JUPITER, Fla. -- What I like, and dislike, about the Cardinals.
Things I like
• Their lineup is as good as any in the National League (and most in the AL, too). The Cardinals scored 765 runs in 2012, second only to the Brewers, and St. Louis doesn't have any players under PED investigation.
• Their starting outfield is excellent, with Matt Holliday in left, Jon Jay in center and Carlos Beltran in right. Their corner production should be about the best in the NL, and Jay will do a terrific job covering the part of the field Holliday and Beltran can't get to.
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• Their trio of three young pitchers (Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller) is the best in the game. Perhaps all three are ready for a starting role in the big leagues, but surely at least one has to be.
• Yadier Molina. Having a superstar catcher is a major advantage, as the Giants could also tell you.
• Their resolve to win is perhaps unmatched in the game. (Though, it's fair to say the Giants give them a run for the money in this dept. too.)
Things I don't like
• They head into a season for the first time in a few years with only one proven top-of-the-rotation starter since Chris Carpenter is out for the year and Kyle Lohse is likely to sign elsewhere. So Adam Wainwright is it. Perhaps Kelly, Rosenthal or Miller will pitch like one, but it's not a given that that will happen this year.
• Without Carpenter, Lance Berkman or Skip Schumaker, they've lost some veteran leadership.
• Jaime Garcia has talent, but he's a question mark after being shut down last October following shoulder pain. (He did look fine in a throwing session Saturday.)
• Infield defense could be a bit questionable, especially if Rafael Furcal's elbow isn't as healed as they believe. David Freese and Allen Craig are there for their offense, and while Pete Kozma played superbly for most of September and October, it remains uncertain whether he would be ready to play full time should Furcal still be recovering. Matt Carpenter will hit if he's the second baseman, but he's a natural third baseman. Daniel Descalso, who played well late last year, is the presumed favorite at second. Veterans Ronny Cedeno and Ty Wigginton provide depth.