The Cardinals were aware of the risks before signing Carlos Beltran. He had a problematic right knee that caused him to miss large sections of two seasons, 2009 and 2010. At 35, Beltran was no longer capable of covering the vast acreage of center field. And you won't find a long list of hitters putting up big numbers at Beltran's age.

In 2011, Beltran had a nice bounce-back season for the Mets and Giants. The Cardinals ran computer-generated projections to assess Beltran's likely production over the next two years. They were pleased with the forecast.

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak decided to take the gamble, giving Beltran a two-year deal for $26 million. Beltran was recruited to replace a significant percentage of the offense lost when Albert Pujols signed with the Angels.

Early into this venture, the investment is paying off.

Going into the weekend series against the Kansas City Royals, Beltran led the National League in homers (19) and was third in RBIs (47), third in slugging percentage (.605) and fifth in total bases (130).

Beltran is close to reaching his HR total (22) from last season. He's defied the projections. The respected ZIPS system, for example, had Beltran hitting 14 homers with 57 RBIs and a combined onbase-slugging percentage of .833 this season. Bill James projected 19 homers, 75 RBIs and and an .825 OPS.

If Beltran's knee holds up, he'll cruise by those projections.