The defending National League champs are replete with fantasy assets on both sides of the ball.
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.
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Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras leads the way as the first 28 prospects come off the board.
Sometimes there’s just a more fun way to do things. I am currently in the final stages of drafting my Top 100 Fantasy Prospects list (which will hit BP in mid-February), but everyone does lists. What everyone doesn’t do is gather together a whole bunch of experts across the industry, from both a fantasy and scouting perspective, to gather in one e-mail chain and draft 140 of their favorites. Last month, I sent out the bat signal to people who really know and love prospects—and from that alarm, a group of 14 have assembled to carry out this exercise with much aplomb. We hope you have half as much fun reading about this draft as we had carrying it out.
But first, we must examine the parameters. There are always parameters. These were the instructions for the participants of this draft, straight from the email I sent out prior to kickoff:
With this season winding down, Bret looks at the players who might populate the first 2014 edition of the list.
With the last week of the season upon us, it’s a good time to take a fun look ahead to next season. And the form that takes today is a stab at what the first installment of the Stash List might look like in six-and-a-half months. And yes, that means the Stash List will live on for another season.
Of course, this sneak preview will only take into account a small part of the player pool that goes into the list, since there will certainly be players who are either injured or beat out for jobs in the spring included come April. But for now, we will roll ahead with the group of players we pay the most attention to—prospects yet to get the call to the majors. And as an added wrinkle, I’m not going to include a few high-profile prospects who I believe have a better than even chance to be on their team’s Opening Day roster. Among those are the following potential future stars:
Bret explains why certain players who were recently promoted never made his list, then unveils this week's top 25.
We may have moved past the big Super Two names, but the call-ups from the minor league have not stopped. Instead we have a slew of non-Top 100 prospects up with bigleague clubs—some even looking at legitimate playing time. For the purposes of the Stash List (which is geared towards mixed leaguers), these players aren’t of requisite value to be on your radar—especially when compared with players who are likely to be free agents in those leagues. At some point, there needs to be a line drawn in the sand between prospects who can come up and produce enough to be ownable in medium-sized mixed leagues and ones that are very unlikely to be able to do so. The truth is that for a lot of these minor leaguers, the only leagues they’re getting picked up in are the ones where almost everyone needs to be owned, and you don’t need me to tell you to own a player who’s going to get playing time in an AL or NL-only format.
But with that said, a lot of people who read this site and this column do play in those deeper formats, so I’m going to dig into some of those players right now, and what I expect from them this season. And let’s start with the most recent, and likely most valuable, call-up of the last week or so:
A look at what has changed in the prospect world, viewed through a fantasy lens, since Opening Day.
What can three months teach us about the landscape of talent in the minor leagues? Most of the time, that short span teaches us not to overrate three months of performance. For example, if you had jumped off the Shelby Miller bandwagon at midseason last year, when he had an ERA of around 6.00 in the Pacific Coast League, you probably had a tough time squeezing back onto it when he turned things around. Then again, this isn’t specific to just three months worth of performance—the top of prospect lists are littered with players who had down years and were soured on. Eric Hosmer had a terrible 2009 campaign in Low-A before reestablishing himself as a stud the following season. Wil Myers had an extremely disappointing 2011 season, which caused his prospect star to dim.
And that’s without even getting into the players whose promise wanes without any good reason other than time. As we’ve become more aware of the minor leagues in general, the concept of “prospect fatigue” has taken center stage—and it’s only gotten worse with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper exploding into our consciousness at such a young age. It’s simple: The longer a player remains on the prospect scene, the easier it is to gloss over his talent. You don’t just see this with post-hype prospects like Domonic Brown, Julio Teheran, and Martin Perez (all top-10 talents at one point), but you see it with current members of this list. It’s starting to happen to Billy Hamilton and Jonathan Singleton. The climb for prospects is never one that is straight uphill—and just because a certain player’s stock is down from a fantasy standpoint, that doesn’t mean that the “next big thing” has more value.
As perhaps the game’s top hitting prospect, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras has become a household name to baseball fans, and not only in St. Louis. When the 21-year-old Taveras ranked no. 2 on Baseball Prospectus’ recently released mid-season top 50 prospects list, Jason Parks wrote that Taveras “will eventually settle in as a middle-of-the-order hitter at the highest level, where he should develop into a perennial all-star and possible MVP candidate.” It’s high praise for a prospect who has yet to appear in a major-league game, but it’s also a sentiment that is echoed by scouts throughout the industry.
Having posted a .321/.380/.572 slash line in his age-20 season at Double-A Springfield in 2012, Taveras appeared on the cusp of reaching St. Louis as 2013 approached. He looked even closer after impressing with a strong performance in big-league camp this spring, hitting .289 while seeing action in 24 games.
With the likes of Wil Myers and Zack Wheelers making their debuts today, Bret looks at the next wave of players who could come up and help your fantasy team.
It seems like it was just yesterday that we were all talking about Super Two status and when we'd see the likes of Wil Myers and Zack Wheeler at the major-league level. Oh wait, it was yesterday (they're both making their major-league debuts today). So as far as speculation, here at The Stash List, we move on from one very important group of players to another less attractive one. At this point, we've seen almost all of the top prospects that were waiting for the call due to service-time reasons—guys like Billy Hamiton and Oscar Taveras are not included here since there are other reasons why they have not been called up yet. So what is the wave coming in the horizon? Players who will see their values increase due to trade deadline activity.
Now, this next phase has its concentration in a few different areas, but the biggest focus is pitching—both starters and closers. There are already rumors of current closers Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Gregg, Bobby Parnell, and Casey Janssen being moved over the next month or so, and there are sure to be more as we get closer to July 31. Same with Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, and Bud Norris in the rotation. The trading deadline presents playing time opportunities that weren't there before, and while it's still a little early to start acting on some of these impulses, it's never too early to start thinking about them. So while not all of these players who move on to contenders will have successors worthy of owning, there are definitely guys to keep tabs on as rumors begin to fly. This applies tenfold in AL- and NL-only formats, where playing time is king.
Checking in on Oscar Taveras, Miguel Sano, Gabriel Guerrero, and others.
Michael Wacha, RHP, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
The Cardinals’ top pick in the 2012 draft, Wacha received an aggressive assignment to Triple-A Memphis despite logging just 21 pro innings last summer. He is proving plenty apt for the challenge, posting a 1.99 ERA while yielding just 27 hits in 40 2/3 innings. Regarded as a polished arm as an amateur at Texas A&M, Wacha has made some quick strides as a pro. The progression hasn’t really changed his projection as a no. 3 starter, but he’s perhaps closer to realizing that potential than initially thought.
The 21-year-old righty has shown lots of polish early this season, pounding the strike zone with a three-pitch mix that includes a 90-95 mph fastball. He generates a steep downhill plane from his 6-foot-6 frame. His secondary pitches play well off the fastball––particularly his deceptive low-80s changeup, which is already a plus offering. Wacha’s curveball has been a key development since college; it’s presently average to solid-average and should become a third plus in the near future.