It’s getting to be boring to see how well this organization is run, and how much talent they put on their roster year after year. It appears that 2015 will include another playoff run for the Cardinals, with plenty of young talent and solid veteran play to at least keep them in contention through the year. It hasn’t been an overly loud offseason for this team, but they did add a couple of bats in Jason Heyward and Mark Reynolds. It’ll be largely the same group that took the field a year ago, and at this point it’s hard to envision them not only being one of the best squads in the game, but one of the deepest rosters out there for fantasy purposes.
A note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to our Transaction Analysis coverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.
Another note for our readers. The characterizations below (for example, “stud”) are designed to be taken in context for each team. Not every team has a Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton, so the “stud” category represents the best player or players on each team, not necessarily in comparison to the league.
Adam Wainwright – SP
What other elite baseball is going to apologize to you, the fantasy baseball player, for missing a start at the end of the season to rest up for the postseason? Not only is Wainwright sympathetic to the plight of the fantasy player, he is also one of the premier starting pitchers in the game. Excluding the 2011 season that he lost to Tommy John surgery, he has made at least 32 starts every year since 2009, and has finished in the top three of the Cy Young Award voting in four of those five years. He’s good for a win total in the high teens, an ERA at least around 3.00, 175-plus Ks, and a WHIP just over 1.000. This is the kind of guy you build your rotation around.
Yadier Molina – C
One of them most consistent producers in fantasy, Molina is a perennial top-5 contributor at one of the weakest positions in the game, provided he is healthy. A thumb injury plagued him in 2014, but even with that he was able to put up solid numbers, and with a clean slate in 2015 he should return to his old form next year. At 32, there is some risk for decline, but he is still a safe bet to hit around .300 with a double-digit home run total, 70-plus RBI and 60-plus R. There are other backstops with a bigger upside, but there aren’t many safer bets behind the plate than the best Molina brother.
Peter Bourjos – OF
At this point, it’s unclear how much playing time will even be available for the former Angel. He played in 119 games in 2014, but many of them were as a defensive replacement, and he’ll likely find himself in that role again this year. Even if he does play, though, he’s not worth drafting in any league. With a little bit of BABIP help, he may be decent in AVG, but that’s about it. There aren’t many duds on this roster, but Bourjos isn’t going to help anyone with his bat.
Jon Jay – OF
Jay figures to get the majority of the starts in center field for the Cardinals, but he is clearly the weak link of the starting lineup. While he’s a fine contributor in AVG and OBP, he won’t do much else, and you can find that elsewhere. With a good top of the lineup projected for the team, Jay could cross the plate more than few times. However, those gains will be offset by the emerging role for prospects Randall Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. Outside of deep NL-only leagues, I’d avoid Jay, and even in those leagues you should be able to find similar profiles with more upside.
Up and Coming
Michael Wacha – SP
When he’s been on the field, Wacha has shown himself to be one of the best young arms in the game. He’s thrown 171 2/3 innings in his two-year career, and has put up a 3.04 ERA with 159 Ks and solid rate stats. When he’s at his best, his change up can carry him through entire games. The 23-year-old should be completely over his shoulder woes by the time Opening Day rolls around, and if he can remain healthy for the duration of the 2015 season, this could be the year he takes a step forward as an upper-tier SP2.
Kolten Wong – 2B
While he didn’t blow anyone away with the bat in his rookie season, Wong showed some flashes of being ready to be one of the better 2B performers in the game. Of course, he still have a ways to go to get there. The AVG and OBP were down last year, but with his lack of Ks, at least the former should find its way trending upwards. Despite only appearing in 113 games, he managed to finish seventh in homers at the position. It’s not hard to envision a .260+ AVG with 15-plus homers and 25-plus SBs next year, and with St. Louis’ lineup, Wong should be able to rack up some runs as well.
Trevor Rosenthal – RP
Closers will always the hardest fantasy position to predict success for, but Rosenthal looks like he is on his way to being one of the few consistent ones in the game. He’ll be in his age-25 season, and it will be his third complete one. He already began establishing himself last year, but this will likely be the final opportunity to grab him at a relatively cheap price. The Cardinals are good enough to put him near the top of the saves leaderboard, and he’ll help in Ks as well, striking out well more than a batter per inning.
What You See Is What You Get
Matt Holliday – OF
It’s hard to find a more consistent performer over the past decade than Matt Holliday. Even with taking a step back in 2014, he hit .272 with 20 homers and 90 RBI. That came with a career-low BABIP and mostly consistent peripherals, so a bounce-back above .300 in AVG is fair to expect. At 35, decline is now always going to be a risk with him, but I’ll be betting on Holliday until he gives me a reason not to.
Matt Carpenter – 3B/2B
He just missed the “Studs” category, and in OBP leagues he can certainly be put there. He’s a strong contributor in AVG, OBP, and R with positional versatility. Since becoming a full-time player in 2012, he’s hit .295 with an average of 90 runs per season. There is no reason to see that run total coming down given his on-base ability and the batters behind him in the lineup. Depending on where he’s placed in the lineup, Carpenter could watch his RBI total creep back up in the 70s, which would make him one of the better fantasy infielders in the game. He won’t carry a lineup, but he’s a safe bet for solid contributions in 2015.
Lance Lynn/John Lackey – SP
Neither of these pitchers is going to anchor your pitching staff, but both are solid enough to stick on the roster all season long. Lynn is coming off a career year with 2.74 ERA, and while that level of performance likely won’t stick, he should be able to keep it in the low 3.00s. He’s been able to stay on the field throughout his career, giving him the ability to hit the 180-strikeout mark in each of his three full seasons, and he plays on the right team that he should be good for at least 15 wins a year. Lackey is getting up there in age, but he’s remained a solid bet for mid-range numbers in every category. He’s not going to carry you in any one specific area, but he’ll be good enough everywhere to make him a valuable late-round pick or cheap pick up in auctions.
Jason Heyward – OF
At a certain point you need to stop leaning on potential and just accept who a player is, but with Heyward just entering his age-25 season, he’s not there yet. He’s going to hit for a decent average, and walks enough to be an even bigger asset in OBP leagues. When he’s allowed to run he’s shown the ability to put up 20-plus SB seasons. His on-base skills combined with the Cardinals’ lineup will give him plenty of chances to score runs. It’s the power that is the question. With his free agency right around the corner, this is as good a time as any for the power to show up consistently rather than in sporadic flashes. Even without it, he’s a low OF2/OF3, but if it comes back in 2015, this could be the year he breaks out and becomes a fantasy stud.
Matt Adams – 1B
Like with Heyward, Adams’ power is going to need to come back in a big way in 2015 for him to be a valuable mixed-league 1B. After smacking 17 dingers in 319 plate appearances in 2013, he managed just 15 in a full season of work a year ago. He watched his average fly ball distance fall by 15 feet while his HR:FB ratio fell from 15.6 percent all the way to 6.3 percent. He also looks like he’ll lose some at bats against left-handed pitching to newcomer Mark Reynolds. He’s a good AVG hitter, and even without the home runs he hit enough doubles to get a solid RBI total with more runners on base for him, but he’ll need to get that 2013 power back if he’s going to be a top-12 1B in mixed leagues next season.
Carlos Martinez – SP
One of the most electric young arms in the game, it’s unclear how he can hold up over a whole season in the rotation. Others are much higher than me, but I worry about the command holding up six or seven innings into games on a consistent basis. The 23-year-old has the stuff to be a very good fantasy pitcher in 2015, he just has to harness it first. With Jaime Garcia coming back not too long into the season, Martinez will likely have a short leash, so he’ll be a risky buy for 2015. There’s a chance he’ll put it together and reward his believers, but I’m letting others take on that risk this year.
Jhonny Peralta – SS
Peralta is a very strange offensive player, and I really struggled on where to list him. He doesn’t have the same kind of upside as the others listed here, but he’s at least good enough to avoid the NL-only designation. For him, it all comes down to AVG. At shortstop it doesn’t take too much to be playable in mixed leagues, and he has shown to ability to be an above-average fantasy SS. He’s got 15-plus-home-run power, but his AVG has alternated between hovering around .300 and hovering around .250. The good thing for owners is that he’s been around .300 in odd years.
Mark Reynolds – 1B/3B
Though Reynolds won’t get a ton of starts, he can still have some value in NL-only leagues, especially the deeper ones. He hits for enough power to help home run starved teams, and should only get his at bats versus LHP, against whom he has .351 OBP and an .809 OPS. He strikes out far too much to be any help in AVG, but he’ll walk enough to be passable in OBP leagues, and with his new role in St. Louis, the majority of his opportunities will come with the platoon advantage.
Jaime Garcia – SP
While he likely won’t be available for at least a month or two, Garcia could pay dividends in NL leagues when he returns. It’s probably best to avoid him in drafts, but rather pay close attention to when his return date approaches. By that point, there will likely be some sort of injury or underperformance in the rotation, and Garcia will be able to jump in and provide a solid ERA with good strikeout totals. There are other less risky options in mixed leagues, but he’s a good player to keep an eye on in NL-only or otherwise very deep leagues.
Jordan Walden – RP
Second in line for the closer spot, he won’t provide much value in mixed leagues without an injury to Rosenthal. In NL-only leagues, though, his run prevention ability and strong strikeout totals should help teams in need of bullpen depth after the closers have all been taken. In holds leagues, he should provide value in both mixed and NL-only formats.
Prospects for 2015
Randall Grichuk/Stephen Piscotty – OF
While the latter has more potential, the former has the major-league experience, and probably the inside track for an Opening Day roster spot. Both have a chance to get consistent major-league at bats by midseason, whether by injury or underperformance. Neither guy should be counted on too much for 2015 only, but can provide solid power if they get at bats. Piscotty is a better bet than Grichuk in AVG, and could be especially valuable in OBP leagues.
Marco Gonzales – RP/SP
With a full rotation, and a sixth man ahead of him coming back from injury in May or June, Gonzales doesn’t have a clear path to make starts in 2015. Out of the bullpen he can produce strong enough ratios to be an NL Only option in deeper leagues, but unless there are a couple of major injuries in spring training, it’s hard to see Gonzales being too much of a factor in redraft mixed leagues.
Tim Cooney/Sam Tuivailala – P
A couple of relief prospects who are far down on the waiting list to rack up saves. Both should see major-league time in 2015, but neither will impact fantasy leagues.