Cardinals series preview

USA TODAY Sports

First place Cardinals led by Yadier Molina take on the beleaguered last place Dodgers

The 30 - 16 Cardinals are in first place, led by Wainright / Miller / Lynn and their combined 17 - 7 record.

This team has been built with the draft but not like you'd expect. Craig (eighth round) / Carpenter (13th round) / Jay (second round) / Freese (ninth Round by the Padres) are all big time contributors to the Cardinals. Only Jay could be called a high draft pick coming in the second round. Yet not only are these guys low draft picks, they all didn't start their major league careers in a full time fashion until they were in the their mid 20's. The Cardinals seemed to have found the magic age of 25 for starting a major league career. Who knew?

1st Base - Is Allen Craig getting exposed in his second year as the full time Cardinal first baseman? He was quite the stud in 2012, but slowed down in Sept. Last year Craig hit five home runs in every month until Sept ended the five spot run with two. So far in 2013 he's only hit two. I wonder if he has shoulder problems? Or maybe first baseman these days are just happy to be hitting singles / doubles. I know ours is.

2nd Base - Nothing like plucking a 26 year old utility player from you minor leagues and finding one of the better hitting second baseman in the NL. Matt Carpenter can play 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or the outfield. His offense seems like the Walker kid from Pittsburgh. Nothing is great but all above average. His OPS last year in his first extended look was .828. Today it is .828. Daniel Descalso also sees plenty of burn at second.

SS - Pete Kozma filled in for Rafy Furcal last year during the month of Sept, and the post season. He acquitted himself quite well and was actually one of the hitting stars in the Division series against the Nationals with a robust .955 OPS. He was expected to go back to AAA this year but shockingly, Rafael Furcal got hurt again, and this time for the rest of his career. Kozma is not hitting like he did last year, but he's doing enough that he still has the job for a first place team in late May.

3rd -David Freese has been awful. He has an OPS of .574, not one of his triple stat lines is over .300. (.223 / .292 / .282). That is right, a man who has a career slug percentage of .432 has a slug % less then his OBP. I guess this is a slump.

Catcher- For many years Yadier Molina was simply one of the best defensive catchers in the game but couldn't hit. Starting in 2011 he started hitting. If you want to know why the Cardinals have always been good, you can probably start here.

Left Field - Matt Holliday is not having his normal studly season, at the moment he's got a .787 OPS. That will rise. He does lead the league in GDP with 11.

Center Field - Somehow John Jay became a good center fielder. You want to talk about consistent? Jay joined the Cardinals in 2010 and has had an OPS of 113 / 112 / 113 / 113. Damn

Right Field - Carlos Beltran has no more legs, but the man can still hit. 10 home runs already. When his legs finally blow, Oscar Taveras the best outfield prospect in baseball is waiting to take his place.

Facing the Dodgers will be Lance Lynn, John Gast, and Shelby Miller.

Lance Lynn was an unlikely 2012 rotation stalwart when you consider he had only 35 relief innings coming into the season. Injuries opened up a spot for him and Lynn ran with it all the way to the all-star game. He struggled after the all-star game but bounced back after he was given some rest. Many were not sure how he'd do in 2013 but so far he's been great. He'd be considered an excellent number two if not for the emergence of Shelby Miller.

Left hander John Gast goes on Saturday, Gast has been pressed into the rotation because of injuries to Jake Westbrook. Gast was dominant in AAA (PCL) before being promoted. He's made two starts in the majors with limited success.

The marquis matchup this weekend is Clayton Kershaw against Shelby Miller. A year ago the top ranked Cardinal prospect was struggling in AAA but whatever was his problem 12 months ago has given way to all - star caliber work at the major league level. Miller has had two starts where he has given up only one hit. One of those starts was about a good a game as can be pitched. On May 10th against the Rockies, he gave up one hit, struck out 13, went all 9 innings. Did that game take a toll? Since that start he has made two starts and not made it into the sixth in either game.

This is a tough team for the Dodgers to try to turn around their season. As the series starts two teams going in different directions, now would be a good time to switch those directions.

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