The Cardinals certainly have their strengths. But it seems that this team has more holes than its architechts might have expected when the club was put together.
It wasn't a surprise that one of the club's starters has already gone down with a health problem. Every guy in the original five has had Tommy John surgery. And Chris Carpenter has not only a long history of arm trouble, but also he had a ton of miles on his arm last season that upped the chances of a breakdown.
But the team passed on chances over the off-season to add some starting pitching depth and will instead pull a valuable piece of their bullpen out of the mix and plug it into the rotation. That piece is Lance Lynn who plateaued as a prospective starter in Class AAA Memphis -- but who found his niche as a rubber armed reliever.
A bigger concern in my book is the fact that the guy the Cardinals acquired to be their lead-off hitter -- Rafael Furcal -- is hitting less than .200 in spring training after a lousy year with the bat in 2011. The Redbirds don't have a lot of other options at the top of the batting order. In fact, they're not really sure about the two hole.
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Manager Mike Matheny has been playing with Carlos Beltran in the second spot. But when he bats there it forces the club to use guys like David Freese and Yadier Molina higher in the batting order than what might be ideal.
I give Freese all due respect for his monster post season in 2011. But he hasn't proven he is a high average hitter who can hit in excess of 20 home runs over the course of a regular season. Until he does that, he's not a legit clean-up hitter. The only way the Cardinals can use Molina in that role is if they want to see Albert Pujols' record for double plays hit into last only one year.
Freese and Molina are ideal lower in the order complimentary hitters because there they can hit to their strengths and not try to be the power hitters that they aren't. I'd prefer to see Matt Holliday bat third with Lance Berkman fourth and Beltran fifth. Then Freese can hit sixth and Molina seventh. But who will bat at the top of the order? All that would be left are Furcal, Jon Jay, Tyler Greene. Jay's not a lead-off type. Greene has struggled to keep his composure as a major league player...
The Cardinals have a really nice core of players. But this team doesn't seem to fit together in a traditional way if Furcal can't set the table.