After deep playoff runs in consecutive years that includes a championship, the St. Louis Cardinals have earned their spot as one of the best franchises in baseball. ESPN baseball insider Buster Olney recently released offseason power rankings, with the Redbirds coming in seventh out of MLB's 30 teams.
Olney cites a healthy middle of the order, with established sluggers Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran joined by rising star Allen Craig. Five Cardinals hit 20 or more home runs in 2012, with Yadier Molina (22) and David Freese (20) joining the aforementioned trio.
Another strength of the Cardinals mentioned was their bullpen. Up-and-comer Trevor Rosenthal joins Mitchell Boggs and closer Jason Motte to form a solid late-inning triumvirate. The Cardinals are 11th in bullpen xFIP (a stat that adjusts ERA for league, ballpark and luck factors) over the last two seasons. They will be better with a full season from Rosenthal and further development of Fernando Salas and Marc Rzepczynski.
The Cardinals have earned Wild Card berths each of the last two seasons, winning the World Series in 2011 and reaching the NLCS in 2012.