February 7, 2014
Fantasy Team Preview
St. Louis Cardinals
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.
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.
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.
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
Player to Target Trevor Rosenthal
Player to Avoid: Peter Bourjos
Deep Sleeper: Randal Grichuk