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February 7, 2014

Fantasy Team Preview

St. Louis Cardinals

by Mike Gianella

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At the risk of pummeling home an obvious point, teams that advance to the World Series typically provide plenty of fantasy value across the board. The St. Louis Cardinals were no exception in 2013. Fifteen players provided double-digit Roto value in NL-only last year. Carlos Beltran left to join the New York Yankees, but with Matt Adams and Allen Craig already in the fold, Oscar Taveras waiting in the wings, and a handful of shrewd acquisitions, the Cards won’t miss a beat in 2014, and will once again be a good place for most of your fantasy shopping needs.

Projected Lineup

  1. 3B Matt Carpenter
  2. CF Peter Bourjos
  3. LF Matt Holliday
  4. RF Allen Craig
  5. 1B Matt Adams
  6. C Yadier Molina
  7. SS Jhonny Peralta
  8. 2B Kolten Wong

The Cardinals don’t really have any elite, top-of-the-pops hitters, but Holliday, Carpenter, and Molina all provide solid across the board value and are sometimes underrated in some formats as a result. If Craig can slide in at first base against left-handers and generate 600 plate appearances, he also fits the mold of a non-elite player who is still an important part of any team’s foundation.

The rest of the line-up all has double-digit earnings potential or better in fantasy. Adams will get there even if he winds up in a strict platoon while Wong will get there if he doesn’t flop in his first extended taste of big league action. Bourjos is the kind of player who typically gets overrated forever due to his potential, but is in an organization that has traditionally done a terrific job of turning other teams’ veterans around post-acquisition.

Projected Bench

Every player here with the exception of Molina-caddy Cruz is worth owning in mono-circuit leagues, but the intriguing deep-league plays here are Ellis and Jay. Ellis could wind up in a platoon with Wong, and is a nifty endgame insurance policy. Jay is behind the historically fragile Bourjos on the depth chart and should see some time spelling Craig and Holliday as well. He is one of those backups who could amass 350-400 at bats and earn $10-12 in NL-only if everything breaks right.

Taveras is the guy in the minor leagues who should be on everyone’s draft list in deeper mixed and –only formats. If healthy, he has the potential to be one of those rookies that forces the club’s hand as soon as mid-May even if he doesn’t break camp with the team. The downside is that Taveras has all of 186 plate appearances at Triple-A and is only 21 years old. There isn’t an imperative to rush him if he doesn’t look ready.

Projected Rotation

Wainwright is a fantasy ace, and was the best non-Clayton Kershaw fantasy pitcher in the National League. There is no reason to assume that this dominance won’t continue. Wainwright will go a couple of rounds after Kershaw in most drafts but should provide strong value in his own right.

The rest of the rotation all is worthy of being owned in mixed formats. Miller and Wacha have the most upside by far, but Garcia and Lynn are both solid options as well. Garcia’s health issues seem to be behind him, but with only one season with 170 or more innings pitched under his belt, you probably want a readily available bench replacement in mixed if you draft Garcia.

Projected Closer Candidates

Rosenthal didn’t take over as closer until late in the season last year, but he has elite skills. His 108 strikeouts were third among major-league relievers (behind only Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen), and Rosenthal could easily be an elite closer this year.

Martinez could be this year’s Rosenthal: a devastating set-up reliever who provides value in every format and is a great guy to have to cycle in to lineups in mixed leagues with start limits. Siegrist is a NL-only special, but even with limited innings he will be good for sneaky mono league value once again.

Positional Battles to Watch

Second Base: Kolten Wong vs. Mark Ellis
This is one of those battles worth watching if you’re a Wong believer, not so much if you are a Mark Ellis guy. Wong is the prohibitive favorite to win the job out of a camp, but the club will probably use Ellis to challenge Wong and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world if Wong starts the 2014 campaign in Triple-A. Wong could put up a 10-home-run, 20-stolen-base season with a .290 batting average if everything works out, but in non-carryover leagues, caution is warranted.

First Base/Outfield
This isn’t a positional battle so much as it is a question of how playing time will shake out for the Cardinals at first base and outfield. Adams is penciled in as the starter at first base but there is a good possibility that he’s going to sit against most lefties. This would shift Craig to first base against lefties and give Jay more reps in the outfield. However, Bourjos’ health could change that equation quickly, making Jay the starter and forcing Adams into more time against lefties. This leaves Taveras as the wild card depending on whether or not he gets the call at some point this year.

Player to Target Trevor Rosenthal
The adage “go for skills, not for role” is an old one in fantasy baseball. Thankfully, Rosenthal has both of these in spades. Ignore his 2.63 ERA and instead focus on all of that strikeout goodness. Rosenthal provided almost as many strikeouts as starters like Jason Vargas and Kyle Kendrick with a far superior ERA/WHIP to boot. The saves are nice, but I like pitchers like Rosenthal because they are categorical giants in any format.

Player to Avoid: Peter Bourjos
Could Bourjos put together a full season, play 150 games, win the hearts of Cardinals fans, and put a 15 HR, 75 run, 25 steal, 75 RBI, .280 BA line? It’s possible, I suppose. However, Bourjos has one season as a full-timer under his belt and will be 27 years old in 2014. Bourjos is an interesting real world baseball bet but a poor fantasy one.

Deep Sleeper: Randal Grichuk
Grichuk was acquired as a nifty throw-in from the Angels as part of the Bourjos/David Freese trade. Opinions are mixed on where he lands as a player, but the power potential cannot be ignored. Grichuk hit 22 home runs last year in Double-A but might have reached 30 if he hadn’t been stuck in one of the worst parks in the minors. He’s not a future superstar by any stretch of the imagination, but a decent start in Triple-A could push him to the majors earlier than anticipated. I agree with Jason Parksassessment that Grichuk is a second-division player, but power is power in fantasy, and Grichuk has a far brighter future in a prospect-savvy organization like St. Louis that gets the most out of its minor-league assets than he would have in the pitchers’ haven that is Anaheim.

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

6 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

gandriole

I see the rotation as Waino, Wacha, Lynn, Miller, Garcia/Martinez/Kelly. I can't see myself owning Miller in any format.

Feb 07, 2014 06:21 AM
rating: -1
 
jaked2782

i will take miller all day

Feb 07, 2014 07:25 AM
rating: 0
 
paytonlc

Garcia is the only lefty. If he is healthy, he is for sure in the rotation.

Feb 07, 2014 07:54 AM
rating: 0
 
JR

More than just being a lefty, the team doesn't see him as able to pitch out of the bullpen, but the other guys can (Martinez, Kelly, Lynn).

Feb 07, 2014 09:34 AM
rating: 0
 
paytonlc

Draft Carlos Martinez in deep leagues. Worst case you will get solid numbers in ERA, WHIP, and SO at the very end of your draft. There is Kenley Jansen prior to his role as the closer potential. I don't see his potential for an improved role this season due to the clogged rotation, but he will pitch some innings this year! I will be drafting him in all 5 cat leagues with the expectation that he is a very solid late 3 cat player.

Feb 07, 2014 07:47 AM
rating: -1
 
paytonlc

I'm talking about late and I love the Rosenthal pick, so it could also be some productive insurance. They should also have Motte coming back at some point, right? Lol they are stacked!

Feb 07, 2014 07:57 AM
rating: -1
 
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