Power In Left

Left Field may not be a power position in the National League Central, but with Matt Holiday, it is shaping up to be one of the key positions for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Matt Holliday is a great player.  After his first season in 2004, when he batted .290, he has failed to hit .300 only once, and that was last year at .296 which was plagued by injury. His average stats over a 162 game season are .315 with 29 home runs and 110 RBI. He has been incredible consistent. He hit .319 with Colorado, and has hit .314 with St. Louis over the last three seasons.  Oh yeah, and he’s a five time All-Star. Not bad.

The National League Central is shaping up for the Cardinals to take. The Brewers will be weakened, are about to part with Prince Fielder and will lose MVP Ryan Braun for 50 games.  Cincinnati looked like a rudderless ship last year. Houston and Pittsburgh are terrible, and Chicago is rebuilding.  A 2012 return to the postseason will surely ease St. Louis’ collective minds about the future of the team. Which brings the conversation back to Matt Holliday.

Holliday seems as good as any to fill in the third spot in the order where Pujols used to reside.  And if 100%, which he looks and claims to be, with Carlos Beltran in place forms, in my opinion, the best outfield in the National League Central and one of the top in all of MLB.

Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano smacked 26 long balls in 2011, to go along with a pair of steals, 88 RBIs, 50 runs scored and a .244 batting average.  Soriano drove collected his highest RBI total since 2006 and highest home run total since 2008. However, the 35-year-old hasn’t hit over .260 in any of the past three seasons and 17 of those homers came in two months (April & August). At his age, it’s more likely that Soriano’s power drops off than his average rises in future campaigns.

Reds outfielder Chris Heisey made the most of his 279 at-bats in 2011, swatting 18 homers and hitting .254 with six steals, 50 RBIs and 44 runs scored.  Heisey smacked three homers in one game against the Yankees on June 22 and pushed for more playing time all season.  His 30-homer potential is hard to ignore with power hitting on the decline these days. The 26-year-old needs to cut down on the K’s (78 in 279 at-bats) but his power and defensive skills are an enticing package for manager Dusty Baker.

Astros rookie outfielder J.D. Martinez went deep six times, drove in 35 runs, scored 29 times and hit .274 in his initial Major League action during 2011.  After the departure of Hunter Pence, somebody had to step up and knock some run for the Astros. That somebody was Martinez.   With 35 RBIs in 208 at-bats, Martinez drove in more than his share of runs in the second half. The 24-year-old flashed enough power to earn a full-time job in 2012.

Ryan Braun had an outstanding five-category season in 2011, hitting .332 with 33 homers, 33 steals, 111 RBIs and 109 runs scored. He nearly won the NL batting title, hit over .400 in the postseason and at age 27; it’s likely that Braun will be among the top hitters for several seasons. Testing positive for steroids puts a dark cloud over Braun and his MVP campaign but perhaps more damaging to his and the Brewers 2012 is the possibility of him missing 50 games.

The 26-year-old Alex Presley put together a 2011 season that would warrant the chance to start in left. In 87 games with Triple-A Indianapolis, Presley batted .333 with 31 extra-base hits, 41 RBIs, 58 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. That earned him a midseason call up, an opportunity Presley also seized. Plugged into the starting lineup immediately, Presley posted a .298 batting average and .339 on-base percentage. He swiped another nine bases and scored 27 runs in 52 games.

Matt Holliday hit 22 homers, with 75 RBIs, 83 runs scored, a pair of steals and a .296 batting average in an injury-plagued 2011 regular season. A strange season for Holliday who had two DL stints in 2011, as an April appendectomy a June quadriceps injury hurt his at-bat total. A wrist injury ended his postseason run one game early.  He was off to an MVP pace coming out of the gate until injuries like these and freak other occurrences like a moth flying into his year stalled his season. He’s expected to be fine for Spring Training and when healthy is one of the best outfielders in all of baseball.

My Rankings

  1. Matt Holliday
  2. Ryan Braun
  3. Alfonso Soriano
  4. Chris Heisey
  5. Alex Presley
  6. J.D. Martinez

This year looks to be different for Holliday. He will now be playing in the key spot in the lineup for the defending World Series champions. Holliday, who usually flies below the baseball radar, will be front-and-center in 2012 to see how he and the Cardinals respond to Pujols’ departure.

Still, if the Cardinals can get one of those patented .315/29/110 RBI seasons I don’t think anyone will be too upset.

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