Adam Wainwright’s injury and the cloud of uncertainty surrounding the Pujols situation has made for a somewhat somber, pessimistic spring camp. Many sportwriters are readjusting their season predictions, and the Cardinals have already been written off as also-rans.
While there remains cause for concern, this spring training has provided a long look at some developing players and some outstanding questions about the team. Here are some of the exciting things about this year’s camp:
David Freese – It’s early, and his ankles haven’t been really tested yet, but he made an impressive debut yesterday. He went 2-3 with 3 RBI, and played solid defense. He’s probably the team’s biggest question mark, so that performance is reassuring to everyone. It’s almost inevitable that Freese spends some time on the DL this year, but we could really use his bat in the lineup as much as possible.
Mark Hamilton – The minor league first baseman has been tearing it up this spring, with two homers and a .348 average in eight games (and 23 at bats). He’s been given a looooong look this spring, which is unusual given the first base situation in St. Louis. I’ll bet the front office is showing the kid off in order to broker a deal, and with this performance, the Cardinals could probably land something substantial.
Matt Carpenter – The third baseman has been making a great case to make the club as a backup for Freese, especially given Punto’s injury. Hamilton has hit with extra base authority, and has handled third reasonably well. And, like Hamilton, Little Carp could be dealt for major league help this summer if things get sticky.
Kyle Lohse – The biggest pitching question mark of the year, Lohse sparkled in his first outing this year. This team desperately needs Lohse to put together a very good season, and those first few innings show tantalizing possibilities. The guy owes us.
Gerald Laird – I wasn’t big on Laird when the Cards acquired him, but he has been solid behind the plate impressive with the bat.
These players could make an impact on this team in 2011. Often with winning teams, “little” guys like these can come through in big ways and propel a team forward. Hopefully some of the performances we’ve seen this spring are just the taste of big things to come this season.