Ready to make The Leap: Anthony Reyes has great stuff, good command and impressive poise. All he needs are innings. Reyes could start the season in the rotation, the bullpen or at Triple-A Memphis, but by season's end, you can expect him to be a significant factor.
On the hot seat: No single player's performance will have a greater bearing on the success of the 2006 Cardinals than Scott Rolen. If Rolen, who is recuperating from major shoulder surgery, can regain even his pre-2005 All-Star and Gold Glove form, the Cards will score plenty of runs and play their usual quality defense. If not, the offense could have more trouble scoring runs than Redbird fans are used to.
You can bank on: Albert Pujols. Here's a little exercise to show how consistently productive the MVP has been. The following are his worst single-season marks in the various major offensive categories: batting average, .314; on-base, .394; slugging, .561; home runs, 34; RBIs, 117; runs, 112. That's Pujols at his worst. You can go from there.
Spotlight on the Cardinals
An up-close look at the club as
we approach Opening Day
More team spotlights:
Litmus test: Is it a one-man offense? Or is it another "band of sluggers?" We know Pujols is going to hit. The question is how much support he'll get. If Rolen is healthy and right, if Jim Edmonds returns to form, if David Eckstein repeats his 2005, if Juan Encarnacion takes the leap forward that the Cards think he will. ... If even most of those "ifs" bear out, St. Louis will have the kind of offense that should be more immune to late-October fades. If not, the season may end too early again.
Games you don't want to miss:
Brewers, April 10-12: New Busch Stadium opens for business.
Cubs, April 21-23: Chicago makes its first visit to the new digs.
Astros, May 29-31: Summer starts with a rematch of the past two NLCS.
Braves, July 17-19: Perennial playoff team provides early second-half test.
Astros, Sept. 11-13: Odds are, this will have great bearing on the division race.