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Preview: Infielders

Albert Pujols: Hopefully the ol' elbow will hold up and Pujols will take another run at the MVP award. The big guy is a team player and doesn't complain much. But he has to be disappointed that the front office failed again to land a big time slugger to protect him in the batting order. Ryan Ludwick is a fine player. But if you had the choice to pitch to the guy with the career batting mark of .334 who averages 41 homers a season or the guy who is a career .273 hitter who averages 11 homers?

Despite what statistically may have been Pujols' best season, he couldn't do it by himself in 2008, carrying the Cardinals to only a fourth-place finish. There really isn't much reason to hope he can do anything more in 2009. He simply needs a better supporting cast. (2008 stats: .357, 37 HR, 116 RBI, 100 R.)

Adam Kennedy: It's ridiculous and counterproductive that Kennedy is back with the Cardinals in 2009. He doesn't want to be here because he has twice lost his job as the starting second baseman and did I mention that he has twice lost his job as starting second baseman? Apparently the guy the Cardinals brought it to replace Kennedy was too expensive to keep and Felipe Lopez was allowed to walk away to Arizona for a one-year contract. The the Redbirds other second base alternative, fan favorite Aaron Miles was also allowed to walk away to the rival Cubs. So, we're stuck with Kennedy and Kennedy is stuck with us. Whoopie. (2008 Stats: .280, 2 HR, 36 RBI, 42 R.)

Troy Glaus: And I thought Troy Glaus was unproductive last season when he homered once in the first month of the season. He is almost certain to homer less often this April when he is expected to still be nursing his surgically repaired shoulder on the disabled list. What condition Glaus' bat will be in when he comes back is anybody's guess. His predecessor, Scott Rolen, was left vulnerable to the high fastball because of his shoulder problems. And Glaus could face the same fate. The real question is who let Glaus sit on his keyster the entire winter only to discover in  late January that he needed surgery. There is no excuse for Glaus not to be almost ready to take the field by this point. (2008 stats: .270, 27 HR, 99 RBI, 69 R.)

Khalil Greene: Ah, the guy who was acquired to improve the offense at shortstop who has worse offensive numbers than the guy he replaced... Greene struck out at an alarming pace last season, had an batting average that was microscopic and an on base percentage that was impossibly bad for a non-pitcher: Greene: .260, Braden Looper: .299, Adam Wainwright: .286.

GM John Mozeliak smugly -- and rudely -- pointed out to a fan that the Birds wouldn't have dealt for Greene if they didn't think he was going to hit better this year than last. He better. If he doesn't there is no one in the system with a significant amount of experience as a major league shortstop. (2008 stats: .213, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 30 R.)

David Freese: The guy the Cardinals got from the Padres for Jim Edmonds had never been above Class AA before the swap. Now he has the inside track to be a major league third baseman on opening day. He earned the shot with a strong season at Memphis: .306, 26 HR, 91 RBI. (2008 stats: Did not play in majors.)

Brett Wallace: The Cardinals' slugging first round draft pick from last season will also get a shot to win the starting third baseman's job in Glaus' absence. But he would certainly benefit from more time in the minors. He struggled in winter ball after a strong rookie season. While most people seem to think Wallace can play third well enough to make it in the majors, I worry about his condition. Video of him playing in the minors last season was disturbing for a guy in his early 20s who is supposed to be a professional athlete. (2008 stats: did not play in majors.)

Brian Barden: He'll get every chance to win the Aaron Miles job. But he doesn't have much of an upside, turning 28 at the beginning of April.  He is a versatile fielder with a good glove. But he has never hit well enough to stick in the majors.

Overall grade: D+ (That's including Pujols, and Pujols is an A+) 

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