Posted on: February 9, 2012 4:51 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 10:47 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
The National League Central is often looked down upon, but it produced both teams in the National League Championship Series last year, as well as the World Series. Both the Cardinals and Brewers have large voids in their lineup due to free agency, but all the teams have some questions when pitchers and catchers report to camp. Here's the NL Central spring position battles:
Old vs. Young: Bryan LaHair and Marlon Byrd vs. Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson
For so long the Cubs' motto has been "wait 'til next year" -- that may have been changed to "wait 'til a couple of years" as Theo Epstein has fully embraced the rebuilding effort. The question is whether the braintrust thinks it's better for some of their younger players to learn at the big-league level or continue in the minors. The two biggest choices will be Rizzo and Jackson. Rizzo, 22, struggled in his call-up last season, hitting .141/.281/.242 with a homer in 153 plate appearances, but that was as a 21-year-old in San Diego. LaHair may only have 65 games in the big leagues, but that doesn't make him young -- just inexperienced. LaHair turned 29 in November and spent eight years in the minors. He hit .288/.377/.508 in his 20 games with the Cubs last season, but he's hardly anyone's idea of a long-term solution. Epstein drafted Rizzo while with the Red Sox and then traded for him when he took over the Cubs. It's Rizzo's job to lose. Meanwhile, Byrd is in the last season of his three-year, $15 million contract, so he's more likely to get traded than to be unseated in spring. The 23-year-old Jackson put up a .297/.388/.551 line at Triple-A Iowa with 10 homers in just 48 games after being called up from Double-A. The team's first-round pick in the 2009 draft will have a chance to show he's big-league ready. If the team does go with Rizzo and Jackson, it could be a sign of the team's future and the patience that Chicago will show going forward.
Left field: Chris Heisey vs. Ryan Ludwick
The Reds signed Ludwick to a bargain deal, hoping he can find the stroke he left in St. Louis. The 33-year-old has always hit well at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, putting up a .276/.321/.600 stat line with nine homers in 30 games and 112 plate appearances in his new home park. Both Ludwick and Heisey are right-handed batters who fare better against right-handed pitchers. Ludwick is a career .272/.339/.464 hitter against righties and .237/.316/.435 against lefties. Heisey's split is more extreme -- .288/.346/.539 against right-handers and .180/.248/.300 against lefties. One thing that helps Ludwick's case may be Heisey's strength as a pinch-hitter. Last year the 27-year-old Heisey hit .324/.333/.529 with two homers as a pinch-hitter. There's another option here, as well. If Drew Stubbs struggles at the plate, Hesiey could be an option to play center alongside Ludwick in left. That's a remote possibility, though. The Reds are high on Stubbs' power/speed combination and he is an excellent defender in center.
Third base: Brett Wallace vs. Chris Johnson vs. Jimmy Paredes
The fact that the Astros are looking to move Wallace to third base may tell you what they think of Johnson and Paredes. If Wallace shows he can play third, he's the likely favorite. Johnson struggled in 2011 after showing promise in 2010. Paredes hit .286/.320/.393 after taking over the position for the last two months of the season, but he's not seen as a long-term solution. Wallace could be.
First base: Mat Gamel vs. himself
With Ryan Braun's status resolved, the Brewers don't really have many question marks. All five starters return, as do its closer and top set-up man. The lineup, with a platoon of Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan and newcomer Aramis Ramirez at third base seems pretty much set -- barring injury. The only hole is a big one -- the one left by first baseman Prince Fielder. The position is Mat Gamel's to lose. The 26-year-old played in just 10 games last season, getting 27 plate appearances. His only extensive big-league experience came in 2009 when he hit .242/.338/.422 with five homers, primarily playing third base. However, he's never been able to establish himself and after playing both third base and the outfield, he played primarily first base at Triple-A Nashville last season, while making six errors in 20 games at third base. He's a first baseman now and a first baseman only. He's hit well at Triple-A, hitting .301/.374/.512 in parts of four seasons at the top level of the minors, hitting 28 home runs for Nashville last season. Gamel will probably start at first on opening day even if he struggles in spring, but right fielder Corey Hart could be used at first if Gamel struggles even more. The team did sign Japanese outfield Norichika Aoki, who could play right if Hart moves to first.
Third base: Pedro Alvarez vs. Casey McGehee
Acquiring the veteran McGehee from Milwaukee could be seen as a kick in the pants for the second-overall pick of the 2008 draft. Alvarez hit just .191/.272/.289 in 74 games last season and the team may be getting worried about whether he'll ever develop into the star as expected. McGehee is coming off a rough season of his own, hitting just .223/.280/.346 with 13 homers after hitting 23 homers and 104 RBI in 2010. McGehee was replaced by Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base during the playoffs and by former Pirate Aramis Ramirez after the season.
St. Louis Cardinals
Second base: Skip Schumaker vs. Daniel Descalso vs. Tyler Greene
General manager John Mozeliak has insinuated he'd like to see Greene win the job. The 28-year-old has yet to produce at the level expected of him, hitting just .218/.307/.313 in 150 games and 359 plate appearances. Descalso filled in for the injured David Freese last season and responded with a .264/.334/.353 line, while Schumaker is the incumbent having hit .283/.333/.351 while starting 89 games at second, but none in the World Series. All three have some positional versatility.
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Tags: Anthony Rizzo, Aramis Ramirez, Astros, Brett Jackson, Brett Wallace, Brewers, Bryan LaHair, C. Trent Rosecrans, Cardinals, Carlos Gomez, Casey McGehee, Chris Heisey, Chris Young, Corey Hart, Corey Hart, Cubs, Daniel Descalso, David Freese, Drew Stubbs, Jerry Hairston Jr., Jimmy Paredes, John Mozeliak, Marlon Byrd, Mat Gamel, NL Central, Norichika Aoki, Norichika Aoki, Nyjer Morgan, Pedro Alvarez, Pirates, Reds, Ryan Braun, Ryan Ludwick, Skip Schumaker, spring position battles, Theo Epstein, Tyler Greene
Posted on: December 22, 2011 10:57 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.
While most of the teams on our list would love a do-over for 2011 -- or at least part of it, the season somehow worked out pretty well for the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that took advantage of an epic collapse and capitalized upon its chance by winning the World Series. The moves made by both the current management team and former executives, all worked out for one glorious season in St. Louis, so it's another example of why the exercise is for fun only. But there's one thing our Homegrown Cardinals have that the 2012 version doesn't -- Albert Pujols.
1. Jon Jay, RF
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Allen Craig, LF
5. Colby Rasmus, CF
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Brendan Ryan, SS
8. Skip Schumaker, 2B
1. Dan Haren
2. Jaime Garcia
3. Kyle McClellan
4. Chris Narveson
5. Lance Lynn
Closer - Chris Perez
Set up - Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas, Luke Gregerson, Blake Hawksworth, Eduardo Sanchez
Notable Bench Players
The bench has some interesting players -- you have defensive replacements in Jack Wilson and Coco Crisp, some pop in Brett Wallace, J.D. Drew and Rick Ankiel, as well as some versatility in Daniel Descalso. Daric Barton's there, too, but not sure where or when he'd ever play considering Pujols is still a Cardinal here.
Any lineup with Pujols is not bad -- but it's not overwhelming, either. While lacking some of the firepower from Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, there are still some passable players. While there's no Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright, there is Dan Haren and the top two of the rotation are good. The strength of this team -- and Tony La Russa would certainly love this -- is the bullpen. Not only are their Cardinals holdovers of Motte, Boggs, Salas and Sanchez, you also add Perez, Gergerson and Hawksowrth, giving this team plenty of relief options.
After the top two in the rotation, the rest are pretty pedestrian. McClellan is not only in the rotation -- where he started in 2011 -- but he's also going to be either a No. 3 or No. 4. The outfield isn't terrible, but when you take away Berkman and Holliday, it's going to pale in comparison.
Comparison to real 2011
Let's just get to the point, the margin for error for the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals was razor thin, but they stayed on the right side of it just enough to go on to one of the most exciting, improbable runs of all time to capture the World Series title. There is no way this hypothetical team could do anything close to what the real Cardinals did. The offensive firepower isn't the same and there's no Chris Carpenter. No, this team doesn't just fail to win the World Series or make the playoffs, it fails to reach .500 and probably finishes in the bottom half of our made-up NL Central.
Next: Ranking the Homegrown teams.
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Tags: Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols, Allen Craig, Blake Hawksworth, Brendan Ryan, Brett Wallace, C. Trent Rosecrans, Cardinals, Chris Carpenter, Chris Narveson, Chris Perez, Coco Crisp, Colby Rasmus, Dan Haren, Daniel Descalso, Daric Barton, Eduardo Sanchez, Fernando Salas, Homegrown, J.D. Drew, Jack Wilson, Jaime Garcia, Jon Jay, Kyle McClellan, Lance Lynn, Luke Gregerson, Mitchell Boggs, NL Central, Placido Polanco, Rick Ankiel, Skip Schumaker, Tony La Russa, Yadier Molina
Posted on: November 12, 2011 10:17 pm
By Evan Brunell
The St. Louis Cardinals don't intend to up their spring-training offer to Albert Pujols anytime soon, SI.com's Jon Heyman reports.
In spring training, the Cardinals made an offer in which Pujols would have re-upped for about nine years and $210 million. Pujols rejected the offer and closed negotiations, and there was speculation that Pujols was not particularly happy with the organization. But this isn't really a surprise. That offer is still extremely competitive, with a $23.3 million annual salary that stretches across nine years. That's a very long investment for a baseball player.
Right now, only the Marlins are thought to be the other team with an offer out to Pujols. While it may well be competitive, that's not known just yet. Either way, whatever Miami submits likely will not be significantly more than St. Louis' offer. Until there are more details, more teams enter the fray and talks advance a bit deeper, there is no rush for the Cardinals to up their deal. When it comes time, though, it's difficult to imagine St. Louis not increasing their offer.
The Cardinals also made other news Saturday when GM John Mozeliak said he has Daniel Descalso projected to be the starting second baseman next season, as he tells Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
If so, this means that Skip Schumaker's time with St. Louis may be drawing to a close. Schumaker is not a particularly good defender at second base, having come up through the organization as an outfielder, debuting in 2005 and then making the switch for 2009. However, his offense has tailed off dramatically the last two seasons, and with a rising salary, Schumaker is expendable. The 25-year-old Descalso got a ton of playing time this past season, eating up a lot of time at third base when David Freese was injured.
Descalso hit .264/.334/.353, which is as good as Schumaker did and comes with a better glove and cheaper salary. Really, it's a no-brainer to non-tender Schumaker no matter what and go with Descalso if you don't find an upgrade in free agency or the trade market. Mozeliak also said he would be comfortable with Tyler Greene at shortstop, assuming they don't address their shortstop hole via other avenues. Greene is best used as a backup, and it's tough to see the Cardinals leaving short alone. But Descalso gives Mozeliak the ability to worry about other positions, knowing he will be a capable second baseman if they need him come Opening Day.
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Posted on: October 29, 2011 12:55 am
By Matt Snyder
Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever -- this time around it's the St. Louis Cardinals. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...
Team name: St. Louis Cardinals
Record: 90-72, 2nd place in NL Central, NL wild card winner. Won NLDS 3-2 over Phillies, won NLCS 4-2 over Brewers, won World Series over Rangers 4-3.
Manager: Tony La Russa
Best hitter: Albert Pujols -- .299/.366/.541, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 105 R, 9 SB
Best pitcher: Chris Carpenter -- 11-9, 3.45 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 191 K, 237.1 IP
2011 SEASON RECAP
The Cardinals entered the spring as the favorite in the wide-open NL Central, but nearly immediately lost ace Adam Wainwright to a torn ulnar-collateral ligament. So he underwent Tommy John surgery and the Cardinals were largely written off as a serious threat to the Brewers and the defending division champion Reds. A 2-6 start didn't help matters, especially with Matt Holliday having to undergo an appendectomy. Oh, and Pujols was struggling out of the gate. But a change at the back-end of the bullpen and Lance Berkman's re-emergence as a big-time slugger helped straighten things out. By the end of April, the Cardinals were 16-11 and in first place. A bad June and mediocre July weren't enough to bury the Cardinals, but the Brewers huge surge in August seemed to end the postseason hopes for St. Louis. There was no catching Milwaukee. The Cardinals finished 23-9 and ran down the Braves in the wild card, advancing into the playoffs when the Braves lost in extra innings on the final day of the regular season. The fun times extended all the way until the World Series, as the Cardinals took down by the Phillies and Brewers en route to their 18th NL championship. An insane comeback in Game 6 of the World Series paved the way for the Cardinals 11th World Championship.
Yadier Molina, C (club option)
Gerald Laird, C
Albert Pujols, 1B
Rafael Furcal, SS (club option)
Nick Punto, IF utility
Corey Patterson, OF
Edwin Jackson, SP
Arthur Rhodes (club option)
Octavio Dotel (club option)
Everything boils down to what happens with Pujols. If the Cardinals can re-sign him, they'll have essentially the same team in 2012 as they had in 2011, but with a healthy Adam Wainwright taking Edwin Jackson's vacated spot in the rotation -- there's no way they'll have enough money to keep Jackson after extending Berkman and Carpenter while keeping Pujols, Wainwright and Molina. Obviously, if the Cardinals do come back with a similar team and Wainwright is healthy you can expect them to once again be a big-time playoff contender.
The biggest focus will be to retain Pujols and I firmly believe they will. What they have to do in order to get him to stay dictates flexibility elsewhere, but most of the biggest questions have already been answered. Carpenter, Berkman and Wainwright are locked up. Holliday already was. It actually seems like a sound strategy. Instead of taking maybe a few months to get Pujols' deal done and then trying to pick up the spare parts, the Cardinals know their budget and what their roster will look like around Pujols. It's one of the many reasons I believe they'll get him. There's obviously a plan in place.
Posted on: July 27, 2011 10:30 am
Edited on: July 27, 2011 1:02 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Soap operas are being taken off network TV, but at least we still have baseball.
By the way he's portrayed, you'd expect St. Louis center fielder Colby Rasmus to be the guy with the badly dyed goatee and have ominous music every time he appears on screen. That's at least the way Cardinals manager Tony La Russa (speaking of bad dye jobs) keeps playing it.
The latest barb? Speaking to KSDK-TV in St. Louis, La Russa said Rasmus doesn't listen to the team's coaches.
"No, he doesn't listen to the Cardinal coaches much now, and that's why he gets in these funks, in my opinion," La Russa said, according to MLB.com. "If he would just stay with [basically] what they teach, he would have … but I actually feel concern for him, because he hears it from so many places, he's got to be confused."
The Cardinals are actively shopping Rasmus, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler tweeted yesterday, and if they do deal him, it's got to be a sign that the 66-year-old La Russa will stick around a couple of more years in St. Louis. Dealing Rasmus doesn't make much sense (unless there's a huge return) in a baseball-sense, but it does placate La Russa. La Russa is signed to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2012. It may come down to a decision for general manager John Mozeliak whether he wants to tie his future to a talented 24-year-old or a manager who has managed more than 5,000 games. What happens before Sunday could tell us quite a bit about the future of the Cardinals.
No platoon: Sticking with the Cardinals and La Russa, Daniel Descalso has started at shortstop in five of the 11 games since the All-Star break, but La Russa denies there's a platoon with Descalso and Ryan Theriot. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
Contentious in Chicago: Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd got into a shouting match with a fan before Tuesday's game in Milwaukee. The fan yelled "you guys suck," according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Byrd responded, "We may suck, but you're pathetic."
Chipper out again: Braves third baseman Chipper Jones returned to the Braves' lineup from a knee injury on Monday, but then miss Tuesday's game and will miss the next few with a right quad injury. The 39-year-old has played in 78 games this season. [Atlanta Journal Constitution]
Conspiracy theory: Phillies fans got on Giants manager Bruce Bochy for how he used Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay in the All-Star Game. Several fans at the team's hotel heckled Bochy saying he tried to overuse both Philadelphia pitchers -- though Bochy notes he used both for fewer than 25 pitches. [San Jose Mercury News]
'Cool cat': That's how Giants reliever Sergio Romo described President Barak Obama after the Giants' visit to the White House. I'm sure plenty of people said that about Chester A. Arthur, too. [San Francisco Chronicle]
Perfect in minors: Former Padre Justin Germano threw a perfect game for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers on Tuesday. It was just the fifth perfect game in the history of the International League. The Clippers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Indians. [Columbus Dispatch]
Barton hurt: There's nothing we here at Eye On Baseball like more than making fun of our fellow team member's bad calls -- like my call of Manny Ramirez as the AL Comeback Player of the Year -- so it never fails that any mention of Daric Barton gets Evan Brunell some good-nature ribbing. Brunell said he'd take Barton over Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira or Ryan Howard -- so yeah. (Of course, I had some questionable picks, too -- Rasmus No. 1 in center?) But the point other than making fun of Evan? Well, it's that Barton, now in Triple-A, has a tear in his labrum and will see a doctor today. [San Francisco Chronicle]For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: AL Central, AL West, AL West, Angels, Athletics, Braves, Bruce Bochy, C. Trent Rosecrans, Cardinals, Chipper Jones, Clay Hensley, Cliff Lee, Colby Rasmus, Cubs, Daniel Descalso, Daric Barton, Giants, Indians, Jonny Gomes, Justin Germano, Marlins, Marlon Byrd, Mike Trout, MLB rumors, Nationals, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Pepper, Phillies, Roy Halladay, Ryan Theriot, Sergio Romo, Tony La Russa, trade deadline
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:46 pm
Edited on: June 8, 2011 10:12 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Lance Berkman continues to break the hearts of Astros fans. While there hasn't been much to cheer about for the Astros this season, Bud Norris had a no-hitter through 6 2/3 innings before Berkman broke it up with a homer to right.
It was Berkman's fourth homer of the season against his old team. Berkman had a 3-0 pitch that looked like it was low called a ball, immediately before launching Norris' fastball into the stands.
Norris has walked four and struck out one in seven innings.
Three times Norris walked the leadoff batter of the inning, only to get a double play each time.
Posted on: May 4, 2011 1:38 am
Edited on: May 4, 2011 1:45 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Francisco Liriano, Twins -- I'm making a new rule here, you throw a no-hitter, you get in 3 up, 3 down. I'm sure Francisco appreciates it. A tip of the cap to White Sox starter Edwin Jackson, who was pretty good, too. Jackson gave up one run on six hits in eight innings.
Daniel Descalso, Cardinals -- The infielder's first career homer, a three-run shot off of Clay Hensley in the seventh inning, gave the Cardinals the lead, and ultimately the 7-5 victory over the Marlins. Descalso was 2 for 3, playing second and third in the game.
Raul Ibanez, Phillies -- Ibanez snapped an 0-for-35 streak with a fourth-inning ground-rule double off of the Nationals' Livan Hernandez. He added another double in the seventh inning that scored a run in the Phillies' 4-1 victory. He's now hitting a robust .168.
Mike Leake, Reds -- After Tuesday night's performance, the Reds announce Leake would be headed to the bullpen to make room for Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey to return to the rotation. Leake allowed seven runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings in a 10-4 loss to the Astros, but he did strike out five in that short time.
Rangers bullpen -- The Rangers' Pedro Strop gave up leads in the seventh and eighth inning as the Rangers lost in an opponent's final at-bat for the sixth time this season and second time in a row, also losing to the A's in the 10th inning on Monday. Darren Oliver allowed Hideki Matsui's walkoff on Monday, and gave up an RBI single to Jack Cust on Tuesday to score the winning run (even though it was charged to Strop). Neftali Feliz is scheduled to return soon, and it won't be too soon for the Rangers.
Josh Thole, Mets -- With bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning, the Mets catcher did the one thing his team couldn't afford him to do -- ground into a double play. The Mets then lost the game in the 10th on Aubrey Huff's homer off of Taylor Buchholz. Thole also had a throwing error in the fourth inning the helped lead to a Giants' run.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: April 27, 2011 1:40 am
By Evan Brunell
Gavin Floyd, White Sox -- Floyd was masterful against the Yankees, pitching eight innings (he departed the game after giving up a single to lead off the ninth), while whiffing 10 and allowing just two runs in a win. Floyd now has a 3.60 ERA as the 28-year-old has proven himself to be a valuable -- and extremely consistent -- pitcher for Chicago after flaming out of Philadelphia. He could be poised to make a leap this year and has the Orioles next on the docket.
Adam Lind, Blue Jays -- Lind showed the Rangers what's what by bashing two home runs on a 3-for-5 outing, tallying up five RBI. It's more of the same for Toronto against Texas, as Anthony Andro noted on Twitter, given the Jays have cranked a staggering 31 home runs against Texas in the last 13 matchups. That's an insane number. It may be the breakout performance needed for Lind to get going; he has the potential to hit well over 30 home runs for the Jays but was off to a slow start before Tuesday's fireworks.
Daniel Descalso, Cardinals -- The backup infielder has gotten some additional time lately thanks to the Skip Schumaker injury and David Freese sitting out a couple of games. His offensive slash lines were rather poor, but got a boost Tuesday thanks to a 3-for-3 night with a double, triple and three RBI. He also tacked on a walk for a night that will certainly earn him a bit more playing time over Tyler Greene moving forward.
Aaron Harang, Padres -- Harang was part of the featured matchup On Deck earlier Tuesday as he was going for his NL-leading fifth victory. Instead, he gave up eight runs in six innings to the slumping Braves. Harang should still benefit greatly from playing in Petco Park, but being 4-0 with an 0.88 ERA just begged for a radical fix. Now, Harang has a more believable 3.90 ERA that he should hover around all year.
Brandon McCarthy, Athletics -- OK, so maybe the Athletics didn't make out like bandits with McCarthy. Having impressed out of the No. 5 spot up until Tuesday, McCarthy was due for a course correction and got it by coughing up seven runs and 14 hits against the Angels in just 5 1/3 innings. McCarthy got dinked to death with eight singles and did not give up a home run. It remains to be seen whether this is an aberration or the regression everyone has been waiting for. History suggests the latter.
Roy Oswalt, Phillies -- Oswalt got bombed Tuesday, coughing up five runs in three innings to the Diamondbacks. The right-hander has struggled with back spasms, but reports after the game indicated that his back was not bothering him. What's with the performance, then? An interesting twist is that Oswalt, usually accessible, left the stadium without talking to reporters, much to the surprise of Phillies media writers, some of whom wondered if something was up to cause Oswalt to depart quickly. He'll certainly have some questions awaiting him tomorrow.
HONORABLE MENTION: Brett Cecil, Blue Jays -- Cecil was demoted by Toronto after showing poor velocity and getting knocked around. It was good timing for Toronto to demote him, as he was burned for 11 runs 4 1/3 innings in his first start for Triple-A. Clearly, there's something not right.