Friday, January 25, 2013

Uptown Atlanta

Earlier this offseason, the Braves signed former Ray BJ Upton to a five year, $75 million deal to replace Michael Bourn as their center fielder. Yesterday, they acquired Justin Upton from the D-Backs for 5 players. Now, the Atlanta Braves will the fourth team to feature two brothers as outfield regulars next season. The Upton's will be joining the Pirates of the 30's with Lloyd and Paul Waner(two Hall of Famers), the Giants of the early 60's with Matty and Felipe Alou, and the 1970 Red Sox with Billy and Tony Conigliaro.

With the Rays, BJ Upton had a up and down career. Originally drafted as a shortstop with the #2 overall pick in 2002, Upton was eventually moved to the outfield. He had his best overall season in 2007, when he hit .300 and set career highs in home runs(24) and RBI's(82). Upton has stole over 40 bases three seasons in a row from 2008 to 2010, and stole 31 last year. There were times his effort was questioned earlier in his career, but he has grown up since then. While his skills are there, especially power and speed, his average an on base percentage has taken a hit. He has hit in the .240s range the last four seasons, and is coming off a career worst .298 OBP.

The Diamondbacks have been shopping Justin Upton for the last couple of years. GM Kevin Towers talked about trading him before the 2011 season, but ended up keeping him. Upton responded with his best season overall, finishing 4th in the MVP voting and leading Arizona to the NL West title. Upton is signed to a reasonable deal through the 2015 season. I'm not sure why Arizona was so eager to trade Justin Upton for, but it's a deal that could come back to bite them. They threw in third baseman Chris Johnson with Upton, and recieved Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, and three minor league players.

Of the two brothers, Justin is the more consistent player with a higher ceiling. He hits for a higher average and gets on base more often. Justin also has a mix of speed and power, although he doesn't steal as often as BJ does. BJ is considered more of a enigma, but he has the talent to be a All Star. Along with 2012 Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward, the Braves have one of the best outfields in baseball right now. Heyward is only 23 years old and rebounded nicely from a sophomore slump in 2011.

Although the Braves added the Upton brothers, they loss Bourn, Prado, Tommy Hanson, and most importantly Chipper Jones from last year's team. Brian McCann and Dan Uggla are coming off down seasons. However, in their first post-Chipper season, they should be ready to make a run at the postseason. They have a pretty young team and a really good bullpen. I still think the Nats are the favorites for the East, but a wild card in definitely in reach for Atlanta. If things went right and the Nats stumbled, the Braves could push them for the division as well.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Stan the Man

Stan Musial signed with the Cardinals in 1938 as a pitcher. He was an 18 year old from Donora, Pennsylvania then. It is the same hometown as Ken Griffey Jr. and Sr., and Musial played high school ball with Griffey Jr.'s dad.  In 1940, he went 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA in Daytona Beach, a Cardinals farm team. However, he hurt his arm in 1941, moving him to the outfield. It was the best thing that could of ever happened to Musial. By September 1941, Musial was in the big leagues; batting .426 in 12 games. In his first full season, he hit .315, finished 12th in MVP voting, and the Cardinals beat the Yankees in the World Series.

In 1943, Musial had his first great season. He led the league in batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage, hits, doubles, triples, and total bases. The Cardinals would again win the National League pennant and face the Yankees for the second time in a row. They would fall short this time. In 1944, the Cardinals were missing big stars like Enos Slaughter and Terry Moore, but they again won over 100 games and won their third straight pennant. This time it was an All-St. Louis World Series, with the Browns making their first(and only) World Series. Both teams played their home games in Sportsmen's Park, and the Cardinals beat the Browns in 6 games to win their second championship in three years.

Musial enlisted in the Navy in January 1945 and was stationed in Hawaii. He repaired ships and played in a Navy baseball league. With World War II ending later that year, Musial was discharged in March 1946. Musial only missed one season due to the war and his skills were the same afterwards. Bob Feller, Johnny Mize, Hank Greenberg, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, among others also left the military and came back to the majors for the 1946 season.

Musial started hitting for more power after coming back from the military. His fellow sailors wanted to see home runs and Musial made a slight adjustment to his left handed stance. Musial didn't miss a beat in 1946, winning his second MVP. He led the National League with a .365 average, and also led the league in slugging, hits, runs scored, doubles, triples, and total bases. He also had his first season with 100 plus RBIs. The Cardinals won the National League pennant again and faced off Williams' Red Sox in the World Series. The Cardinals would go on to win a tough fought 7 game series. It was Musial's third championship, but his last appearance in the Fall Classic. Despite only being 25 and playing 17 more seasons.

It was rumored some Southern players on the Cardinals were talking about refusing to play the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Jackie Robinson had recently broke the color barrier. Some reporters asked Musial about it, and he said he was playing. The rest of the team followed suit and there was no player's strike.

In 1946, new manager Eddie Dyer asked Musial to play first base. It was thought to be a temporary move out of necessity, but Musial ended up playing over 1000 games at first. He would alternate between left field, right field, and first base the rest of his career. He even played 331 games in center field.

Musial would win his third MVP in 1948, nearly winning the Triple Crown. He hit a career high 39 home runs, but finished one shy of tying Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize. Musial did lead the National League with a .376 average, .450 OBP, .702 slugging, 135 runs scored, 230 hits, 46 doubles, 18 triples, and 131 RBI's. The Cardinals would finish a distant second to the Braves despite Musial's great season.

Starting with 1948, Musial would win the batting title 4 out of 5 times, only missing 1949. While Musial was the National League's biggest star at the time, the Cardinals were falling behind teams like the Dodgers, Giants, Phillies, and Braves. Red Schoendienst was still a top player, but many other big stars of their World Series teams of the mid-40's were declining. Marty Marion, Whitey Kurowski, Enos Slaughter, Terry Moore, Howie Pollet, Harry Breechen, and others were falling off and the Cardinals farm system fell off after GM Branch Rickey left for the Dodgers. The Cardinals were also slower to integrate than other clubs of their era. Unfortunately, the Cardinals were never good enough to get back to the World Series during Musial's biggest years.

Musial would win one more batting title in 1957 at age 36. In 1958, he got his 3000th hit in Wrigley Field, hitting a double of Moe Drabowsky. He would suffer through his worst season in 1959, batting only .255. Musial would ask for a pay cut, embarrased about his poor performance. By this time Ken Boyer had passed Musial as the team's best player. Solly Hemus was the Cardinals manager at the time, and had no use for Musial. Hemus played him part time and  wanted to force him into retirement, despite that Musial was a humble guy and a good influence on younger players. Musial improved in 1960, although he was limited to 116 games.

Musial wasn't all of Hemus' problems, he also didn't get along with Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, Bill White, and some of the younger players on the team. After a slow start in 1961 and a derogatory comment about black people, Hemus was fired and replaced by Johnny Keane. Keane decided to play Musial more often and he didn't alienate younger players. This turned out to be a good move long term for the Cardinals. Keane would lead the Cardinals to a championship in 1964, one year after Musial's retirement.

Musial had one more big year in 1962, batting .330. He would retire in 1963, holding many National League records, some which are broken now. He made 24 All Star teams, won 3 MVP's, and was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1969. He finished with 3630 hits(an equal amount on home and road), 475 home runs, 1951 RBI's, 1949 runs scored, and a .331 average. Musial is also second alltime with 6134 total bases. His number 6 was the first number to be retired in Cardinals history.

He loved to play his harmonica and even played it before a game at the old Busch Stadium. He is still considered to be the best player in Cardinal's history, with Cardinal players even today admiring him. Many other great teams and  players like Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, and Albert Pujols have come and gone, but Musial is still the greatest of them all.

                                        1955 Topps Card

             Musial with Bill DeWitt and Tony La Russa

          Musial and his family meeting with JFK at the White House

                DiMaggio and Musial

 Musial at a All Star Game with Aaron, Williams, and Mays

                                Musial in the Navy

                              Musial's 3000th Hit

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Nationals Might Be Even Better This Year

Bryce Harper - New York Mets v Washington Nationals

Last season, the Nationals made their first playoff appearance since 1981 when they were known as the Montreal Expos. It was the first playoff baseball team in DC since 1933. The Phillies went into the year winning the past 5 NL East crowns, but slumped last year as age might be catching up to them. The Nats won a major league high 98 games last year, but in a controversial decision; shut down Stephen Strasburg in mid September. It came back to bite them and they lost in an exciting five game set against the Cardinals. In Game 5, they blew a 6 run lead. It was a mighty collapse for them, but a unbelievable win for the Redbirds.

The Cardinals then suffered a collapse of their own in the NLCS, blowing a 3-1 lead to the Giants. I think the Cardinals have another World Series run in them again this year, but they will have some strong competition. The Giants have now won 2 out of the last 3 World Series and a force to be reckoned with in October. The Nationals might worry me more. They are a young team loaded with talent, and have improved themselves this offseason.

The Nationals starting pitching is among the league's best, if not the best. No way do they shut down Strasburg again this year. Barring injury, Strasburg will be ready for the playoffs(assuming they make it). After Strasburg, 21 game winner Gio Gonzalez is their second starter. Gonzalez, a lefty, came over from Oakland the previous offseason. Jordan Zimmermann finished 7th in the NL with a 2.94 ERA last season and is their number three. Edwin Jackson left for the Cubs in free agency, but the Nats picked up Danny Haren to be their number four. Haren dealt with some back problems and had a down year last season. I look for him to rebound this year. Lefty Ross Detwiler rounds out the rotation, and he is one of the best number five guys in the league.

This past week, the Nats signed former Yankee Rafeal Soriano to be their closer. They also have strong options in Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard for late inning relief. Storen was their closer later in the year, but was the losing pitcher in Game 5. Sean Burnett and Tony Gorzellany left via free agency, leaving Zack Duke as their only bullpen lefty. Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus return this year after strong performances last season.

The Nats lineup will be strong again this year. They finished 5th in the National League in runs scored despite injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Mike Morse, Wilson Ramos, and Ian Desmond during various points of the season. Adam LaRoche won the Gold Glove and was the Nats most consistent hitter last year. Denard Span was acquired from the Twins to be their leadoff hitter and center fielder. Span improves their defense, and moves Bryce Harper to left field. The 2012 Rookie of the Year, Harper should be even better this year in his age 20 season. Here's a look at their lineup.

CF Span
LF Harper
3B Zimmerman
1B LaRoche
RF Werth
SS Desmond
2B Espinosa
C Ramos/Suzuki

Ian Desmond had a breakout year last season, hitting 25 home runs and making the All Star team. His double play partner Danny Espinosa has a lot of talent, but needs to be more consistent at the plate. He has a good mix of power and speed. Werth will probably move down the order since Span was acquired. Kurt Suzuki caught most of the games for the Nats in the second half, but Ramos is the better hitter. Suzuki should still get some playing time since he's the better defensive catcher. The Nats recently traded Morse to the Mariners for prospects. Morse found himself without a position. Even without Morse, the Nats still have a strong bench in Roger Bernadina, Tyler Moore, and Steve Lombardozzi.

Davey Johnson will be managing his final season in 2013 and will be retiring at the season's end. This Nationals team probably reminds him of the mid-80's Mets teams, which he also managed. They also had a mix with young phenoms like Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden and veterans like Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez. They had just as deep(if not deeper) team as the Nats do. I think they could make a push for 100 wins this year. The additions of Soriano, Haren, and Span, along with full seasons of Ramos, Strasburg, and others should make them even better.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hall Voters Error on Election

                              Killer B's Denied Entry to Hall

This year's Hall ballot was one of the most decorated and controversial in history. It had holdovers like Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Don Mattingly, and Dale Murphy. Players who made their name in the 80's. It also had players like Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, and Edgar Martinez; who played in the steroid era, but are presumed clean. Also returning was Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, the former who admitted steroid use, and the latter who failed a test in 2005. Jeff Bagwell also returned to the ballot, joined by longtime teammate Craig Biggio this year. Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling joined the ballot for the first time, with no evidence of steroid use of any of those players. Of course, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa were also on the ballot for the first time. All three are suspected of steroid use, but it isn't proven.

Yet, the writers did not elect any players yesterday when the results were announced. It was only the 8th time that ever happened. Getting elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame is the toughest of all sports. It might be easier to get an act of Congress passed. Some voters were even arrogant enough to send in blank ballots. I guess they wanted to send a message, but it takes away from the percentages of players who didn't use steroids as well. They cite the moral clause, but getting elected to the Hall of Fame isn't the same as getting nominated for sainthood.

If sportsmanship and character were requirements for election, guys like Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, John McGraw, Leo Durocher, and Cap Anson wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. Anson refused to play teams with black players in the 1880's, and his racism kept blacks out of the league for another 60 years. Baseball's first commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis refused to allow teams to sign blacks, and yet he's in the Hall of Fame.

There's a good chance that a player who used(or tried) steroids is already in the Hall of Fame. Fergie Jenkins made that claim to Bob Costas yesterday. Jenkins himself was held up for the Hall of Fame for a few years because of his cocaine arrest. Peter Gammons at the time said, "it is comforting to know that the BBWAA has turned into an arm of the Moral Majority." Other players in the Hall used street drugs, were alcoholics, used anthetamines, corked bats, threw spitballs, and doctored the ball.

Don Sutton once described a meeting with Gaylord Perry saying, "He gave me a bottle of Vaseline. I thanked him and gave him a piece of sandpaper." Perry wrote a book titled "Me and the Spitter" while he played. Knuckleball pitcher Phil Niekro was once thrown out of a game after being found with a emery board. Whitey Ford was also known to doctor the ball on occasion, and he is probably the best pitcher in Yankees history. Sutton, Niekro, and Perry all won over 300 games, and Ford was a dominant postseason pitcher. All four pitchers are in the Hall of Fame.

Officially only players who broke the gambling rule are banned from the Hall of Fame, meaning no Pete Rose or Joe Jackson. While I think those two players deserve some recognition, it was against the rules when they played. Steroid use wasn't explicity against the rules until 2003, and testing with punishment didn't start until 2005.

There is debate on rather guys like Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Clemens, and Palmeiro should be allowed in the Hall. But, is it fair to keep out guys like Bagwell, Biggio, Piazza, and Schilling because they played in the Steroid Era? There is no proof of any of those four using steroids, but for some writers they are guilty by association. Is having muscles the reason for suspicion for Piazza and Bagwell? Is having the wrong teammates keeping Biggio and Schilling out? Some writers said they needed more time to decide on the Steroid Era, but how much do they need? They already have had at least 5 years.

The ballot logjam isn't going to get any easier next year when Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent, and Mike Mussina are eligible. In 2015, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz will be eligible. The following year Ken Griffey Jr. will be. Ivan Rodriguez the year after that, although there is PED whispers about him as well. Chipper Jones just retired, and Jim Thome might as well, giving two strong canidates five years from now. A lot of very deserving players won't get elected because of the writer's witchhunt.

I think baseball needs to change the rules on Hall voting. Someone should be elected every year, especially with the caliber of players on the ballot. Voter's should not be able to send in blank ballots, and blank ballots should be disqualified. Also, a review of a voter's history should be examined. If that voter is routinely voting against slam dunk candidates that there colleagues are voting for, then that voter should lose his priviliges. The NFL Hall of Fame mandates that at least 5 candidates make it per year. That's too high for baseball, but I think a minimum of 2 would be good for baseball. Getting 75% of the vote is very challenging, and most players don't get in the first ballot. Some writers didn't even vote for alltime greats like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, and Johnny Bench just so they weren't unamious selections.

The Veteran's Committee voted in former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert(who acquired Babe Ruth), early 20th century umpire Hank O'Day, and 19th century catcher Deacon White. White played so long ago that he caught barehanded. No offense to any of these guys, but Cooperstown needs more modern figures in the Hall. Since Division play began in 1969, only 22 players who began there career after then have made it. There are 208 players total in the Hall, leaving the last 40 years of baseball vastly under-represented. The voters did a lousy job this year, and hopefully they'll make up for it by electing several candidates in the next few years.

                    Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux: Will they Have to Wait?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cardinals Top Ten Prospects

                   Cardinals Top Prospect Oscar Taveras

The Cardinals system is stocked with talent, especially on the pitching side. Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly played big roles on last year's team, and Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller both were key contributors in the fall. There are several more talented pitchers in the system. Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong look to be impact position players when they reach the big leagues. To make this list, a player has to have rookie eligibility for 2013.

1) Oscar Taveras, RF, 20 years old

Taveras is possibly the best Cardinals hitting prospect since Albert Pujols. He will most likely open the season in Triple A Memphis next year, but if any outfielder goes down I would expect Taveras to get the call. A left handed hitter, Taveras hit a league high .321, slugged .572, with 23 home runs, and 94 RBIs, and led the Texas League with 37 doubles. In 2011, he hit .386 with a .444 on base pct., and .584 slugging pct. in Single A West Palm Beach. Taveras has also improved his defense and baserunning, and plays some center field. Taveras was the Cardinals minor league player of the year in 2012.

2) Shelby Miller, RHP, 22 years old

The Cardinals #1 pick in 2009 had a up and down season. Miller had a miserable first half, and was encouraged to throw more of his secondary pitches in the second half. After having a ERA well above 6 after the first half, Miller turned it on in his last 10 starts. He pitched 59.1 innings, had a ERA of 2.88 during that span, struck out 70, and only walked 7. Miller also dominated the Reds on the season finale. Miller had excelled in Single A and Double A, and last year's struggles might be the best thing that could of happened to him. He now knows he can't just rely on his heater to get batters out. Miller will be competing for a rotation spot in spring training.

3) Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, 22 years old

Rosenthal was drafted the same year as Miller was, and had been overlooked until last year. He opened eyes during spring training, hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. Rosenthal also had an outstanding year in the minors, and was promoted to the big leagues over Miller in August. Rosenthal pitched out of the bullpen and had a 2.78 ERA in 22.2 innings with 25 strikeouts. In the postseason, he was lights out. He pitched 8.2 innings, with 15 strikeouts, and had 0.00 ERA and 0.46 WHIP. Rosenthal has the ability to be a bigtime starter in the big leagues, but may open next season out of the bullpen.

4) Kolten Wong, 2B, 22 years old

Wong was a big part of a team that won the Texas League championship last year. In his first full minor league season, Wong batted .287 with a .348 on base pct., hit 9 home runs, drove in 52, and stole 21 bases. The 2011 first round pick is also good defensively. With light hitting Daniel Descalso as last year's primary second baseman, Wong will be given every chance to win the position this spring.

5) Carlos Martinez, RHP, 21 years old

Yet another flamethrower in the minors, Martinez pitched on two different levels last year and was part of the Springfield Cardinals Texas League championship. Martinez missed some time due to injury, but had a 2.93 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 104.1 innings pitched. He can also reach speeds up to 100 mph. In a few years, the Cardinals could future a rotation of young guns like Martinez, Rosenthal, and Miller.

6) Michael Wacha, RHP, 21 years old

The Cardinals spent their first round pick last year on Wacha from Texas A & M. Wacha pitched well in limited action last year in the minors. He had a 0.86 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 40 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched. He made 2 starts, but pitched 9 games out of the bullpen. Was projected as a number 3 starter coming out of college.

7) Matt Adams, 1B, 24 years old

Adams has crushed minor league pitching at every level, and has the best pure power of any hitter in the system. He hit .329 in Memphis last year and hit 18 home runs in only 276 at bats. In 2011, Adams hit 32 home runs and 101 RBIs. Adams wasn't as successful in a midseason callup last year. He hit .244 with 2 home runs in 91 at bats in the majors. Adams is also a man without a position since Allen Craig is now the Cardinals everyday first baseman. Matt Carpenter has also proven he could fill in if needed. I think Adams will eventually hit better in the big leagues his second time around. But since Adams is limited to first base, I could see the Cardinals using him as trade bait.

8) Anthony Garcia, OF, 20 years old

In Single A Quad Cities, Garcia was their best hitter. He hit .280, had a OBP of .359, hit 19 home runs, and 74 RBIs. Garcia bats right handed, and is a corner outfielder. After Taveras, he is their best outfield prospect.

9) Seth Maness, RHP, 24 years old

Maness doesn't get a lot of hype, but he's put up better results than more hyped pitchers in the Cardinals system. Drafted in 2011, Maness started out in Single A, but pitched his way up to Double A Springfield. Maness was 14-4, with a 2.97 ERA in 169.2 innings pitched. He doesn't have as much raw talent as other pitchers, but he has outstanding command; only walking 10 batters all of last year. I'm not sure how high his ceiling is, but he could be a solid innings eater in the big leagues.

10) Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, 20 years old

The most dissapointing of the Cardinals top pitching prospects, Jenkins has struggled with command and had some injuries. Jenkins is a strikeout pitcher, but posted a 5.14 ERA in Single A Quad Cities last year. The raw talent is there and youth is on his side, but Jenkins will have to improve. It will probably be at a few seasons before he's ready for the big leagues.

Other Top Prospects

Greg Garcia, SS, 23 years old

Overshadowed by teammate and fellow Hawaiian Kolten Wong, Garcia is his double play partner. In Springfield last year, Garcia hit .284, with a .408 OBP, 10 home runs, 51 RBIs, and 10 steals. Possibly passed Ryan Jackson as the Cardinals best SS prospect, although Jackson is better with the glove.

Carson Kelly, 3B, 18 years old

The Cardinals drafted three third baseman in the high rounds last year, with Kelly being the youngest and having the highest ceiling. Has bigtime power, and hit 9 home runs in 213 at bats in Rookie League last year. Kelly needs a lot of work on patience at the plate, though. He was only 17 when he was drafted, and will have plenty of time to refine his skills in the minors.

Patrick Wisdom, 3B, 21 years old

The most refined of the three third base draft picks of 2012 and has the best glove. Wisdom is patient at the plate and has some power.

Tyler Lyons, LHP, 24 years old

Lyons has good command, doesn't allow a lot of walks, and has strikeout ability. However, his ERA was a little north of 4 last year. Lyons is the Cardinals most ready left handed starter, though.

Kevin Siegrist, LHP, 23 years old

Siegrist is also a lefty, and made it up to Double A Springfield last year. In 2011, Siegrist had an outstanding season in two different Single A teams. He had a 2.26 ERA, and went 8-4 in 107.1 innings pitched.

Ryan Jackson, SS, 24 years old
Pete Kozma, SS, 24 years old

Jackson was the Cardinals highest rated SS coming into last year, but was leapfrogged by Pete Kozma last year. With Rafael Furcal's status uncertain coming into the year, Jackson and Kozma are next in line. Kozma hit well down the stretch and in the playoffs, but made costly errors in the NLCS. Kozma also has a career .236 average in 5 plus minor league seasons. Jackson didn't fare well in his limited opportunities after his callup. Both of these players will turn 25 in the spring, and I'm skeptical if either will be good enough to be regular big league shortstops. For now, the Cardinals will make due with one or both of these guys in Furcal's absence. Even if Furcal is healthy, he will need to be spotted more than he was last year.

Starlin Rodriguez, 2B, 23 years old

Rodriguez is a switch hitting second baseman who played for Single A West Palm Beach last year. Rodriguez has a similar skill set to Wong, good on base skills, some pop, good on the basepaths. Rodriguez has a solid glove, but not as good as Wong's. With the Cardinals revolving door at second base at the major league level, it's good to have two good 2B prospects. The Cardinals haven't had a solid second base prospect since Adam Kennedy in the late 90's.

Adron Chambers, OF, 26 years old

Despite playing parts of two seasons in the majors and the postseason both of those years, Chambers is still a rookie. With Skip Schumaker gone, Chambers will be given a chance to be the Card's fourth outfielder next year. Chambers hit .319 in the big leagues last year, but hasn't had that kind of success in the big leagues. He is one of the fastest players in the organization, and hopefully he don't flop like Tyler Greene. The Cardinals could use some more guys who can steal bases on the major league roster.

Sam Freeman, LHP, 25 years old

Freeman pitched well in the minors last year, splitting time in Springfield and Memphis. Freeman had a 1.89 ERA, 1.14 WHIP in 47.2 innings pitched. He also pitched 20 innings with the Cardinals last year, but wasn't as successful. He had a 5.40 ERA in the big leagues. Newly signed Randy Choate will be the second lefty next year after Marc Rzepczynski. Freeman most likely will start the season off in Triple A, but will be first in line if they need another lefty in St. Louis.

                          Carlos Martinez pitching in the Futures Game