Pujols back pain not worrying

Albert Pujols has been carrying the Cardinals offense on his back for nine years now.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, a.k.a. the best hitter in the game, has been struggling with a sore back throughout this 2010 spring training, but it doesn't appear to be serious enough to worry about at this time.

He's still the No.1 player off the fantasy board (ADP 1.6) and that isn't likely to change unless he's lying in traction in a hospital bed.

Pujols has been carrying the Cardinals offense on his back for nine-going-on 10 years now, so it's no wonder he has a sore back. But the last time he missed playing in a game because of a sore back was back in May 2006, so it's not a recurring theme and shouldn't be concerning at this time.

The St. Louis first basemen also might not have to "carry the load" solo anymore. This 2010 Cardinals lineup might be the best they've had in five years.

Consider leadoff hitter Skip Schumacher, who since becoming an everyday player in 2008 has hit over .300 (.302 in 2008, .303 in 2009) and scored over 85 runs.

The No.2 hitter is expected to be second-year outfielder Colby Rasmus. Rasmus was the jewel in the Cardinals minor league system and showed flashes last year although not on a consistent basis. He's in the perfect spot in the lineup, however, hitting in front of Pujols and many expect a big year from the 2005 first-round pick (No.28 overall).

Albert of course, will be Albert. Over the past nine years that means no fewer than 99 runs, 32 HR, 103 RBI, batting average of .314 and an OPS of .875. And those are minimums...his lowest production totals. Pujols averages 119 runs, 40 HR, 123 RBI, batting average of .334 and an OPS of 1.055!

Protecting Pujols this year will be Matt Holliday. With respect to Jim Edmonds, one of my all-time favorite fantasy players, Holliday might be the best hitter Pujols has had behind him since coming up in 2001. Holliday has a lifetime batting average of .318 and averages 95 runs, 25 HR and 98 RBI per season.

Behind Holliday is Ryan Ludwick, a power hitter who struggled last season and still hit 22 HR and knocked in 97 runs.

The rest of the lineup, Yadier Molina (batted .293 last season), rookie third baseman David Freese (batted .323 in his 2009 cup of coffee) and shortstop Brendan Ryan (batted .292 in 2009) are respectable hitters.

All-in-all, this lineup should produce at least 800 runs, which would be the most Cardinals runs since 2005.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.
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