Welcome to the next installment of “30 Teams in 30 Days”, where we will look at all 30 Major League teams and dissect what to expect from them this season. Keep an eye out for the hidden gems who could be the key to winning your fantasy baseball season.
Next up on the schedule is the St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds are coming off a very successful decade of baseball. In 2009, they won their 7th Central Division title in 10 years thanks to a couple Cy Young contenders and Albert Pujols. While the team paced the division for most of the season, it was the late-July addition of Matt Holliday that helped them pull away from the pack. The Cardinals went 38-25 after acquiring him on July 25th, making Holliday’s 7-year, $120 million contract a bit of formality once the season ended. With the core of the team locked down, St. Louis is hoping to carry their winning ways in a new decade.
Unsettled: Third Base. David Freese is the organizational front-runner to man the hot corner in 2010, but he is far from a lock to get the nod. Tony LaRussa has stated that the Cardinals are at least looking to sign a veteran to start the season. Potential candidates include Joe Crede, Felipe Lopez, Russell Branyan, and Chad Tracy.
Target: Colby Rasmus. Pujols & Holliday are too obvious. Let’s talk about potential value here. Rasmus is the model of inconsistency, but no one will deny that he has the talent to go on some very hot streaks. With his ability to hit 20+ HRs, he’ll certainly figure to bat next to the Pujols-Holliday combo. That setup will give him plenty of opportunity to mature in a friendly environment. And who knows? If he’s batting on the back end of those guys, he might even get some running opportunities. He’s no guarantee, but if things click, he could be a draft day steal in the later rounds.
|Chris Carpenter (R)||17||4||2.24||1.01||144||38||192.2|
|Adam Wainwright (R)||19||8||2.63||1.21||212||66||233|
|Kyle Lohse (R)||6||10||4.74||1.37||77||36||117.2|
|Brad Penny (R)||11||9||4.89||1.40||109||51||173.1|
|Jaime Garcia (L)||1||1||5.63||1.38||8||8||16||in 2008|
Unsettled: Jamie Garcia. St. Louis would like to get the 24-year old lefty into a rotation laden with right-handers. However, they may have better options who also happen to be right-handed. For the last two years, Mitchell Boggs has been the guy to get the nod when LaRussa has need a temporary starter. Surprisingly, reliever Kyle McClellan will also be looking to grab that fifth spot. The truly interesting variable in this equation is Rich Hill. Dave Duncan is a master at fixing broken pitchers. If he can right Hill’s capsized ship, good things could be in store.
Target: Brad Penny. Again, the two stud players atop the Cardinals rotation are easy choices. Looking at value bets, Penny is the way to go. He pitched quite well, albeit luckily, after moving to the hitting-light NL West: 4-1, 2.54 ERA, 0.96 WHIP in 41.2 innings. What makes this gambling equation interesting is, once more, Dave Duncan. Penny is much more likely to benefit from a great mentor than is Rich Hill, if only due to Penny’s level of experience. While Duncan probably won’t get him back to the level he attained in his prime, it is conceivable that Duncan could craft the kind of pitcher who returns significant value from a late-round pick.
The 8th and 9th Innings
Chasing Saves: Ryan Franklin’s dramatic improvement in 2009 was one of the surprises that helped the team claim the division title. He made dramatic improvements in his ability to keep batters from reaching base thanks in large part to a 10% increase from his career strikeout rate. This helped him to finally make the jump from solid setup man to reliable closer. However, there was an amount of good luck that aided his performance. He gave up home runs on only 3.0% of his fly balls in 2009, which is a significant drop from his 10% career average. That 7% difference works out to just over four home runs. While those bombs wouldn’t have ruined his season, they certainly would have spoiled that sub-2.00 ERA he finished the year with.
Franklin will open 2010 as the team’s closer, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else on the club taking the job from him. The Cardinals will be strong contenders in the division again this year. That should give Franklin plenty of save opportunities, which makes it easy to target him in your 2010 drafts. Just bear in mind that he’s due for some regression that should bring his ERA back into the low-3.00 range again.
The 2010 St. Louis Cardinals roster boasts no less than 5 players who could have a significant impact on your fantasy team this year. If you manage to get Albert Pujols, than the gods have looked favorably upon you. If you don’t have the opportunity to lock down Sir Albert, than maybe Matt Holliday or Adam Wainwright can help you get an edge up in your league. Chris Carpenter can put up ridiculous numbers – when he’s healthy. Remember to factor his injury history into the equation when you consider where to pick him. Finally, Ryan Franklin could be a good source of save opportunities. Will he replicate his 2009 season? It’s doubtful, so don’t feel bad is someone takes him too early.
Good luck this year!
John is a seven-year veteran of fantasy baseball who believes that his two H2H championships somehow give him leverage when it comes to dispensing fantasy baseball advice. If you want to tell him that he really doesn't know what he's talking about, you can look him up in the forums under JTWood or StlSluggers.
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