Chris Carpenter – The once obvious clear ace in the Cardinals rotation, though some would now perhaps give that distinction to Wainwright, he is still a part of one of the better 1-2 punches in baseball (Philadelphia beastly rotation aside). Carp has always been a no-nosense type of guy with the media, fellow players, in pitching and it’s one of the things I love about him. He is going to have a lot to prove this year, namely that at 35 years old, he can still deliver the good stuff. Otherwise, it’s very conceivable that it may be his last year in a Cardinal uniform. And even if he does, that could still well be the case. The Cards have an option on him for 2012, but a lot of his future could depend on the Pujols situation. If they can’t sign Pujols and Carp is still healthy, I’m sure they pick up his option. If they do sign Pujols, Carpenter could be a guy that they buy out. They’ll have to save money somewhere and an aging pitcher, however, good, seems the first place to do that.
Adam Wainwright – Maybe Wainwright hasn’t been “the face of the franchise” in so much the same way Carpenter has been over the last few years, but he’s getting there. As I said above, many seem him as overtaking Carp in that ‘ace’ role. For my money, as soon as he K’ed the mighty Beltran to end the NLCS, I was a Wainwright fan for life. I love listening to Adam give interviews. Still a southern boy through and through (though not as much as Colby), he just seems to enjoy talking baseball and pitching. Nothing fancy about him, he just does his job. I fully expect to see him make another run at a possible Cy Young. And perhaps one of these years, the other pitchers will actually let him reach it.
Jake Wesbrook – Now this guy will be interesting to watch. He was a Cardinals for only a little while last year, but now has been signed for two additional seasons. He didn’t do anything spectacular last year, but he was also brought over only in time to try and save an already sinking Cardinal team. What will he be like sitting under Dave Duncan for an entire season? Will he crash and burn a la Brad Penny? Or will he be the latest Duncan testimony a la Jeff Weaver? Time will tell.
Jaime Garcia – Jaime is the player I am most excited to watch in 2011. He had a totally unexpected and awesome breakout season last year. The question on everyone’s minds will be whether or not it was a fluke thing or if he can step up again this year. The Cardinals need him to be as good as he was last year if they’re going to think about getting to October.
Kyle Loshe – The guy that the Cardinals for some reason badly want to be their 5th starter. I have no idea why. This guy is completely maddening to watch pitch. Maybe they feel they have invested too much into him, but at some point you have let him go. Even at his best, this guy’s not a front of the rotation type of guy.
Ryan Franklin – The solid closer. I trust him in a ballgame and he’s cheap for the Cardinals, considering the money they’re pouring in to a lot of other places. But the problem again is that this is his last year before free agency. The plus is that hopefully he’ll want to make a good impression, but the negative is that it serves as a distraction.
Mitchell Boggs / Kyle McClellan / Trevor Miller / Jason Motte / Fernando Salas / P.J. Walters
Various members of the Cardinal ‘pen that have pitched from a little to a lot. A lot of arbitration eligible players in this group and also unclear in what they have to offer. There’s a couple of exceptions to that, such as that Motte throws heat. But for the most part, it’s always hard to know what your set-up men and other various bullpen roles are going to do. We’ll see soon enough how this is going to all shake down.
The Cardinals have a returning starting rotation in Carp, Wainwright, Garcia, Westbrook and Loshe. But that is doubtful to be the starting rotation come the end of the season. There’s no guarantee for some of the staff who will be in St. Louis at the beginning of the season and who will have to work their way up there. Spring Training will help get all of that sorted out.
Next up are the newcomers.
One of the best 1-2 combos out there,