes Freese has created for himself. His success in 2012 counts on two things: staying healthy and keeping a level head.
26 Kyle Lohse -- He was the guy who made the loss of Adam Wainwright survivable in 2011. In 2012 he may have to be the guy who makes the loss of Chris Carpenter survivable. And he's capable of doing it if his arm stays healthy. Lohse isn't a flashy guy who will pile up a bunch of strikeouts. But he is capable of pitching an efficient, ground ball-filled game that can make the Cardinals a winner. Plus, he's pitching in a contract year. If he wants to get paid again, he's going to be motivated to have a great season.
27 Tyler Greene -- Drafted in the same year -- and the same round -- as Rasmus, Greene has been an even bigger disappointment. He's a monster in the minors, but he's never consistently hit at the big league level. He covers a ton of ground at short. But he gets the yips and messes up the routine play. So the Cardinals took off the pressure and moved Greene to second. If they can keep his head on straight, it could be career saver for Greene. He covers a ton more ground that converted outfielder Skip Schumaker. And, while he is prone to swing and miss at the plate, he's got more pop than your usual middle infielder. The result is he could give the Birds a lot more than they bargained for in terms of production from the eighth spot of the batting order.
29 Chris Carpenter -- He never made it into a Grapefruit League game with a nerve problem in his neck and right shoulder. But opinions vary widely on the prognosis. General Manager John Mozeliak implied a couple of weeks ago that Carp would miss AT LEAST 2 1/2 months due to this setback. Then a couple of days ago he said he is confident we'll see him some time in May. In fact, he said, if Carpenter had to pitch tomorrow, he could. He's just not comfortable. So is his putting on a brave face or is his confidence justified. The Cardinals can do without Carp for a while. But he is the leader of this team and he's there best big game pitcher -- in case there is anyone on the planet who didn't realize that with his incredible clutch wins to clinch the Cardinals' playoff berth, the win in the NLDS over the Phillies and to take control of the 2011 World Series. They can't do without him in the second half.
30 Jason Motte -- Former manager Tony La Russa refused to name Motte the closer -- even when he was pitching the ninth inning of playoff and World Series games -- to save him from as much pressure as possible. Now he's got the title. So the question is can Motte handle the pressure over the course of a long season? He's supposedly making progress on secondary pitches to compliment his blazing fastball. I have a feeling that those pitches are key to his long term success. But my most immediate concern is his control of that fastball. He has to throw strikes to stay out of trouble. And he struggled with that at times over the spring.
31 Lance Lynn -- He impressed as a reliever, coming into a horrible bullpen situation for the Cardinals and calming it down with 34 super innings with 40 strikeouts. But he had less success in a couple of emergency starts. So, well see what happens as he is pressed into the role as Carpenter's rotation replacement. If he can calm the butterflies, I expect Lynn to do well. Let's not forget he was a highly coveted minor league starting prospect before he went to the 'pen because of the Cardinals' needs -- not his.
33 Daniel Descalso -- The best and most versatile player on the Cardinals bench, Descalso could be pressed into full-time service at third base if Freese gets hurt again, at shortstop if Furcal ends up back on the disabled list or at second if Greene doesn't prove he's gotten over the hump. You have to love a guy who can do so many things so capably. And he's proved that he's not going to be shaken first by his well-earned reputation as a clutch late innings hitter and later by his sure-handed late inning defensive play in the post-season. I hope the Cardinals are healthy enough to keep him on the bench as much as possible. But I feel comfortable that he'll perform well if they aren't.
34 Marc Rzepczyski -- Time will tell if this guy will remain as a bullpenner capable of getting both lefties and righties out... Or if he will eventually move back to the rotation and be an effective starter. Either way, the last piece the Cardinals retained from swapping Rasmus looks like he has a bright future.
35 Jake Westbrook -- I admit it. I was done with Westbrook after a 2011 of uneven performances and disappointing results. But he's lost significant weight and has pitched with obviously superior mechanics this spring to fantastic results. Like Lohse, he's pitching in a contract year. And that seems to be when Westrbook pitches his best.
40 Scott Linebrink -- He's a well-traveled veteran who gives the young Cardinals bullpen a much coveted veteran presence. And, since he was responsible for breaking Freese's hand with a pitch last year that put him on the shelf for a big chunk of the season, the Redbirds probably feel safer paying him to not pitch to their third baseman.
41 Mitchell Boggs -- And earlier day Lance Lynn, Boggs was a starter who moved to the bullpen to allow him to make the most of his power pitches by appearing in short bursts. He seemed like he was going to have a role of prominence in the St. Louis bullpen last year until he blew his only save opportunity and oddly ended up in the minors. The story at the time was that the Redbirds needed him to prepare to be a starter. But the truth may be that he has very erratic mechanics and the team wanted him to work on becoming more consistent. So now we'll see what the results of that effort will be.
46 Kyle McClellan -- He did a fine job as a starter in the first half of the 2011 campaign, filling in for Wainwright in the rotation. But he burned up his arm and never recovered. That probably explains why the Birds never even talked about McClellan as a replacement for Carpenter this year. Hopefully he'll go back to being a useful part of the bullpen.
48 Tony Cruz -- The Cardinals decided to go in-house for a back-up catcher in 2012 after several years of employing over the hill veterans. Cruz beat out Bryan Anderson for the job because of his better defensive skills. He's also capable of playing the infield corners in a pinch.
50 Adam Wainwright -- Can he be the guy he was in 2009 as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. All signs point to yes -- at least for a while. Remember, he didn't throw a pitch last season. So asking him to throw 200 or more innings this season might be a little bit like asking a guy who hasn't run in a year to compete in a marathon. I think he might hit the wall after the All-Star Break. And if he does, the Redbirds have to hope that Carpenter will be back in business by then.
54 Jaime Garcia -- He got a long-term contract extension mid-season in 2011... And then turned from a mid-rotation force into a mess. The Cardinals need Garcia to regain his composure and show that he's a legit No. 3 starter if they're going to have the solid rotation they expected when they inked Garcia last year. He's got incredible stuff. He just needs to work on being consistent so he can make his best pitches when he needs them most. It would also help him to economize. He seems to be prone to pitching four excellent innings -- and then falling on his face.
55 Skip Schumaker -- After three years of trying, Schumaker was supposedly headed back to the outfield before he tore a rib cage muscle and landed on the disabled list. But I am still nervous the organization thinks that he is a suitable second baseman. I have said it before and I will say it again, he's a very good outfielder, a nice hitter and a positive force in the clubhouse. But he's a crummy defender at second base. He has terrible range and iffy hands. It's not his fault because I couldn't imagine trying to learn how to play the infield at the major league level after the better part of a decade as an outfielder. But it's best for everyone if he plays where he can best help the team -- as an extra outfielder.
59 Fernando Salas -- He gave a yeoman's effort as the closer last season after Ryan Franklin flamed out. But he seemed to be overexposed as the end of the season neared and Jason Motte took over. That being said, Salas is an excellent bullpen workhorse who can pitch two innings in the middle of a game before things are handed over to the closer. But, who knows? If Motte gets shaky or if he gets hurt, Salas could do the job again -- at least over the short term.
62 Matt Carpenter -- I'm guessing this guy's number is going to change. But this is where he sits now, so this is where he'll enter this piece. Carpenter has a nice contact bat and a doubles stroke. He doesn't show the kind of power one might expect from a corner infielder -- nor does he have a great glove. But the Birds will give him a chance with a little extra roster room created by the injuries to Schumaker and Craig. He needs to hit to stick. I think he would be best served to spend his time in Class AAA trying to move from the hot corner to second base.
64 Shane Robinson -- Another guy ripe for a renumbering, Robinson is getting a third shot at the big leagues thanks to injuries. He's a spark plug sort. But he has never consistently hit for high enough average in the minors to make anyone believe his ceiling is higher than being a fifth outfielder at the major league level. This might be his last chance to prove something different.
82 Erik Komatsu -- The highest number of all -- which means he probably had the least chance to make good on his promise and earn a spot on the major league roster -- Komatsu hit and hit and then hit some more in Grapefruit League play. He isn't a flashy guy. But he does a lot of things well like hit for contact, steal bases and play a strong outfield in all three positions. A Rule Five draftee, the Birds need to keep him on the big league roster all season -- or to work out a trade with his former club to allow them to send him to the minors. We'll have to see how that works out as guys return from the disabled list. He's a lefty bat and that might make his services redundant when Schumaker makes it back.