By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
At the close of last year's THR on the Cards, I said, 'It's likely to be a dramatic season in St. Louis whichever way all of this goes, but unless they stay healthy, it's not the kind of drama that Cardinals fans will enjoy." That held mostly true. Adam Wainwright was hurt, yes, but the four red lights didn't follow suit. Do that consistently and good things happen. It won't always be a World Series championship, but good things nonetheless. Now the Cards have to try and do it again, without Albert Pujols, without Tony La Russa, and without Dave Duncan. The risk profile is about the same, so we'll see whether the real power behind this team was Torty Craig after all.

Health Keys: Get Adam Wainwright back to form and maintain Carlos Beltran.

(HEAD TRAINER: Greg Hauck; FIVE YEAR RANK: 18; 2011 RANK: 16)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
C Yadier Molina
Molina is rested just enough. People worry if Molina will miss Pujols, but it was now-retired pitching coach Dave Duncan -- a former catcher -- who developed Molina into a weapon.

SP Jaime Garcia
Garcia is two years post Tommy John. He's still in the honeymoon period, had only a 30-inning increase (plus playoffs) and just crossed the injury nexus. That's about as green as it gets.

Also Green:
CF Jon Jay
SP Jake Westbrook
SP Jason Motte
1B Lance Berkman
Berkman was healthier than expected last year and the move to 1B helps him stay in the yellow. The key to keeping him healthy is catching things early, forcing him to do the maintenance when he'd much rather be in the clubhouse or cage with his teammates. His workload should be manageable with Allen Craig filling in from time to time. (Craig will miss into May after having his kneecap repaired after the World Series.)

2B Skip Schumaker
Schumaker strained his elbow early in the season and his bat never seemed to recover. He was streaky at best, but La Russa seemed to know when and where to plug him in. It's one of the many things La Russa did well that Mike Matheny is going to have to try and match. Daniel Decalso will fight him for the position as well.

3B David Freese
Freese wasn't injury-free last season. He broke his hand on an HBP, then got an EvoShield glove to prevent another one. When healthy, he's as good as everyone saw during the playoff run. He's risky, but the upside is so high you have to accept that.

LF Matt Holliday
Holliday is football huge and plays with that mentality. He?ll run through walls, dive through defenders, and play through pain. This is the kind of player you want, but not on a long-term contract. Holliday had everything from a moth in his ear to hand and wrist problems that nearly kept him out of the World Series. He reminds me of Chipper Jones, so just look at the age-comparable seasons for how that could go.

SP Chris Carpenter
Someone with Carpenter's track record should be green. Someone with Carpenter's injury history should be red. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. He did throw 270-plus innings last year, so the "World Series hangover" might be in effect early in the season.

SP Adam Wainwright
There are risks in coming back from Tommy John surgery. Not coming back is seldom one of them. Wainwright isn't going to be 100 percent early, but he'll be a year plus out on Opening Day and by the All-Star Game, he'll be the ace again. The risk is that the forces that snapped the weak link of his elbow will now act on his shoulder.

SP Kyle Lohse
Lohse came back from his lost 2010 campaign and didn't miss a step. He wasn't great, but he held on long enough to keep Shelby Miller on the farm. He probably won?t do that all season, but the Cards will be able to flip him to a team that can use the same thing.

SS Rafael Furcal
He?s an aging shortstop with back problems. He's a speed player with a history of hamstring issues. He's a guy with a history of peaking in contract years. He can even get hurt in the offseason, losing a month of workouts to an appendectomy, one that came after he had hernia surgery. Furcal is very risky. If you just have to take him in your draft, sell at the first sign of any back issues.

RF Carlos Beltran
Beltran was held together by a huge brace that limited his movement but saved him from knee surgery. The Mets did everything they could to keep him from having microfracture and it worked. The Giants were able to hold him together in the short term, but the Cards are locked in for two years. It's a maintenance issue, and while the superficial numbers are there, he's so risky I can't recommend taking him, even with a .900 OPS upside.

RP Kyle McClellan
McClellan was the sacrificial lamb last year. He was pushed into the rotation when Wainwright went down, into the pen when Edwin Jackson came in, and along the way, his arm paid the price. Dead arm kept him off the playoff roster and there might be a lot more than that. There are whispers that his arm was drastically weakened. We can only hope he rested well this offseason.

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)