"They've got plenty of weapons," said one major league scout, "which you can see when they led the world in hitting with runners in scoring position. That probably won't ever be duplicated in our lifetime. You just don't hit .330 at home and .330 on the road with men in scoring position."
But the scout pointed to the fact that leadoff man Matt Carpenter had just one hit in five division series games. "Pittsburgh pitched him very well," said the scout. "They pounded him inside and they also took advantage of him taking pitches and he was always behind in the count. I'd like to see Carpenter go to a more normal approach and be aggressive earlier in the count. He's a very good, patient hitter but he does have some holes."
The Cardinals' lineup is battle tested in league championship series play with the exception of rookie first baseman Matt Adams, who is growing on scouts and not just because he is in excess of 250 pounds.
"You think he's a big, clumsy guy who's a power hitter," said one scout. "But he has a nice swing and can make adjustments. He's gong to be at first base for a while for that team even when (Allen) Craig comes back. I thought he was a guy who couldn't move around at first base but he handles himself all right and looks like he shifts well."
One scout wondered, though, why teams didn't go "up the ladder" more on Adams because he appears to be a very good low-ball hitter.
Shortstop Pete Kozma is back in the lineup, and scouts like him for his good hands in the field. "He's got a long swing and he likes the ball out over the plate," one scout said. "Whatever they get out of him offensively is a plus because he's a very good defender.
"And when somebody like (Adam) Wainwright says he likes Kozma at shortstop, you kind of think Kozma is going to be out there."
Third baseman David Freese hit his usual October home run to jump-start the Cardinals in their Game 5 division series victory. "He certainly rises to the occasion ... at this time of the year," said one scout. "It looks like he's swinging the bat as well as he's swung the bat all year. Pitchers kind of like keeping the ball inside on him to prevent him from extending his arms. Defensively, though they seem to replace him a lot in the late innings, I don't see him being that bad of a third baseman."
Daniel Descalso could fill in at shortstop and often finishes at third, and one scout says that the Cardinals team is where players like Descalso and Kozma can prosper.
"They're home-grown players who know the system and fit in well," said the scout. "Descalso, on another club, probably would be not be as good a player but, with the Cardinals, he does exactly what he's asked to do." ?
Jon Jay hit well down the stretch for the Cardinals. "He's got some bat speed," said one scout. "But he's got a lot of movement in his swing. You can get Jay out if you get the ball up and make him chase."
Another scout had noticed lately that Jay had difficulty tracking some balls, with his first move being in, although the center fielder had the speed and agility to backpedal and run down many of those balls.
Left fielder Matt Holliday finished the season at .300 after a late rush. "He has a very unusual swing for a big guy. It's not really fluid. It's more of a choppy swing," one scout said.
"He hits down on the ball where there's backspin and that's where his power comes into play. Some of the times, it seems like he tries to overpower balls. Nothing comes real easy for Matt Holliday."
Switch hitting right fielder Carlos Beltran already had established himself as one of the most proficient home run hitters in postseason play before he hit two homers in the division round.
"Lefthanded, he's handled the ball upstairs very, very well and he uses the whole field," said a scout. "His range has declined in right field and he's not trying to steal bases because he's trying to rest his legs. But he has excellent positioning and runs excellent routes. He's still a front-line major league player and, except for the stolen bases, he's basically the same player he was a couple of years ago."
Catcher Yadier Molina draws more raves every year as an offensive player. "He's cut down his swing and he beats you to death in right center field," one scout said.
"But it's not just his offense. He stops the running game.
"And one of his biggest assets, that you don't see, is how he gets these kids to get the maximum out of their pitches."?
"Wainwright and (Los Angeles' Clayton) Kershaw are the two best in the league right now," one scout said. "Wainwright has a devastating curveball and an excellent feel for pitching.
"As you could see in the division series, he excels in the role as a No. 1 starter. He has the ability to command and change speed with his pitches and he has an above average fastball. He can get more if he needs to, but he consistently throws in the lower 90s."
Rookie Michael Wacha has caught everyone's attention with his last regular-season start and his division playoff start in which he had a no-hitter for at least seven innings in both games.
"You don't pitch two one-hitters very often," one scout said.
"He has a well above average fastball and his changeup is the envy of some pitchers who can't get their fastball above 89 or 90 miles an hour. That's the speed of his changeup.
"He's very much of a rhythm pitcher. I look for hitters to try to slow him down. Wacha pitches as if he's on the inside lane at the Indianapolis Speedway, he works so fast. If you don't get him out of his rhythm he's going to eat you alive."
First-game starter Joe Kelly is considered by scouts to have an above average fastball, curveball and changeup. "He's a very athletic pitcher and his command has gotten better," one scout said. "But it looks like he can get a little hyper at times."
Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn, the fourth-game starter possibilities, both have impressed scouts, but with a couple of reservations.
Addressing Miller, one scout said, "He can throw his fastball anywhere from 90 to 96 miles an hour with very good late movement. Plus he's got a good curveball, but his changeup has been really hard and inconsistent.
"I think teams will try to run on him because he's a little slow to the plate."
As for Lynn, one major league scout thought his fastball was better because of the 40 or so pounds he lost. "He's got a very good curveball, slider and changeup," said the scout. "But things seem to frustrate him. I've seen him react negatively to some adversity."
The Cardinals' revamped bullpen, with Edward Mujica out as closer and Trevor Rosenthal in, has drawn mostly high marks from scouts.
"They were wise to rectify the situation by putting Rosenthal in the closer role," said one scout. "He has an outstanding fastball and an outstanding changeup. This is a bigger stage for him than the Pirates' series but, obviously, they have no confidence in Mujica and I wouldn't expect to see him unless there was a blowout game and they can get him on the field."
Two other rookies, lefhander Kevin Siegrist and righthander Carlos Martinez, have made their points, too, although one scout interviewed wasn't confident yet that Martinez could handle the eighth inning.
There was less doubt about Siegrist. "He has great stuff," said one scout. "He's got a well above average fastball and good command of that fastball with a very tight slider that can neutralize lefthanded hitters. But he can also pitch an entire inning."
Another scout said, "Martinez got some big outs against the Pirates. He is better with his command and he can throw anywhere from 94 to 100 miles an hour with a very good changeup and good curveball."
"A big part of the Cardinals' chances," said a scout, "is for Holliday to take up the RBI slack of Craig. You've got a very inexperienced guy at first who could get on a roll and, if so, that certainly helps them in this series. But, really the pressure is on Holliday."
"Mike Matheny is still learning," said one scout, "but Whitey Herzog always said the only way you can become a good manager is to manage.
"Matheny never panics. He does his job in a low-profile manner. But he can be tough when he has to be. He's in total control."
Another scout, looking at the entire operation, said, "They have the 'Cardinal Way' and it's unwavering. They have a system that works for them.
"They've done an outstanding job of signing and developing talent and keeping it. Three-quarters of that team is from the system. One reason is that they can take some of those players and drop them into the system where, in a different environment, they wouldn't play as well.
"They may not always have the best results, but they're the best team in baseball, if that makes sense."
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