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The kids come through for the Cardinals

Posted Monday, April 9, 2012, at 7:42 AM

Before I dive into today's column, I wanted to remind everyone to dive into this week's contest for a free BluRay/DVD combo pack of Baseball's Greatest Games featuring Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. Just click on this link to read more and find out how to enter.

In any successful season in any sport there are the obvious heroes. The Albert Pujols' and Troy Aikmans of the world get all of the attention. Sometimes a lesser known player, say a David Freese, for instance, gets credit for an awesome period, but they are never credited as being the ones who get a team through the season.

So far in 2012, the "kids" on the Cardinals have really been putting on a show. Here is a quick run-through of my take on how some of the young guys are doing so far.

1.Lance Lynn -- Wow. What a first start! Lynn came out in Milwaukee on Sunday and simply dominated. I thought he was going to have a one-hit day, but Corey Hart managed to squeeze a longball out of him. Lynn managed to go 6-2/3 giving up only one earned run on two hits. That's far more than anyone expected of him. I've long believed in his ability since his time in the minors, but I wasn't sure he was ready to start at this level. He proved today that he is ready for anything that is thrown at him. The 6'5" tall 24-year-old from Indiana managed to pull eight strikeouts from a very talented and offensively powered Milwaukee lineup. After he gave up the homerun to Hart, he was visibly angry (as could be read on his lips as he turned to watch the ball leave the stadium). When I saw that anger I thought that was when he would fall apart. However, he turned around to strike out two in quick fashion. This kid can't be shaken and that is a fantastic quality in a pitcher -- starter or otherwise. Even in the World Series, he never looked shaken up at all. He took it in stride and THAT is the key component in any successful pitcher (see Chris Carpenter, Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan). Before you all yell, I am not comparing him to those guys, I'm just pointing out that he shares their "winning is the only option" attitude. I look forward to watching him grow in the years to come.
2.Jon Jay -- While everyone was paying attention to Shelby Miller, Carlos Beltran and Trevor Rosenthal in Spring Training, Jon Jay slid in through the back door and showed us something new -- that he learned how to play centerfield. I know many people have their doubts about Jay, but I very much believe he is capable of being an above average everyday player at some point. Right now he's batting .333 and is 4 for 12. He was caught stealing once, but he has the speed and you can expect to see him use it this season. My biggest concern for him last year was defensively. So far this year he has made several very impressive plays at center. Defensively, I think he's as good as the young head-case centerfielder he replaced (Colby Rasmus in case you didn't get the subtle hints). Jay is definitely one to keep an eye on this year.
3.Shane Robinson -- Robinson managed to impress enough in Spring Training to land himself a spot on the big league roster. The shorter than average (at least in terms of professional athletics) Robinson put up big numbers Sunday afternoon including his first ever MLB homerun, a three run homer late in the game that added some much needed padding for the Cardinals in their victory over Milwaukee. He spent the day at centerfield chasing Ryan Braun's fly balls out to the warning track and brought them down with no trouble. I'm not sure what to expect from him just yet, but if the spring and early season are any indication, he could be ready to break out.
4. Erik Komatsu -- Picked up in the Rule 5 draft, Komatsu was a surprise to make the major league roster to begin with. He's only had one at bat in two games, but pulled an RBI out of that one. While he won't be batting "1.000" for much longer, his bat isn't the only reason he was brought to St. Louis. One of his biggest assets is his speed and that's what management was thinking about when they brought him in. In 2010-11 he combined for 49 stolen bases. It's not a huge total, but he's definitely not afraid to run. Realistically speaking, I don't expect him to get a lot of play time due to the logjam of outfielders we currently have in stock.
5.Tyler Greene -- Greene, largely believed to be the team's second baseman before all is said and done, made his first appearance Sunday. He went 1 for 4 with an RBI base hit. He's struggles a lot in his trips to the major leagues, but has done a lot of different work in the offseason this year that could be the difference in helping him make the transition. Defensively, he's quite good and has done well at second base this spring and could fill in at shortstop if Furcal is out. If he makes the transition offensively he has the potential to be a good everyday player, but it's up to him to prove it.
6.Matt Carpenter -- Carpenter was the 2010 minor league player of the year and is capable of being a baseball crushing madman. He's yet to prove it in St. Louis, but there is no doubt the potential is there. As of Sunday, he has only appeared in two games, and is 1 for 6. That's not good, but it's too early to be very concerned yet. He's able to fill in at first base and once he gets in the groove at the big league level he'll be handy off the bench or in the event of an injury. I don't think he'll be what Matt Adams can be, but in the meantime he will be nice filler. His native position is third base so if Freese goes down at any point, he'll be able to share duties with Daniel Descalso to fill the gap.

If the team can work together a surprise out of one or two of these young guys, which is entirely possible, it could make any potential injury from a veteran more bearable. While the loss of Albert Pujols certainly would hurt any time, there is a lot of young talent in the Cardinals organization.

If you look at what is available already at the major league level, there's a lot to be excited about. Our farm system, however, is currently filled to the gills. Some of those guys we'll see over the next couple seasons, some of them will never make it out of the minors, but regardless of their individual fate, it's comforting for any organization to have so much talent fighting their way to the big club.

Don't forget to stop by the website, office or shoot me an email to answer this week's contest question for a free DVD of World Series Game 6. The question is: In 2002, the Cardinals had four players win Rawlings Gold Glove awards. Who were they?


To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail cnoles@dailystatesman.com , call (573)624-4545 or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

Follow him on Twitter @coreynoles

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

The story of Albert Pujols is he may break records in another uniform.

I'm all about winning so the records don't mean that much to me.

Some would sacrifice wins for the records.

I personally believe losing LaRussa is the biggest loss in the offseason. But losing Pujols took center stage.

-- Posted by Dustin Ward on Sun, Apr 8, 2012, at 8:39 PM
Corey Noles
As much as I'd love to see big records stay in St. Louis, first and foremost I want to win. With or without whoever it takes to get the job done.

I totally agree about LaRussa. He catches a lot of grief, but there is so much about him that the average person doesn't take into account like his vast understanding of the game, experience, history, guts. Sure I thought he was nuts on a few occasions, as did everyone, but he never made a move without honestly believing in his head it was right. If you look at his record, it worked out more times than not.

Lance Lynn, product of Ole Miss, is doing all of us Rebels fans proud with what he's doing for the Cards. I'm excited to see him continue on as a starter. Guy is going to be awesome.

-- Posted by sideline starter on Sun, Apr 8, 2012, at 8:43 PM
Corey Noles
Yes, he is. I got to interview him in January and the guy is so solid as a player and, I know I said this in the article, unshakeable.

When I asked him about how stoic he seems on the mound, he said...

"As a baseball player, you have to try and not let situations catch you off guard. Even if they do catch you off guard you've gotta act like you're supposed to be there and you know what you're doing."

Thanks for reading!

Lynn is the most promising prospect listed. Not a big fan of the other five. Carpenter may belong in minor leagues based on my initial observations.

-- Posted by Dustin Ward on Sun, Apr 8, 2012, at 8:52 PM

Lynn is definitely an awesome player. Between he, Garcia, and Miller, I like the future of the rotation as Carp isn't going to be dealing for too much longer. However, it was/is fun to have the all-Tommy John rotation in Waino, Carp, Garcia, Lohse, and Westbrook. Like you said, Jay has shown great improvement defensively especially if you look at how he did in the Marlins new fishbowl on Opening Night. Greene has been the "future" at second for awhile it seems like. He may be competing with Kolten Wong soon though. I know it is a VERY small sample size but he has done well in the minors so far and was an offensive bright spot on the AA squad in the first week. Give him another couple of years and he should be ready to finally be the first true above average second baseman the Cards have had in something like a decade. I really like the young pieces the team has both on the majors level and in the farm system and am so glad we didn't handcuff the future financially to Albert. As much fun as records are (attended a ton of games in 1998), I'm in agreeance that wins are most enjoyable.

-- Posted by sideline starter on Sun, Apr 8, 2012, at 9:11 PM

Dustin you have got to be smoking something to not be a fan of Jon Jay. The kid hit .300 with 4 home runs and 27 RBI's in 287 at bats in his rookie year. In his second season and taking over mid year in Center he hit .297 with 10 HR and 37 RBI in 455 at bats and his range he has showed so far this year has been awesome.

-- Posted by DaleDoback on Sun, Apr 8, 2012, at 10:46 PM


How would those statistics compare to the other 29 teams CF?

-- Posted by Dustin Ward on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 12:33 PM

Has anyone paid attention to Matt Adams in Memphis and Wong in Springfield? Adams has hr's in his first 2 games. Wong is 7 for his first 14.

-- Posted by gregb on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 2:21 PM
Corey Noles
They are putting on a good show down there. I'm anxious to see with a few more weeks under their belts how the numbers are looking. Both Adams and Wong have the potential to be the future of the club. Adams will make it to St. Louis before Wong, and likely some time this year in the event of an injury. I'm looking forward to seeing them both up here.

Jon Jay's batting average was 5th, his OPS was 10th. Any other statistic isn't really fair to compare because he wasn't a full time starter the whole year. BOOM!!!!...btw...Rasmus was 20th in BA and 22nd in OPS.

-- Posted by DaleDoback on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 7:17 PM

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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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