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How will the Cardinals' 2012 lineup look?Posted Thursday, December 29, 2011, at 8:55 AM
To say the offseason has brought changes to the look of the St. Louis Cardinals would be the understatement of the year. To most fans it feels like there was a blowout somewhere along the highway and a wheel is missing.
While there is some truth to that, fans should be sure to read between the lines.
Today I'm going to run us through the Cardinals lineup, or at least how I think it should look for 2012. Some of this is compiled from various comments by new manager Mike Matheny, but the rest is based on both past experience and personal preference.
1. The lead-off spot - Signing SS Rafael Furcal to a two-year extension pretty much guarantees this will be his role, but I, personally, would like to see what Jon Jay could do here. If Furcal suffers an injury or has any time off you can likely expect to see Skip Schumaker here.
2. Matheny has hinted on several occasions that Beltran would likely bat in the two spot. It's a little un-orthodox to have a lot of power here, but since everything else is going to be new, why not give it a try. Plus, Beltran at two gives protection to...
3. ...Matt Holliday. Holliday, since coming to St. Louis, has lived in the shadow of Albert Pujols. This is his opportunity to step into the limelight and become the love of St. Louis that frankly he should have been since he came here. A roundtable discussion ran in Wednesday's St. Louis Post Dispatch about this very subject.
4. The Big Puma - This is where Berkman will most likely spend his year in the batting order and in my opinion, is exactly where he needs to be. With a pair of sluggers, not to mention a lead-off man capable of hitting for power, Berkman should be the ship's anchor. If he can put up anywhere even remotely close to last year's numbers the Cardinals will be in great shape. I'm also curious to see how he performs full-time at first base this season.
5. MVFreese - David Freese, the team's "local boys does good," will bat behind Berkman. Freese is enough of a threat to hopefully increase the number of "hit-able" pitches Berkman will see throughout the years.
6. Jon Jay - Jay will play centerfield everyday - at least until Allen Craig is healthy and returns to the game. At that point, Beltran will likely move to CF and leave Craig and Jay to fight for a spot in right. Craig likely won't be able to play in center, so if Jay plays there, Craig will still fight for a spot.
7. Yadier Molina - A career .274 hitter coming off of a .305 season, Molina could bring some unexpected punch to the bottom of the lineup. While his offensive numbers have been somewhat hit and miss over the years, he always has the potential to make a pitcher pay.
8. Schumaker - The eight spot is where I expect Schumaker to bat for the majority of the season. Like I mentioned, he could see some time at the top of the lineup, but that won't be his everyday spot.
A major factor in this team is going to be health. If the Cardinals can avoid the injury bug and Wainwright comes back healthy, the team will be fine and likely quite competitive.
As much as from a numbers perspective I hated to see Pujols leave, the one through five slots in this lineup are quite impressive. If the team lives up to their capability, I think you could see them playing baseball well into October once again.
Corey Noles is the editor of The North Stoddard Countian as well as staff writer/New Media Coordinator for The Daily Statesman. See his column at dailystatesman.com or on semoball.com to comment. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-4545.
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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