St. Louis Cardinals Lineup Might Be Set, Bench Could Use Work

Every year as Spring Training approaches, fan bases evaluate their team’s 40-man roster and generally look for that one spot that might be the weak link in the chain.

St. Louis Cardinals fans are no different and will likely pick apart the roster from now until the Cardinals face the Miami Marlins April 4 on Opening Day. However, the Cardinals could very well enter that game with the same projected rotation and lineup they have now.

Yes, the Cardinals lost their first baseman and the best player in the game when Albert Pujols left to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Yes, the players they signed to fill out the roster after he left might turn out to be old and unreliable. But, there still might not be much competition for starting jobs during Spring Training.

In the infield, second base is the only position that might be even a small question mark. Lance Berkman will play first base, Rafeal Furcal will play shortstop, David Freese will play third base and Yadier Molina will be the catcher.

Skip Schumaker also looks to be the obvious choice for second base. The only scenario where he doesn’t come away with the starting job by Opening Day is if he has a terrible Spring Training and somebody such as Tyler Greene, Matt Carpenter or Zach Cox has an amazing exhibition month.

That isn’t likely to happen, considering Schumaker usually has great numbers during Spring Training, and here are some arcane stats for you to prove it. Schumaker has a career Spring Training batting average of .311, and he hit.389 last year. His only terrible Spring Training was 2010 when he hit .182, but that was also the year he moved from the outfield to second base.

So, the infield is likely already set, the outfield will likely be Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran to start the year while Allen Craig returns from knee surgery, the starting rotation is set, and so is the back end of the bullpen.

It is almost remarkable that at this point in the winter the Cardinals could walk into the regular season without having to make a major decision about who to put in the lineup for Opening Day.

Now, that’s not to say there won’t be any competition for spots during Spring Training. There always should be. There will be plenty of guys who have spent the last few years in the minor leagues that will work their tails off to make the 25-man roster that travels north for April.

The Cardinals bench looks pretty thin at this point. Infielder Daniel Descalso should be in line to play a prominent back-up role with the big club, and outfielder Adron Chambers provided a spark off the bench for the Cardinals down the stretch in 2011. Of course, Tyler Greene will be back, as well, but he needs to prove he can be a reliable player that could someday take over at shortstop.

Beyond that, the Cardinals currently don’t have a back-up player on their roster who has spent more than two weeks in the big leagues. That could be cause for a lot of concern with a starting lineup that averages 31 years of age.

This could be a season that is fantastic if the starting lineup and rotation stays healthy, but the chances of multiple starters breaking down throughout the season could spell a lot of trouble, especially when teams such as the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds have considerably younger teams.

Between now and the start of the season, the Cardinals will have do something former manager Tony La Russa was a master at: finding cheap, undervalued players who can fill in at key points during the season.

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