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MLB Baseball Scouting Reports

St. Louis Cardinals

SI Prediction: 5th in NL Central
Former closer Wainwright made a successful jump to starter in '07, but will his arm hold up after that huge spike in innings?
Former closer Wainwright made a successful jump to starter in '07, but will his arm hold up after that huge spike in innings?
David E. Klutho/SI
13th season with St. Louis
Team Page | 2008 Schedule
Percentage of base runners caught stealing by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, the highest career mark among active backstops (minimum: 50 games). Molina, 25, nailed 23 of 46 runners last season -- the second time in his four-year career that he threw out 50% or more. Most impressively, over the last six seasons no other major league catcher has thrown out half of the players who tried to steal on him in any one year.
The Cardinals picked up the $8 million option on Jason Isringhausen's contract during the off-season, but with St. Louis looking as though it won't be able to keep up with the Cubs, Reds and Brewers, trading the still-effective veteran closer (only 42 hits allowed in 65 1/3 innings last season) sooner rather than later is the right move. Fret not, St. Louis fans -- Chris Perez is on the way. The big righthander out of the University of Miami, whom the Cards took with a first-round supplemental pick in 2006, is just about ready for the majors. He throws a mid-90s fastball and uses a terrific slider as his out pitch. PECOTA pegs the 22-year-old Perez for 70 strikeouts in 57 innings, the second-best rate in the majors. He should be closing out St. Louis wins before football season starts.
RF SKIP SCHUMAKER L-R 210 .333 2 19 1
LF CHRIS DUNCAN L-R 109 .259 21 70 2
1B ALBERT PUJOLS R 11 .327 32 103 2
CF RICK ANKIEL L 83 .285 11 39 1
3B TROY GLAUS R 94 .262 20 62 0
2B ADAM KENNEDY L-R 255 .219 3 18 6
C YADIER MOLINA R 236 .275 6 40 1
SS CESAR IZTURIS S-R 383 .258 0 16 3
OF RYAN LUDWICK R-L 275 .267 14 52 4
IF AARON MILES S-R 374 .290 2 32 2
C JASON LARUE R 360 .148 4 13 1
RH ADAM WAINWRIGHT 94 14 12 6.1 1.40 3.70
RH BRADEN LOOPER 195 12 12 4.5 1.34 4.94
RH JOEL PIŅEIRO 176 7 5 5.5 1.39 4.33
RH KYLE LOHSE 154 9 12 5.7 1.37 4.62
RH TODD WELLEMEYER 227 3 3 6.8 1.48 4.54
RH JASON ISRINGHAUSEN 39 4 32 7.4 1.07 2.48
RH RUSS SPRINGER 163 8 0 9.0 0.91 2.18
RH RYAN FRANKLIN 204 4 1 5.0 1.01 3.04

"They have been exposed as an aging franchise built around fragile stars."

Comeback stories abounded at Cardinals camp this spring. There was Matt Clement, a onetime All-Star with the Red Sox who missed last season because of a shoulder injury, bidding for a spot in the rotation. There was Mark Mulder, a former 20-game winner with the A's who made only three starts in 2007, throwing off the mound for the first time since having shoulder surgery in September. And, most improbably, there was 38-year-old nonroster invitee Juan Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP with the Rangers who was out of baseball for the last three years, swatting a Johan Santana fastball over the leftfield wall.

If this is the most uplifting news that comes out of Jupiter, Fla., before the season starts, it doesn't augur well for a team that has already fallen precipitously since its stunning World Series win in 2006. Last year St. Louis, in plodding through its first losing season since 1999, was exposed as an aging franchise built around fragile stars. Two of them were traded over the winter (centerfielder Jim Edmonds, 37, and third baseman Scott Rolen, 32, who missed a combined 95 games last year) and two others are still hurting: Ace Chris Carpenter, recovering from Tommy John surgery, won't pitch until after the All-Star break, while first baseman Albert Pujols will play with a torn ligament, bone spurs, arthritis and swelling -- all in his right elbow.

Despite this crumbling around the foundation -- even with the departures of Edmonds and Rolen, the Cardinals remain among the oldest teams in the majors -- new general manager John Mozeliak says, "We're absolutely trying to be competitive this year. You don't think about rebuilding when you have a $100 million payroll."

Pujols agrees, which is why, in the face of criticism, he opted to postpone elbow surgery until after this season. Playing with pain in '07, he had career lows in extra-base hits and home runs. But the 28-year-old first baseman is confident he'll bounce back, in part because, for the first time in four years, he and the Cardinals had the postseason off. The last time he had that much rest, Pujols says, "I came into the next season feeling really good, and look what happened." He had a then career-high 46 homers and the Cardinals reached the World Series.

Last year Pujols received little offensive support -- St. Louis ranked last in the league in OPS out of the fourth and fifth spots in the order, and second to last out of the leadoff spot. But the only notable addition to a lineup that was also 13th in the NL in homers and 14th in slugging is third baseman Troy Glaus, who came from the Blue Jays in the Rolen trade. In Glaus the Cards obtained an established slugger, but one who turns 32 this summer, has undergone shoulder and foot surgery in the last four years and has a bad left knee from playing on the artificial turf in Toronto.

The starting staff inspires even less confidence. Pitching coach Dave Duncan is known for working magic -- he conjured up good 2007 seasons out of journeymen Joel Piņeiro and Todd Wellemeyer -- but his powers will be severely tested by a staff that is banking on the resurrections of Clement and Mulder (both of whom will be back sometime in May). Righthander Kyle Lohse, signed in mid-March, is durable but has never had an ERA under 4.00. Much is expected from Adam Wainwright, 26, but it's unclear how much of a load the former closer can carry coming off a big innings increase, from 75 in '06 to 202 last year. (The unofficial industry standard is that no pitcher should throw 30 or more innings than he did the previous season.)

St. Louis thinks Carpenter's return will provide the team with a shot in the arm in July -- "When we add him," says Mozeliak, "it'll be like making a trade for a top starter." By then, however, the undermanned Cardinals will be too far out of contention for that comeback story to make any difference. -- Albert Chen

Issue date: March 31, 2008