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MLB St Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training: Ranking the Top 5 Early Standouts

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St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training: Ranking the Top 5 Early Standouts

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Scott Rovak - USA Today Sports

After reaching the World series again last season, the Cardinals are more focused than ever on winning a championship in 2014. With talent up and down the roster, a championship isn't that lofty of a goal for this squad. From the rotation to the lineup to the bullpen, this team is fully expected to win the National League Central division and contend for another National League pennant. Spring training for the Cardinals provides an opportunity to see some new players acquired over the offseason as well as some guys that may be with the big league squad in the next few years.

Since most of their roster spots are set in stone at this point, spring training for the Cardinals doesn't provide a whole lot of drama where the roster is concerned. However, the center field battle between Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos will be a compelling one this spring. Outside of that, the only really interesting thing to watch will be how they use their plethora of new middle infielders. With one of the better farm systems on top of a great major league product, the Cardinals are in good position for the foreseeable future. Those young guys will get some time this spring, and they can show what they'll bring to the table eventually.

Even though spring training results aren't largely indicative of regular season results, it's interesting to see players who wouldn't normally be playing with the major league team. For teams like the Cardinals that seemingly always get reinforcements from the minor leagues, it should be fun to watch future pieces of what they hope will be a championship puzzle. While many of those young guys won't be on the team this year, getting to watch them develop is one of the most rewarding parts of spring training.

Spring training also provides the team a time to see their new players in action. Even if they know what types of players they have, it's a time for them to figure out where they fit into the team, whether it be a role player or starter. Manager Mike Matheny needs to have an idea of how he's going to fill out his lineup every day since he has a couple new players and other players playing different positions. As they prepare for another successful season in St. Louis, here are the five Cardinals who have been most impressive so far.

Jacob Kornhauser is a baseball writer for RantSports.com. "Like" him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or add him to your Google+ network.

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5. 2B Mark Ellis

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Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

A newly acquired middle infielder of the Cardinals, big things are expected of Ellis in St. Louis this season. Middle infield was really the team's only noticeable weakness last season, and they patched that up this offseason in part by acquiring Ellis. So far, Ellis has done nothing to lower expectations this spring training as he's gone 3-for-7 with a run scored. If the Cardinals can get .275 hitting and solid defense from Ellis, they should be more than happy.

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4. 1B Matt Adams

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Scott Rovak - USA Today Sports

A big power threat for the Cardinals, Adams finally has the chance to start every day in 2014. With Carlos Beltran leaving, first baseman Allen Craig will be moved to the outfield and Adams will step in at first base. Adams is 4-for-10 this spring with three RBI. On top of his home run totals, if the Cardinals can get a solid RBI output from Adams, they would be ecstatic.

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3. 2B Luis Mateo

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Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

Mateo got a late season call-up to Triple-A last season but spent most of his season at Double-A where he batted .237 with five home runs, 30 RBI and 14 steals. While he has plenty to work on, especially his proficiency with getting on base, Mateo could be a middle infielder of the future for the Cardinals. He's shown that could be the case in spring training so far this season as he is 4-for-6 with a double, two RBI and two runs scored. He won't be in St. Louis this season, but he could be there in a year or two.

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2. SS Jhonny Peralta

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Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

Another key middle infielding acquisition, Peralta has already shown his worth this spring. At the plate, Peralta is 3-for-7 with two home runs, three RBI and two runs scored. In terms of power, Peralta has been the most productive Cardinal this spring so far, and the Red Birds certainly hope he can carry that power production into the regular season.

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1. OF Matt Holliday

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Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

Hardly surprising, franchise cornerstone Holliday has been the Cardinals' best overall offensive player this spring. Amazingly, he's 5-for-6 with two doubles and three RBI. As long as he stays healthy, Holliday figures to have another great offensive season for the Cardinals in 2014.