Opening Day Lineup Revealed!

The Post-Dispatch has posted the Cardinals’ planned Opening Day lineup for tomorrow’s afternoon game against the San Diego Padres. You can catch the game at 3:15 pm Cardinals time (central time zone) on ESPN.

The Cardinals will be facing the Padres’ Tim Stauffer tomorrow. Stauffer, 28, has racked up some service time on the major league roster, but has been unable to stick. However, last season he posted a 1.85 ERA between 25 relief appearances and 7 starts.

As a starter, he’s struggled in his career with an ERA of 4.54 and a record of 11-16 in his 38 starts. But last season he was 3-2 in his 7 starts with a 1.83 ERA. The downside was, that he averaged only around six innings a start, meaning that they will likely have to rely on the bullpen. Which isn’t a totally bad thing for the Padres, who had one of the best bullpens of 2010. But let’s get down to the action.

1. Ryan Theriot, SS
The decision to put Theriot at the top of the lineup surprises me, but signals that Theriot is expected to be the leadoff hitter everyday. I had speculated that Tony LaRussa would use Skip Schumaker to leadoff against RHP, while Theriot took the spot against LHP. The reason? Schumaker hits .307 with a .364 OBP against right handed starters while Theriot hits just .277 with a .338 OBP. Both are relatively good options, but for a manager who likes to play the stats and matchups, it wasn’t what I expected.

2. Colby Rasmus, CF
This move could be a big one for Rasmus. Instead of being in a run producing role deeper in the lineup, as he has usually been, he will be in an on base role. Hitting in front of the best hitter in the game should help him get good pitches to hit. If he can work on the strikeouts and work on hitting to all fields, Rasmus could have a monster year hitting in the #2 spot.

3. Albert Pujols, 1B
Was there really any doubt as to his location in the lineup? Potentially the best player in baseball and a free agent. Pujols’ season could go one of two ways. He’ll obviously be trying to put up big numbers, which should be a boon for the Cardinals offense this year. But there’s always the fear that you try too hard and you fail. Part of me wonders if that’s what’s led to his diminished numbers since Holliday arrived. There’s protection now and no excuse, so he’s trying things he wouldn’t otherwise try because of Holliday behind him. Pujols hits the Padres pretty well. Hitting .353, 18 HR, and 61 RBI in 65 games against them.

4. Matt Holliday, LF
After all the talk of him moving to right field to let Berkman have the easier to play left field, he returns to his customary home. I’ll admit that I heavily underestimated Holliday’s impact to the Cardinals last season, but he proved me wrong. I would love for him to keep proving me wrong. His homer rate at Busch Stadium is almost as good as it was at Coors Field, too. He averages a homer for every 4.5 games at Busch, while it was every 4.2 games at Coors.

5. Lance Berkman, RF
The Lance Berkman experiment begins. After being handled with care through most of spring training, Berkman will make his first outfield start since August 25, 2007. He’s obviously hoping to do better than the 0-for-4 he went in that game against Pittsburgh. But has hit .316 with 56 HR in 252 games as a right fielder, by far his best stats at any position he’s played.

6. David Freese, 3B
The man whose injury exposed the lack of depth in 2010 has returned. Freese will start at third base for the first time since June 27th of last year. The former Padres prospect was having a phenomenal rookie season when he went down, too. The Cardinals are hoping that he can recapture some of that magic and once again give them that RBI machine down in the lineup. Oh, and his glove would be the best third base glove we’ve had since he went down.

7. Yadier Molina, C
Fans will be relieved that Molina is once again hitting down in the order. With the injuries to the Cardinals last year, he had been hitting in the six hole. Right where his ability to ground into double plays with the league leaders would be to stifle many rallies. He gets credit for his difficulty to strike out, but he needs to work on that this year as he posted a career high in strikeouts last season. Of all the teams who he’s played more than 30 games against, he hits San Diego the best. However, he has yet to hit a home run off a Padres pitcher in his 128 plate appearances.

8. Skip Schumaker, 2B
Schumaker will hit eighth on Thursday afternoon, a surprise to many considering the ability to essentially have two leadoff men with Schumaker and Theriot who both hit right handed pitchers well enough to leadoff. Yet another phenomenon. Schumaker hits the Padres better than anyone else with his .338 average against them in 22 games, but still has no homers against them. Yeah, he doesn’t have much power to begin with, but only two other teams who he has played more than 20 games against have no home runs against them, and they’ve got much worse batting averages.

9. Chris Carpenter, P
A much bemoaned move by the guys over at Pitcher’s Hit 8th, Tony LaRussa has said that he plans on batting the pitcher in the ninth position this season. Me, and many other fans, thought this year would be the perfect year for the plan to hit the pitcher 8th, at least against right handed pitchers, because both Theriot and Schumaker have numbers capable of leading off against right handers. With Schumaker in the 9 hole to lead the lineup back around, it was thought to be a great move. It seems that the genius that is Tony LaRussa does not agree.

That is your look at the Cardinals’ Opening Day lineup for tomorrow. You can check me out tonight on the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour tonight at 9:30 pm Cardinals time as I will be hosting. We will be doing a bit of previewing of the Cardinals/Padres series as well as getting in some final notes on Spring Training action, including the final cuts. And if we have some time, we might discuss some of the Cardinals’ Approval Ratings that we should be seeing tomorrow here at Redbird Dugout as well.

So check that out, Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.

Opening Day Roster Set

According to Derrick Goold, the final two players have been sent out of major league camp to set the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster. Those two players would be Fernando Salas and Nick Stavinoha.

Salas, 25, was heavily expected to get the final bullpen spot after Miguel Batista secured the first open bullpen spot. In Spring Training, Salas posted a 0.73 ERA over his 12.1 innings and a 0.89 WHIP with 4 hits and 7 walks. Ultimately, the walks could have been what did him in.

Stavinoha, 28, was not expected to make the team at all. He had been hanging around as an outfielder and emergency catcher should the need be. While Stavinoha has shown improvement in each of his trips to St. Louis, I don’t think there is much of a major league career in his future.

The move should mean that Bryan Augenstein will score the final bullpen spot. Augenstein, 24, has to be hoping that his stint with the Cardinals this year will be more successful than his time with the Diamondbacks last year where he posted a 7.94 ERA in 7 games. Despite that lack of success in 2010, Augenstein had a great spring with the Cardinals boasting a 0.77 ERA in his 11.2 innings. He allowed just 5 hits, 3 walks and had 13 strikeouts.

In fact, he was the only Cardinal pitcher this spring who had more strikeouts than innings pitched. The power plus the lack of walks is probably what secured his spot over Salas.

Presumed Cardinals 2011 Opening Day Roster

Starting Pitching
RHP Chris Carpenter
LHP Jaime Garcia
RHP Kyle Lohse
RHP Kyle McClellan
RHP Jake Westbrook

Relief Pitching
RHP Bryan Augenstein
RHP Miguel Batista
RHP Mitchell Boggs
RHP Ryan Franklin
LHP Trever Miller
RHP Jason Motte
LHP Brian Tallett

Catchers
C Gerald Laird
C Yadier Molina

Infielders
IF Daniel Descalso
3B David Freese
IF Tyler Greene
1B Albert Pujols
2B Skip Schumaker
SS Ryan Theriot

Outfielders
RF Lance Berkman
OF Allen Craig
LF Matt Holliday
OF Jon Jay
CF Colby Rasmus

Youngsters in Spring Training

As Spring Training Winds down and all the Cardinals’ fans are itching for Opening Day let’s take a look back at how our youngsters did in Spring Training. The future of the Cards will include many of these guys, so it’s always nice to know the names, what they bring to the table and how close to the majors they are.

Keep in mind it is a small sample size, but many of these players got exposure against legit major league players so that counts for something.

The Good:

1) Matt Carpenter (3B) – Unless you have been in a cave all of Spring Training you have heard the other “Carps” name quite a bit in ST. A guy I feel could be a productive 3B for a long time in the bigs. He only tore up his roughly 50 AB’s in ST and almost won a reserve spot on the big league roster. Though he got beat out by Descalso (who we will talk about below) you got to see a player who is very close to MLB ready. He needs to work on his defense and show consistency against the higher minors competition. I personally see Carpenter being the choice if Freese were to go down for an extended period of time. He brings a high OBP, solid average and good doubles power to the table.

2) Daniel Descalso (2B/3B) - We got a glimpse of Descalso late last year and he looked like he belongs. In ST he did nothing to change that perception. Ultimately he won the reserve utility job over Carpenter which I feel was the right move. Descalso will provide a slightly above average defense at 3B or 2B and lefty bat off the bench. He is a fringe 2B starter long term but if Freese needs a day off or Skip struggles we might see Descalso a few times a week. Will be curious what happens with him once Punto is healthy.

3) Adron Chambers (OF) – A guy I am higher on than most as many see him as a 4th OF prospect. He continued off his 2010 success showing he can play with the big boys. He had a respectable average but his OBP and defense were outstanding in ST. With a logjam of outfielders he might not see the bigs until a Sept callup but if he continues to grow in the upper minors his speed and defense combo will be ready to contribute as early as mid-year.

4) Pete Kozma (SS) – We all know the story of Kozma as our #1 pick in 2007 as we let Porcello pass us by. Kozma has been extremely erratic in the minors since being drafted. The key with Kozma is consistency. If he can show his all-around game is much more consistent (which IMO is more mental than anything for him) then he can stay on the prospect map. In his limited time in ST he did show a few flashes of not giving up on him. Not sure he will be a starting shortstop in the bigs but he might be able to move over to 2B and play well there. This is a critical year for Kozma to show the Cards brass he is still worth believing in.

5) Zack Cox (3B) – Our 1st round pick from last year’s draft and being called the most advanced hitter in the draft will put a little pressure on you to move quickly. If he is nervous he sure isn’t showing it. All reports out of camp was he showed up early and stayed late and was willing to listen to the coaches and veterans to get a better understanding on how to improve. This type of attitude and approach goes a long way with coaches, veteran players, and fans. He will give you many things that Carpenter will give you with an advanced eye at the plate, good doubles power, and a solid OBP. Keep an eye on the first full year of pro ball for Cox.

6) Fernando Salas (RP) – A guy that has been a closer throughout his minor league career showed he is MLB ready right now. Though he will most likely get optioned as Brian Augenstein has also been lights out as they battle for the final bullpen spot. His stuff is not lights out but he maximizes his arsenal with a GREAT feel for how to get guys out. I see him as more of a 7th or 8th inning guy in the bigs that will always outperform his stuff. Probably the first reliever called up this year.

7) Lance Lynn (SP) – His stats in ST won’t blow you away but he showed he can get big league hitters out and have a fairly strong K rate. All positive signs. Probably the first SP that will be called up from the minors if the need arises.

8) Eduardo Sanchez (RP) – I consider him to be the closer of the future. He is a step below Salas as far as being ready for the bigs but it’s a small step. If he dominates for half a year in the upper minors he will be ready by mid-year if the need arises. Once he arrives he will most likely stick for good.

9) John Gast (SP) – A lefty from the 2010 draft class that has continued to impress since signing. I wasn’t sure he was starter material out of the draft and I think the jury is still out… though he is doing more and more to prove me wrong which is just fine with me!! Still a few years away but a guy to keep an eye on.

10) Ryan Jackson (SS) – A slick fielding SS that was knocked as a fringe hitter. He showed last year he could hold his own with the bat as long as he has the glove. With a solid year and if Kozma falters he will certainly become the best SS in the system. Impressed in camp to get the eye of the staff.

11) Adam Reifer (RP) – In his limited work in camp he showed the ability to get hitters out with a good K rate. I see him being another back of the bullpen pitcher for us which is one of our systems’ greatest strengths. A year and a half away.

12) Shelby Miller/Carlos Martinez (SP) – The two most exciting prospects in our system didn’t disappoint in camp. Both are still a few years away and Miller is ahead of Martinez from a timetable perspective. They both show top of the rotation stuff so all they need is experience. It says a lot when the coaches, veteran players and front office stops what they are doing to watch you throw a bullpen. That happened for both of these guys this spring.

The Bad:

1) Tyler Greene (SS/2B/OF) – Most have seen Greene play and not impress over the past year or so. His only saving grace is he is showing a decent ability to backup Colby Rasmus in CF and give a RH compliment (per se). His abilities always outshine his performance and I just don’t see this working out. If he is still on the big league club by mid-year, I will be surprised.

2) Mark Hamilton (1B) – An older prospect trying to do anything to get a chance in the bigs. With Albert Pujols in front of you, that is a tough task! Anyone thinking Hamilton might be able to take over the starting 1B if Pujols leaves via FA after the season is kidding themselves. The one thing he brings to the table is power and a lefty. That rings no better than a power bat off the bench long term. Not impressed.

3) Francisco Samuel (RP) – A Futures Game participant a few years ago still can’t get his control on the mound. His stuff is impressive but if you can’t throw strikes you will never make it. He still has a long way to go in that realm.

4) Joe Kelly (SP) – I like Kelly long term as a starter but he showed he is still a ways off from being ready… which shouldn’t be surprising. Some think he is better suited for the bullpen but I still see a back of the rotation starter. I was hoping to see a little better performance in ST though.

5) Maikel Cleto (RP) – The pitcher we received from the M’s for Brendan Ryan. The book on him is power arm but rarely knows where it’s going. That held true in camp as he still has a lot of work to do and might never make it.

Overall, we had plenty of bright spots from our youngsters in camp that shows we have hope for some guys over the next few years to contribute. Will be great to watch some of these kids grow this year from the lower minors to making that big jump to AA.

Cardinals’ Approval Ratings: Preseason

I am now ready to begin taking entries for the Cardinals’ Approval Ratings for the Preseason Ratings. You can choose to answer just one, two, or all the ratings and questions. The players are divided based on management, position player, pitchers, minor leaguers, and then some questions about the Cardinals.

The form will take entries until next Thursday evening around 9 pm eastern time. At that point I’ll compile the results and you will likely see a post about it on Friday morning before the season opener against San Diego.

Here you go: Link

Batista earns his spot

According to B.J. rains of Fox Sports Midwest, the Cardinals have notified Miguel Batista that he will be placed on the 25 man roster prior to opening day.

For Batista, 40, it means that he will remain a Cardinal. He had a clause in his contract with the Cardinals that would have allowed him to be released next week in the event that he didn’t make the roster.

I expected Batista to be named to the team because of his strong spring, in which he’s allowed just two runs over his 9+ innings, and because of his versatility to spot start and be a long reliever. The Cardinals’ 40 man roster is currently full, but a spot is expected to be created by adding Adam Wainwright to the 60 day disabled list to free up a spot.

That leaves Fernando Salas and Bryan Augenstein to battle over the final spot in the bullpen. Both have pitched well, but I would figure that Salas is the leader in the contest because of his experience with the team. However, depending on the situation with Brian Tallet and whether he needs to go onto the disabled list could put both of them on the roster. However, Tallet said that he expects to be ready to go by the middle of next week. It will definitely be a situation to watch.

UCB Project: 2011 Postseason Preview

As this month’s United Cardinal Bloggers network project draws to a close, I take a look at the post season. You can check out the other UCB members’ posts at the site, but for me you can look at my previous predictions here on the site. I’ve done the AL East, Central, and West, along with the NL East, Central, and West. All that’s left is the playoffs.

In last season’s World Series, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers in five games. For the Rangers it was their first World Series appearance. For the Giants, it was their first since 2003 and the first World Series appearance since 2002.

A lot of times the winner of a playoff series is difficult to pick. It’s even more difficult to pick seven months in advance when the small sample size of the playoffs depends more greatly on who is healthy and who is hot. I’m not going to let a little thing like that stop me!

American League Divisional Series
Based on my predictions, the divisional series’ should be the Boston Red Sox against the Texas Rangers. The Red Sox, on the offense of new additions Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez take a step back into the playoffs and then power their way past the Rangers in the first round. Despite solid seasons from their rotation, the Rangers just don’t have the necessary offense to hold up against the Red Sox. Adrian Beltre was a nice addition to the Rangers offense, but he is notorious for putting up career years in contract years, much like he did last year. I expect Red Sox in four.

The second ALDS puts the New York Yankees against the Minnesota Twins. The last time the Twins won a playoff game against the Yankees was 2004, in fact that was the last time the Twins won a playoff game, period. However, the Yankees inability to truly stabilize that starting rotation during this season, as I expect, will hurt them. Behind C.C. Sabathia there really isn’t anything that’s scary to a team in the playoffs. But the Yankees have an offense that is nearly unrivaled. Meanwhile the Twins are dependent on the heart of their lineup and a pitching staff with no clear #1 pitcher. I expect the Twins to actual win against the Yankees this year, but looking more like Yankees in 5, though it really could go either way.

National League Divisional Series
The first NL series is a rematch of the 2010 NLCS and one of my favorite matchups. There is nothing that I love more than a pitcher’s duel, and it will be the incredible and heralded pitching staff of the Philadelphia Phillies against the incredible and slightly less heralded pitching staff of the San Francisco Giants. But much like last year, I can’t see the Giants getting past the Phillies without the luck they had last year. Do it twice in a row? Unlikely. Philadelphia cruises past the Giants in 3.

The second matchup is the Atlanta Braves against the Milwaukee Brewers. This could be an exciting matchup of itself. With a healthy club, I think the Braves will beat the Brewers but this is one that can go either way. I think the Braves are the more rounded club and have the better management. Braves in 4.

American League Championship Series
So it matches up the Yankees v. the Red Sox in the ALCS once again. Who can forget the epic 2004 ALCS where the Red Sox stole a win in Game 4 and then went on to win the series?  Then they rolled over a cold St. Louis Cardinals team to win their first World Series in 86 years.

But this time, there really shouldn’t be a contest. The Red Sox are a vastly more complete team than the Yankees are and are nearly as good on offense as the Yankees are. Because of that, they should be able to pretty much cruise to a series winner. Red Sox in 6.

National League Championship Series
I have the Braves v. the Phillies in the NLCS. Interesting to note that it’s the two teams from the East in each league and it’s the wild card and their division champion matching up too. I wonder what that means to the balance of power in baseball.

With the aging Phillies lineup, the Braves have an excellent chance to defeat them. I thought the Braves could have gone far last season and they’ve only improved. I expect the Braves to make their first return to the World Series since 1999 when they lost to the Yankees. Braves in 5 as the young guys show their stuff for first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez.

World Series
Red Sox v. Braves. Comparable pitching staffs, I think the Red Sox have the more complete offense. Braves may sneak a couple out, but I expect the Red Sox to win their third World Series in the last decade. Red Sox in 6.

Rookie of the Year
Beginning with the Rookie of the Year award. It’s always my least favorite because you have the flashy guys who get the notoriety and then you usually have some guys turning in great seasons being ignored. Just look at last season’s NL Rookie of the Year. Jason Heyward was the early favorite, Buster Posey jumped onto the scene mid-season, but Jaime Garcia was solid all year. His mid-2s ERA over 28 starts, in my opinion for a pitcher, was far more impressive to me than what Heyward and Posey did, but he wasn’t recognized and was typically just an after thought when people discussed the Rookie of the Year award.

Two rookies I like are Atlanta first base Freddie Freeman and Kansas City infielder Mike Moustakas.

Freeman has gotten the most playing time of any Brave in spring training, but hasn’t done much in the majors yet. Freeman does have a pretty good minor league resume and should get the chance to play first base everyday as long as he can play well. He has the talent, but can he put it together in his rookie year?

Meanwhile, Moustakas will likely start the season in the minor leagues for the Royals, but a mid-season call up should happen for him. With no clear cut challenger in the American League that I can see, it makes him the leader in the category if he can perform with the bat once he makes the jump.

Cy Young Award
Wins don’t make you a lock for the Cy Young. That’s the lesson American League pitchers have learned the last two years as 16 game winner Zach Grienke and 13 game winner Felix Hernandez were the guys who took the trophies home for the American League.

In the AL, I expect it to be Trevor Cahill with 19 wins and taking the Cy Young trophy home. However, there are several guys who can challenge him for it and probably will.

For the NL, I think the hype of Cliff Lee returning to the league will help him become the sixth player to win a Cy Young in both leagues. I see 19 wins from Lee and an ERA in the high-2s.

Most Valuable Player Award
This is really where it gets difficult because it’s so hard to predict. Again, won’t stop me. Though, I think I will probably make some non standard picks.

In the American League, Adrian Gonzalez will get a bright welcome to the American League as he moves from one of the best pitchers parks to a pretty good hitter’s park. I expect his offensive performance to jump, I think he’ll push 40 homers this year and be around 120 RBI while he maintains his nearly .290 batting average.

In the National League, I think it will once again be an NL Central first baseman, but will once again not be Albert Pujols. In a contract year and helping lead Milwaukee to a playoff berth, Prince Fielder will get recognized as he turns in a year with a batting average in the .290s, just over 40 homers, and just over 110 RBI. It would still be a little bit of a question mark whether Fielder could. Since 1990, only one player has won an NL MVP with a batting average under .300, that was Jimmy Rollins in 2007.