Predicting which Cardinals could have a breakout year Kyle Dallman February 9, 2012 Editorial Every year there are a handful of players in the majors that have a monster and unpredictable year think of Ryan Ludwick in ’08 and Jose Bautista in ’09, while some members of individual teams also breakout by having a huge role on their team, last year we saw Allen Craig and David Freese breakout late in the season, but because they missed so much time, it was still not a “breakout” year. So with 2012 just around the corner I will take a look at some candidates that I think could have that breakout monster year, and help lead in the pursuit to the Cardinals twelfth World Championship. David Freese: The most logical choice would have to be the post season hero, David Freese. Freese has yet to have a full season in the majors due to his constant bad luck with injuries whether it is ankle problems or fractured bones, Freese just couldn’t stay healthy for a full season. Well I predict that this will all change in 2012. Freese made a name for himself at a national level with his huge clutch post-season setting a record for most RBI’s in a post season and his magical game 6 performance that kept the Cardinals alive. Freese has always had potential, he is a RBI guy and a run producer, he has tremendous opposite field ability, and has some pop in him, who knows he could be a 25-30 homer guy. Also, Freese is just entering his prime, and this is the first time he won’t have to compete for a spot on the opening day roster, the third base spot is his and his alone. With Pujols gone and Molina entering the final year of his contract, Freese could possibly be the face of the franchise in the future alongside Wainwright and Holliday. I think Freese will have a huge year and that he will stay healthy, he will set career highs in every offensive category and he may lead the team in a couple of them, he may even be an All Star. Allen Craig: Though Craig may miss the first month or so of the season and though he doesn’t have a clear cut position like Freese heading into 2012, I think Matheny will have fun platooning him around, Craig can play first he can play in the outfield and maybe the occasional start at second or third if needed. He will probably be splitting time with Carlos Beltran, Jon Jay, and Lance Berkman at first and the outfield. Craig is a very talented player with huge potential which he showed late last year and into the post season, but like Freese he struggled to stay healthy in 2011. If Craig can stay healthy after he is finally activated, I think he could have a bigger impact than any other player on the team, in that he will be the super utility man that is capable of hitting 25-30 home runs and drive in RBI’s at a rapid pace, he can also hit for average which makes him even more valuable. The only thing that concerns me with Craig is that his timetable to return is still unclear, if he returns in April he will have a different season than if he were to arrive in late May. Jaime Garcia: Garcia had an incredible rookie season back in 2010 in which he finished third in the rookie of the year voting behind Jason Heyward and Buster Posey. He had an even better start to the year in 2011 where in his first start he pitched a complete game shut out and went on to have several consecutive quality starts before his horrendous start in Colorado where he allowed 12 earned runs. Then the second half of the season didn’t treat the young Garcia so well, but he finished the year strong and was a contributor in the post season as well. If he can keep his emotions in check and finally be able to show his potential the entire season instead of just the first half, I think Garcia could be the breakout star and even make a run at the Cy young. He has incredible talent and the fact that he is only 25 and left handed makes him even better, plus he is under team control through 2017, so get used to him folks. Garcia has incredible breaking balls almost as good as Wainwright’s and no- hit ability, he was seven outs away from a perfect game last season against Milwaukee. Jason Motte: As a long time fan of Motte, I am really excited to call him our closer. Motte had a very good season last year and without him the Cardinals would not have reached the post season. Now that he finally has the title of closer and knows his role on the team I think we can expect even bigger things from Motte, finally a reliable closer will be in the Cardinals pen. With Motte’s great fastball and with him getting close to mastering his new pitches like his slider and cutter, his only problem will be consistency. If he can stay healthy, consistent, and stay confident with himself I think we are looking at a guy that can save 35-40 games, have a high strikeout rate, and a low ERA. Eduardo Sanchez: The Sanchezinator or STL Cardinal Baseball’s favorite young reliever showed he could be very useful out of the pen last season but a shoulder injury kept him out for over 60 games and he only made one appearance after that, and did not make it to the post season rosters. Sanchez has nasty stuff and could be the teams go to set up guy in 2012 and beyond, maybe even the future closer after Motte’s reign has ended. He has tremendous gas and great breaking ball stuff and can shut down an inning or two with no problem. Sanchez could really breakout and if he stays healthy could be one of the best relievers in baseball, plain and simple. Sanchez we will be there to cheer you on all season long! Daniel Descalso: With Descalso and Greene set to square off for the starting second base job in spring training I think that Descalso has a real shot at winning the job and keeping it all year, while having a HUGE year. He may not be the greatest hitter but he has a good glove, he is versatile, and most of all he is a very clutch hitter as he showed time and time again in 2011. Dirty Dan, D- Money, David Deslow, whatever you want to call him, Descalso is an intriguing young player, he will be just 25 next season. I think his average and power numbers might improve slightly if given full playing time, and it would be nice to have a reliable fielder at second base. Now let me get this straight, I don’t think he will breakout with 30 home runs and drive in 100, he is not that kind of player but I think he could really improve his numbers and be a true leader on the team. Tyler Greene: If Descalso doesn’t win the job at second, Tyler Greene John Mozeliak’s love child will most likely get the job, it has already been quoted as “his job to lose.” Greene is an intriguing player because he is built exactly how you would like a middle infielder to be, he has five tool talent, but he has not been able to produce at the big league level. However TLR wasn’t a big fan of Greene and never started him more than three games in a row, and mainly used him as a pinch runner. Greene did still manage to lead the team in steals in 2011 and I think that if he were to keep the starting job all year he could steal 30 plus bases, hit between .255-.300, and hit 15 plus home runs, call me crazy but I think it is true. But if Greene struggles and loses the job I think his days as a big leaguer are over, he is nearing age 28 and has been unable to really show he can make a big impact and I doubt any team picks him up if the Cardinals don’t give him a shot.