83-78, World Series champions
1. SS David Eckstein:
.292 BA, .350 OBP, .344 SLG, 2 HR, 23 RBI
2. LF Chris Duncan:
.293 BA, .363 OBP, .589 SLG, 22 HR, 43 RBI
3. 1B Albert Pujols:
.331 BA, .431 OBP, .671 SLG, 49 HR, 137 RBI
4. 3B Scott Rolen:
.296 BA, .369 OBP, .518 SLG, 22 HR, 95 RBI
5. CF Jim Edmonds:
.257 BA, .350 OBP, .471 SLG, 19 HR, 70 RBI
6. RF Juan Encarnacion:
.278 BA, .317 OBP, .443 SLG, 16 HR, 76 RBI
7. 2B Adam Kennedy:
.273 BA, .334 OBP, .384 SLG, 4 HR, 55 RBI
8. C Yadier Molina:
.216 BA, .274 OBP, .321 SLG, 6 HR, 49 RBI
1. RHP Chris Carpenter, 15-8, 3.09 ERA
2. RHP Kip Wells, 2-5, 6.50
3. RHP Anthony Reyes, 5-8, 5.06
4. RHP Adam Wainwright, 2-1, 3.12, 3 SV
5. RHP Ryan Franklin, 6-7, 4.54 Projected bullpen
Closer: RHP Jason Isringhausen, 33/43 saves, 3.55 ERA
RH setup man: Braden Looper, 3.56 ERA
LH setup man: Tyler Johnson, 4.95 ERA The new guys
Jolbert Cabrera: Maybe he's a long shot to make the team, considering that Aaron Miles and Scott Spiezio are both pretty well set. Plus, Cabrera is in camp on a non-roster invite. But Spiezio and Abraham Nunez both joined the Cardinals as NRIs on Minor League deals, and went on to be contributors. Cabrera, who has played every position but pitcher and catcher in the Major Leagues, is the kind of player that manager Tony La Russa loves. Franklin: A stealth signing in an overheated market this winter, Franklin is a swingman -- and that's something St. Louis needed. He goes into camp as the favorite to win the last spot in the starting rotation, and he had a couple of nice years in the Mariners rotation. If he gets bumped when Mark Mulder returns, he can move to the bullpen, where he pitched in 2006. Kennedy: Kennedy is the biggest name to join the Cards this winter, which gives you an indication that it was a pretty quiet offseason. Still, the club is excited about its former farmhand. Kennedy is considered a solid defender, and as recently as 2005 he was a plus offensively for a second baseman. He doesn't need to be great, just dependably good. Eli Marrero: A new-old face, Marrero is trying to re-start what was once a promising career. He'll have a chance to make the club as a third catcher/utility player. The odds aren't good, but Marrero has an unusual skill set, and that's worth something. Russ Springer: Not a big name, Springer nonetheless adds depth to the Cardinals bullpen. He was briefly a Redbird before he left for Houston. Springer joins Josh Kinney, Josh Hancock and probably Braden Looper in a very deep right-handed setup/middle relief corps. Wells: Wells' performance in recent years is a something of a Rorschach test. Do you look at the ever-increasing ERA, including a combined 6.50 last year? Or do you look at the strong years before he got hurt, and his outstanding stretch in July after he got healthy? Wells was signed on the cheap, and he might not provide a great deal, but the potential is there. Prospects to watch
Blake Hawksworth: The organization's Minor League pitcher of the year for 2006, Hawksworth has regained his prospect status after losing a ton of time to injury. He's progressing rapidly now that he's healthy. Narveson: The left-hander made his Major League debut last season and looked pretty good. He likely needs another year at Triple-A before the Cardinals are comfortable giving him a real look in the rotation. Still, he'll be in the competition, and the chance is there for him to impress. Colby Rasmus: You'll probably have to get to Florida early if you want to see Rasmus with the big leaguers, but in a couple of years, it should be a different story. Rasmus ended last season at Class A Palm Beach and is expected to start out at Double-A Springfield in 2007. The sweet-swinging center fielder is the best prospect in the organization. Returning from injury
Edmonds: It was a tough year for Edmonds, who dealt with one malady after another. Post-concussion syndrome was the biggest issue during the regular season, but it seems to be clearing up. In Spring Training, he'll be recuperating from offseason shoulder and toe surgery. Opening Day is believed to be a reasonable expectation, but he'll be limited during camp. Encarnacion: A wrist injury bothered Encarnacion throughout 2006, limiting his power in the second half. He had surgery and expects to be good to go, but nothing is for sure until he starts playing games. Isringhausen: A great deal hinges on the closer's condition. If his surgically repaired hip is sound, and he's effective, a lot of things fall into place -- the rest of the bullpen finds its roles, and Wainwright can move to the rotation. If Isringhausen is hurt or ineffective, the shuffle begins. Mark Mulder: Mulder may be out until June or July after late-season shoulder surgery. He has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, a desire to prove he's better than he pitched in 2006 or even '05. But shoulder operations are big things for pitchers, so it won't be easy. Ricardo Rincon: Rincon was signed to take the place of Ray King, but was struck down early in the year. He had surgery on both his elbow and his shoulder. In his absence, the left side of the bullpen struggled at times, but found its groove in the postseason. He hopes to be unrestricted in spring. Wells: The right-hander had finally gotten healthy after battling circulation problems for years, and then he suffered a seriously sprained right foot. It should be fully recovered, and if Wells pitches like he did in his last few starts before his fall, he'll be a boon to the Redbirds. On the rebound
Edmonds: Things weren't going so well for Edmonds even before the injuries started to hit. Even in a down year, he's a major contributor, but the Cardinals offense hinges greatly on what Edmonds can offer. Even a slight correction -- say, back to his 2005 line of a .385 OBP and .533 SLG -- would mean good things for the lineup. Isringhausen: As with Edmonds, it's fair to wonder how long he was bothered physically before he finally shut it down. Because as with Edmonds, he was having a subpar year before acknowledging injury. If all of Isringhausen's struggles resulted from his hip problems, he might return to form. But that's not a guarantee. He's arguably the player to watch for the Cardinals in 2007. Molina: The Cardinals got a look at what they hope Molina can be offensively during the postseason. He hit .358 and slugged .547 in the playoffs, a complete turnaround from his dismal regular season at the plate. Molina was also a bit easier to run on in 2006 than he was in '05, though he was spectacular in that regard in both seasons. Long gone
Ronnie Belliard: A deadline pickup, Belliard was a bit disappointing with the bat but dazzling with the leather. His diving stop in San Diego was one of the pivotal plays of the St. Louis postseason run. He's been replaced by Kennedy. Jason Marquis: The least surprising departure of all. It was clear that neither Marquis nor the Cardinals shed many tears when he left via free agency. Marquis had some fine performances in a St. Louis uniform, but things soured by the end of 2006. He was left off the roster in both the League Championship Series and the World Series. Jeff Suppan: This one stung a little bit, for both sides. Suppan was a dependable contributor for three years, and he turned in some exceptional playoff performances. He was the MVP of the NLCS. But he was wounded that the Cardinals didn't make a more serious push to keep him, and went to Milwaukee for a four-year deal. Jeff Weaver: Weaver, acquired in July from the Angels, found his groove at just the right time and became a playoff hero. He left for Seattle for a one-year deal.
2006 hitting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Pujols, .331
OBP: Pujols, .431
SLG: Pujols, .671
Runs: Pujols, 119
RBIs: Pujols, 137
Hits: Pujols, 177
2B: Rolen, 48
3B: Encarnacion, Aaron Miles, 5
HR: Pujols, 49
SB: So Taguchi, 11
2006 pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Carpenter, 221 2/3
W: Carpenter, 15
L: Marquis, 16
Win %: Looper, .750 (9-3)
S: Isringhausen, 33
ERA: Carpenter, 3.09
K: Carpenter, 184
K/9: Johnson, 9.17
WHIP: Carpenter, 1.07
1. Even if they pitch well, will the starters pitch enough innings?
This is the real concern about the rotation. There's every chance that Reyes, Wainwright and Wells will pitch quality innings. It's less likely, though, that they'll be able to pitch deep into games with regularity. That may mean lots of 12-out games for the bullpen. Someone will need to step forward and consistently pitch into and through the seventh.
These two issues may not be settled by the end of spring, but the exhibition season will at least give some clue. Two members of the clubhouse core, Edmonds and Isringhausen are being counted on to play at a high level. If they don't, some serious shifting on the fly will need to happen. 3. Just how good is Chris Duncan?
Is Duncan really the Ryan Howard-in-training who terrorized the National League for a homer every 12.7 at-bats? Or is the truth closer to the good-but-not-great prospect who never went deep more than 21 times in a Minor League season? Duncan's defense, of course, is also an issue, and it's the talking point in St. Louis. But of greater impact to the team's chances to win is whether Duncan can remain a major threat at the plate in '07.
The bottom line
It's very simple: figure out the pitching staff. The Cardinals need to sort out what their rotation is going to look like, and get the other guys ready for bullpen work. And they need to establish whether Isringhausen is ready to close games, and set up their bullpen beyond that. There won't be much in the way of offensive position battles, though some bench spots will be contested.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.