3 Felipe Lopez (2B, 3B, OF, SS) -- Lopez is listed on the Cardinals roster as a bench player. But he's going to see the field plenty. Lopez played last season for Arizona and Milwaukee and compiled the ninth best batting average in the National League. He'll start at second against tough lefties and move around to give other guys a day off here and there.
4 Yadier Molina (C) -- A Gold Glover and All-Star, in many ways Yadi's the guy who keeps the pitching staff together. Once an offensive liability, he's a .292 hitter who walks more often than he strikes out over the last three seasons. He also seems to have a knack for coming through in the clutch.
5 Albert Pujols (1B) -- He hits to the tune of a .334 batting mark with 42 homers and 129 RBIs over the course of a 162-game season. That makes Pujols the gold standard of current major league players and places him in front of most Hall of Famers on the stats sheet. But can he stay healthy with chronic elbow problems that hurt his swing at the end of 2009? He always seems to find a way to get the job done.
7 Matt Holliday (LF) -- Some criticize the $120-million, seven-year contract he signed over the off-season. But Holliday is one of the few hitters in baseball who could offer a big enough threat behind Pujols to force opposing pitchers to put the ball over the plate for the big guy. He's a .316 career hitter who averages nearly 30 homers a season. He also hits a ton of doubles and has stolen a double digit number of bases in five of his six seasons -- including 28 in 2008.
13 Brendan Ryan (SS) -- Brendan Ryan emerged at shortstop last season out of necessity when Khalil Greene was unable to play because of social anxiety disorder. How well he performed can not be overestimated. When future Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa compares your glove to Ozzie Smith's -- the greatest defensive shortstop of all time -- you're obviously doing a heckuva job. Ryan has also made huge strides at the plate since his days as a utilityman. And working with new hitting coach Mark McGwire seems to suit him very well.
21 Jason LaRue (C) -- A steady backup, LaRue doesn't hit like he used to when he was a starter for Cincinnati several years ago. But the pitchers like to throw to him and he manages a game well. He's accepted his role as a part time player -- and an unofficial extra coach on the bench -- well.
22 Joe Mather (OF, 3B. 1B) -- After a 2009 season completely destroyed by a wrist injury, Mather is the surprise guy this spring to make the club out of camp. He's here because of his ability to play several positions and to offer power off the bench. But he needs to cut down his swing and make contact more consistently if he wants to stick.
23 David Freese (3B) -- After an unfortunately high profile off-season, Freese threw himself into his work and it paid off. He had an excellent spring and re-established himself as the Cardinals starter at the hot corner. The line drives came off of his bat left and right in Florida. Hopefully he can keep that going when the games start to count.
26 Kyle Lohse (SP) -- Lohse got off to a hot start in 2009 but then saw his season derailed by injuries. On April 28 he was 3-0 with a sparkling 1.97 ERA. Lohse will never be a spectacular strikeout guy, but he can be a methodical groundball machine when he's right. And, hopefully, the fact that he led the Cardinals starters in ERA over the spring is a sign that he's back to normal once again.
28 Colby Rasmus (CF) -- He took over last season in centerfield and usher Rick Ankiel off to Kansas City. Now it's up Rasmus to not only prove he can do the job on an everyday basis... But also that he can adapt to major league pitchers and improve upon his .251 rookie batting average. One of the things that worries me most about the Cardinals is the fact that they don't have another natural centerfielder who can play everyday if Rasmus has a setback or gets hurt. But you have to be encouraged by the way Rasmus battled in at bats and came through so often in the clutch.
29 Chris Carpenter (SP) -- Speaking of things about the Cardinals that scare me... Carpenter's health is always going to be a concern for the rest of his career. He's a top five pitcher in baseball when he's available. So the Cardinals need him to be available...
31 Ryan Franklin (CL) -- Franklin earned an All-Star berth with the way he pitched in the first half of the season. And he was terrible for the last month plus. To put it bluntly, the Cardinals don't have the bullpen depth to afford Franklin the opportunity to fail. And, while spring training results don't mean a lot, I have to admit I'm scared by the way he struggled in the Grapefruit League.
33 Brad Penny (SP) -- If he pitches the way he did three or four years ago, Penny could be one of the best starters in the National League. But he's struggled the last two years and seemed to be damaged goods, eventually getting set free in 2009 by the Red Sox. I've always thought Penny would be a good fit for the Birds. But I worry about his fragility on the same staff as Carpenter.
34 Nick Stavinoha (OF) -- He simply hit his way onto the roster in the spring. Apparently the Redbirds were comfortable enough with his bat to part with veteran infielder Julio Lugo to make room for him on the roster.
36 Dennys Reyes (RP) -- A steady lefty out of the bullpen, he allowed 35 hits in 41 innings in 2009.
41 Mitchell Boggs (RP) -- He's been recast as a reliever which La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan think will allow Boggs to unleash his heat more and go after batters more aggressively. If Franklin can't do it as closer, Boggs may be Plan B.
43 Trever Miller (RP) -- The Cardinals took a flier on Miller last season even though they had some concerns about his pitching arm. Those concerns were apparently satisfied last season when the front office gave the young hurler a contract extension. He gave up 31 hits in 43 2/3 innings and put together a 2.06 ERA.
46 Kyle McClellan (RP) -- He was given a tryout during the spring for a spot in the starting rotation, and he didn't pitch bad. But the Cardinals need McClellan in the bullpen right now more than they need him in the rotation. McClellan seems to wear down late in the season, so I'm not sure that he would be best suited throwing all the additional innings he would have to pitch as a starter. Hopefully he can settle into the setup role in front of Franklin.
47 Ryan Ludwick (RF) -- Don't lose track of Ludwick in the hype about Matt Holliday. Ludwick gained a lot of experience hitting in the clutch behind Pujols over the last two seasons. And he stands to get a lot of chances to hit with runners on base hitting behind Pujols AND Holliday in 2010. Or... If David Freese hits well, Ludwick might find himself seeing a bunch of fastballs hitting IN FRONT of Pujols and Holliday. Or, knowing LaRussa's tendencies, he might bat Holliday second and put Ludwick back in the cleanup spot.
50 Adam Wainwright (SP) -- He deserved to win the Cy Young Award in 2009 but lost it in some of the closest voting in the history of the award. With another similar season, we could see Wainwright surpass Carpenter as the ace of the St. Louis staff.
53 Blake Hawksworth (RP) -- He was spectacular down the stretch in 2009 with 29 hits allowed in 40 innings pitched. His ERA was 2.02. He struggled in the spring, but much of that is blamed on a groin injury that eventually caused him to be shut down. He will likely be the long reliever.
54 Jaime Garcia (SP) -- Coming into the spring, Duncan said he didn't want to see Garcia starting in the majors so soon after Tommy John surgery that shut him down for almost all of the 2009 season. But Garcia pitched so well that he couldn't be denied, outdueling McClellan and veteran starter Rich Hill who was sent to Class AAA Memphis. He impressed not only with his stuff, but just as much with his poise. We'll see if that is the case when he goes from pitching in front of less than 10,000 people in the spring to more than 40,000 people in a major league park.
55 Skip Schumaker (2B, OF) -- Skippy did a great job re-learning to play a position he hadn't played since college at the major league level -- all while dealing with the pressue of being a leadoff hitter. I listed Schu as being able to play the outfield based on his history. But it will be surprising if he sees much time there in 2010. He played little in the outfield in 2009 (989 1/3 innings at second vs 131 1/3 innings in the outfield) and I don't recall seeing him in the outfield in the spring at all.
60 Jason Motte (RP) -- He stuck last season at the major league level, but he was inconsistent. He seemed to overthrow at times which took a lot of the steam out of his high 90s fastball -- sometimes slowing it down to 90 MPH or less. Motte has to use his secondary pitches a lot better this season to keep hitters honest. If he can do that and get some poise, he could be devistating.
Allen Craig (OF, 1B, 3B) -- He's done everything he could do in Class AAA, and he hit his way onto the big league roster in spring training. Craig isn't great with the glove. But he'll make or break his MLB career with his bat... He's a .300 hitter with power in the minors. We'll see what he can do it limited playing time in The Show.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat