First half grades: Defense -

First half grades: Defense

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By John Bailey By John Bailey

(BaseballStL) -- When a team isn’t scoring runs, prevention becomes paramount. The St. Louis pitching staff has done about as well as anyone could ask, and when the ball gets put in play, the defense has performed admirably. 

What grade do you give the Cardinals' first half performance? Share your thoughts.

Overall, the team is sixth in fielding, trailing only Cincinnati in the National League. With steady play across the board, the defense has earned a solid A so far in 2014.

Matt Adams: A 

Adams was looked to as a power bat in 2014, with defense coming as a secondary expectation. So far, his glove has been a wonderfully pleasant surprise. He has shown impressive range, and his play around the bag has been smooth and dependable. His hands are soft, his feet are far quicker than anyone would imagine and he continues to hold his own in a position that is stacked in the NL. 

Kolten Wong: A

Wong made his fair share of mistakes early, and occasionally gets ahead of himself on tough plays, but there’s no denying he’s a gifted fielder. His range takes 10-15 feet of open space away for every batter, and his exchange on double plays is so fast nearly every hitter in baseball is at risk for getting doubled up. Mark Ellis is an A-level fielder when he fills in, but Wong can easily be an A+ once the absent-minded mistakes are shored up. 

Jhonny Peralta: A

When Peralta signed, it seemed the Cardinals were ok surrendering defense for offense in the exchange. He leads the team in home runs, but his play at short has made the contract a far better bargain than anyone could have guessed. Peralta has only eight errors, and his defensive wins above replacement, at 2.1, trails only one qualified shortstop in baseball in Zack Cozart. He won’t ever have the range of Ozzie Smith, but Peralta is as reliable as anyone could ask in his position. 

Matt Carpenter: B

An All-Star second baseman a season ago, perhaps Carp is still adjusting to the hot corner. His eight errors are tied for eighth in the league (Pedro Alvarez has 20!) and Cardinal fans have seen him appear downright uncomfortable in the field at times. Still, his range is something that will help him cover ground to his left, and one has too assume he’s a good enough fielder to cut down on his struggles in the second half. 

Yadier Molina: A+

He’s the best defensive catcher in the majors, and everyone acknowledges it. There’s nothing to say about Molina here that hasn’t been said a thousand times. He’s the best, and the Cardinals will miss him dearly while he recovers from thumb surgery. 

Matt Holliday: B+

The veteran outfielder is not known for his defense, but at 34, he has set out change minds. 2014 has seen a much more aggressive Holliday in left field. He has been breaking hard on balls, trying to take away hits rather than just prevent doubles. He’s run down shots to the track, made sliding catches and changed the overall expectation of his defense. He’ll never be Jim Edmonds, but his newfound aggression has made the St. Louis outfield more complete. 

Jon Jay: A-

There’s no denying Peter Bourjos is one of the most electric center fielders in the game, but without offense he is reduced to a late-game replacement role. Like Wong, Bourjos’ speed takes hits away, but Jay has been a more regular presence in center due to his bat. Jay’s defense, while not as potent as Bourjos’, is good enough to win. He has shown strong range, running down balls that would otherwise fall for two bases. His arm continues to be enticing to runners, but as long as his glove can help ease the load on the corner spots, he earns a strong grade. 

Allen Craig: A

He doesn’t have eye-popping range and his arm, while strong enough to man the spot, isn’t going to cut down runners regularly. Still, he has no errors and has learned the ins an outs of the outfield wall. He’s one of only two NL right fielders that has no blemishes on his record. Oscar Taveras has performed fine as a fill in, though his routes to balls have sometimes been circuitous. He’s only 21, so there’s still time to develop steadier play in the position. As long as Craig is in the field, the Cardinals do not have to worry about mistakes. 

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