NOTE: The MLB team write-ups are based on my preparation for my fantasy season rather than trying to breakdown teams with a focus on actual MLB. The main fantasy format I play is Scoresheet baseball, which is a simulation service, so skills are more important that counting numbers for me. But, a good player is a good player so the info should translate well to any format. I hope you enjoy!
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
TARGET: Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Matt Adams, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal
MID-RANGE: Jhonny Peralta, Kolten Wong, Peter Bourjos, Oscar Taveras (dynasty), Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Other RP (Scoresheet only)
END GAME: Jaime Garcia
Prior to 2013, Matt Carpenter was known for an excellent hit tool, but the thought was that he didn’t have enough power for 3B or a corner OF spot. Then the Cards worked with him at 2B, he earned the starting job, and he had a breakout season, proving that his hit tool is good enough to play anywhere on the diamond (0.318/0.392/0.481 for 873 OPS). He is moving from the Keystone to back to his natural position at the Hot Corner, but for re-draft fantasy purposes he’ll be even more valuable this year still qualifying at 2B. Yadier Molina was once known as a defense-first catcher, but he now has three straight years over 800 OPS, making him the best dual threat catcher in MLB. Injuries are always a worry with catchers, but Yady has been remarkably durable throughout his career. Bid/draft with confidence. I’m going out on a limb a little with Matt Adams as a target, but screw it. The down side: he’s going to have his at bats against lefties limited, and he only has 382 Major League at bats. The up side: his 927 career minor league OPS, and 839 OPS in the majors last year. He’s going to have to watch his conditioning…he’s a big boy listed at a very generous 260 lbs …but the talent is there. The Cardinals caught some guff for signing SS Jhonny Peralta to a $53M contract after his suspected PED stemming from the Biogenesis scandal. I think they should have taken guff for way overpaying him. He has a reputation as an offensive SS, but he’s been replacement level as often as he’s been good. I guess after watching Pete Kozman and Daniel Descalso produce WAY below replacement last year pushed GM John Mozeliak over the edge. I might be selling rookie 2B Kolten Wong short only having him in the mid-range. He has a reputation as a gamer with a strong hit tool, and with this offense, all he has to do is get on-base. His 0.365 career OBA in the minors is a good sign, and he might steal 20 bases as well.
LF Matt Holliday is the stalwart of the Cards lineup, starting his 5th full season with the club. He’s no longer good for a 900 OPS, but with the offense in the game on the decline is OPS+ has remained in the excellent 140 range. The only problem I see moving forward is that he always seems to miss a couple of weeks and is limited by nagging injuries for another couple of weeks during the season. Allen Craig can also mash, but he’s more ouchy than Holliday and he’s moving from 1B to a more demanding defensive position in RF. He has a higher GB rate (44%) than you usually see from a power hitter, but he’s also more of a line drive than over the fence hitter. When on the field, he produces. CF Peter Bourjos was acquired from the Angels in the David Freese trade this offseason and he brings with him a similar trend: injuries. He’s only played one season even close to fulltime in 2011, and he was excellent (12 HR/22 SB, 765 OPS). He’s also tied with Carlos Gomez for the best CF range. He’s only had 343 at bats since then due to injury and is banged up already this spring, so back him up if you draft/bid. I haven’t spent much time in this series talking about prospects, but because of all that injury history in this OF, I’m going to bring up Oscar Taveras. He has an 895 OPS in the minors, and is considered to have some of the best bat speed in the minors. Controlled violence is the description I’ve read more than once. You should have him on your radar.
Adam Wainwright made his return back true Ace level last year (2.94 ERA, career high 6.3 BB/K rate) after struggling some in his return from TJ in 2012. It seems the best is yet to come judging by his improving control/command. Now at 32, he doesn’t throw particularly hard (90-91 MPH), so he should age more gracefully than a power pitcher. While Wainwright might not bring the heat, rest of this rotation is young and powerful. 23 year-old Shelby Miller was more or less shut down for the post season after tiring and maybe even suffering a minor injury down the stretch in his rookie season, but he’s their #2. He’s pretty much a two-pitch pitcher (93 MPH FB 70% of the time, and a curve 19%), which is unusual for a starter, but his are so good he should be able to thrive anyway. Michael Wacha was a playoff hero after just 9 starts and some bullpen time in the majors. Also 23, Wacha is also a two-pitch guy with his being a FB (64%) and a changeup (26%). He is likely to need something that breaks eventually, but each of these has enough bite to get him by for now. Joe Kelly (25) is one of those guys that defies his peripherals. He’s the hardest throwing of any of the Cardinals starters (95 MPH on the FB and the sinker), but he doesn’t miss bats (5.7 K/9 last year). Yet, he posted a 2.69 ERA and it’s not that shocking since he gets guys to pound the ball into the ground (51 GB) and keeps it in the yard. There still seems to be a thought that Kelly could move to the pen if Jaime Garcia makes it back, but I think Lance Lynn is the better candidate for the move. Kelly has been better about the same as a starter and reliever (3.03 ERA as SP, 3.25 as RP), while Lynn has had a lot more success as a RP (3.16 ERA as RP, 3.95 as SP). Jaime Garcia is not going to be healthy enough to stay in the rotation, so take your chances if you must.
I still think Trevor Rosenthal should have gotten a chance at the rotation, but when you throw 97 MPH, strike out 12.9 per 9 IP, and strike out 5.4 for every walk, you’re probably staying at closer. Carlos Martinez throws about as hard as Rosenthal as a reliever, but he’s being stretched out this Spring Training to potentially start. The Cards say he’ll start whether it’s with the big club or in AAA, but I still think he’s going to end up in the pen. He’ll be valuable in leagues that have holds or in Scoresheet. Seth Maness will be the setup guy if Martinez isn’t, but he’s more of a control specialist. Lower margin for error so be careful. Kevin Siegrist throws really hard for a lefty (95+), but he can lose the plate (4.1 BB/9). He certainly won’t repeat his 0.45 ERA, but he’ll be an asset.