BP's Joe Sheehan on the Cardinals – Part One

Baseball Prospectus' Joe Sheehan offers a free-wheeling analysis of the 2006 Cardinals, where he thinks they should focus going forward and much more in the first installment of this two-part exclusive audio interview.

Joe Sheehan hardly needs an introduction. But, in case you missed it, Joe is co-founder and an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Perhaps the most visible of Sheehan's many endeavors is his long-running Prospectus Today column, available to BP Premium subscribers, written from the standpoint of the informed outsider.

Sheehan's analyses and opinions are entertaining, insightful and often provocative as conventional wisdom is regularly questioned in the quest for new truths.

Joe was born and raised in New York City, having graduated from the University of Southern California in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism.

This past weekend, while watching an Arizona Fall League game that included several Cardinals prospects, my conversation with Sheehan understandably shifted to the organization's drafting and development strategies, the needs of the big club specifically, Tony La Russa's and Walt Jocketty's legacies, team ownership, MLB's playoff system, the NL Central, the Cardinals' future and much, much more.

I recorded about 15 minutes of Sheehan's trademark rapid-fire delivery, with the first segment available via the link below for Scout.com subscribers and the rest coming the next day. But first, here is a short sample.

Who are some of the players on the Cardinals who exceeded your expectations in 2006?

I think you've got to look at the bullpen down the stretch. Josh Kinney came out of the independent leagues and became such an important part of that bullpen. Adam Wainwright finally got healthy and finally got a role and he was tough down the stretch.

The left-handers didn't pitch that well during the season – Tyler Johnson and Randy Flores – but they were good in the post-season. Really that entire bullpen pitched well.

Beyond that, Chris Duncan came up and while he is no outfielder as you saw in October, you've got to like the power that he showed. He was a big part of that offense during a period when Albert Pujols' power was down. Jim Edmonds had a concussion and missed a lot of time. Scott Rolen with the shoulder. Duncan really kept that offense going.

They had some young players come up and do a good job, which is not something the Cardinals have been known for in recent years…

What is your take on their greatest needs of the Cardinals this off-season? If you were Walt Jocketty, where would you be thinking about this winter to try to improve this club?

I feel like I have said this for three years running, but they have to get somebody to bat at the top of that line-up. David Eckstein killed them for about six weeks this summer, not getting on base.

And they don't really have a number two hitter. They tried Juan Encarnacion, Preston Wilson, even Ronnie Belliard got a few at-bats there.

And Chris Duncan…

Chris Duncan. They could really use a guy with a good on-base percentage to bat second. Somebody who could play a corner outfield spot – that's really the only spots they have open – and just get on base.

Their whole offense is predicated on getting on base ahead of Albert Pujols and hopefully, Jim Edmonds batting behind him. There's some talk about his option – you've got to pick that up in this market. You've got to go into next year with Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen in the middle of that line-up.

I‘d focus on getting some on-base guys to bat second and guys in the back and the middle of the rotation…

Subscribers listen here:
Part One: (7:40)

What? Haven't joined yet? Want to hear the rest from Joe Sheehan? Well, there is no better time to subscribe to stlcardinals.scout.com. Click here to join now!

In Part Two of this interview, Sheehan will discuss Cardinals payrolls and ownership, the Cardinals prospect pipeline, their chances of winning in 2007 and beyond, the increased value of minimum salary major leaguers, parallels with the San Francisco Giants' system and more.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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