The Cardinals had one of the most up and down seasons a team could have. They started the season by blowing multiple saves and would finish off the season with at least five different closers, and yet they still managed a first place record in April. Then in June, after a freak accident, Albert Pujols was expected to miss up to two months with a broken wrist. Despite the injury, the Cardinals still manage to end June just one game behind the Brewers in the NL Central. After just 15 days on the DL, Pujols was amazingly activated and showed no signs of lingering effects while hitting 20 HRs the rest of the year. At the end of July, the Cards made a surprising trade by moving young and talented Colby Rasmus for Edwin Jackson and a couple relievers. The national media ripped the Cardinals for the move and immediately claimed Toronto to be the big winner in the deal.
On August 24, the Cardinals were 10.5 games back in the wild card race and a 4.3% long shot to make the playoffs. In early September, they set the record for the most double plays in NL history, cementing in most people’s minds that the Cardinals season was over. Then in the last game of the season and with a little help from the Phillies, the Cardinals won the NL wild card. This capped a 23-9 run and finished one of the greatest late-season comebacks in the history of MLB. The Cardinals then continued their amazing success by beating the Brewers, Phillies and Rangers to win their 11th World Series title. To finish off the crazy year, Tony LaRussa became the first manager to every win a World Series and then call it quits, and Albert Pujols signed a huge contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, leaving the Cardinals suddenly with two big holes to fill in 2012.
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.
|1B Lance Berkman||.301||.412||.547||90||31||94||2||488|
|2B Skip Schumaker||.283||.333||.352||34||2||38||0||367|
|3B David Freese||.297||.350||.441||41||10||55||1||333|
|SS Rafael Furcal||.231||.298||.348||44||8||28||9||333||w/2T|
|LF Matt Holliday||.296||.388||.525||83||22||75||2||446|
|CF John Jay||.297||.344||.424||56||10||37||6||455|
|RF Carlos Beltran||.300||.385||.525||78||22||84||4||520||w/2T|
Unsettled: Second base. Tyler Green might actually be the favorite to win the second base job, and he could end up having some decent numbers especially in deeper leagues. He has the ability to give you a nice combination of power and speed, though his batting average could be a problem. Buyer beware with pretty much any of the Cardinals hitters. Berkman, Beltran and Furcal are far from the picture of health over the last few years, and there is no reason for optimism in 2012.
Target: Matt Holliday. He has long been considered one of the top outfielders in baseball, but last year was the first time since 2005 that he failed to pass 500 plate appearances. He had various injuries, including an appendectomy in April and food poisoning in July, which kept Holliday’s numbers from living up to expectations. While some of the injuries are things to keep in mind, Holliday should get back to 28 HRs, 100 RBIs and a .310 avg with double-digit steal potential.
|Adam Wainwright (R)||20-11||2.42||1.05||213||56||230.1||in 2010|
|Chris Carpenter (R)||11-9||3.45||1.26||191||55||237.1|
|Jamie Garcia (L)||13-7||3.56||1.32||156||50||194.2|
|Kyle Lohse (R)||14-8||3.39||1.17||111||42||188.1|
|Jake Westbrook (R)||12-9||4.66||1.53||104||73||183.1|
Unsettled: Jake Westbrook might find himself out of a job if he continues to pitch like he has over the past few years, and there is nothing to indicate that he won’t. With Shelby Miller, arguably the best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball, knocking on the door, Westbrook could and possibly should be the first one to make room. Westbrook hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2008 and isn’t anything more than waiver wire material.
Target: The aforementioned Shelby Miller is as good a bet to be a big league ace as there is. He has the size, stuff and delivery of a pitcher that projects to be a yearly Cy Young candidate. He finished last year at Double-A and should start the 2012 season in Triple-A, but after that it is anyone’s guess. Most expect him to be a September call up, but he could always push the Cardinals to make room for him by the All-Star break. Wainwright shouldn’t go ignored either. Going into last year, he was considered a top-five starter, only to end up missing the entire season to Tommy John surgery. Most pitchers don’t get back to 100% until the year after they return and usually struggle with their control. But even at 80%, Wainwright can be a top 25 starter this year with a chance that he gets back to his old self sooner than later.
8th and 9th Innings
|Jason Motte (R)||9||2.25||0.96||63||16||68.0|
|Fernando Salas (R)||24||2.28||0.95||75||21||75.0|
Chasing Saves: The bullpen was a mess for the Cardinals last year, having at least five different pitchers named the team’s closer and leading the league in blown saves. Going into 2012, Jason Motte looks to have the job after locking down five saves in the postseason, but he doesn’t have much of a track record at this point. There are much safer options you would want on your fantasy team, but Motte is worth grabbing in the later rounds as he should give you a K/9 around 9.0 and solid ERA and WHIP numbers.
The Cardinals are going to have to rely on their pitching if they expect to make the playoffs this year. While they replaced some of the production they lost in Pujols with Beltran, most of their hitters are prime candidates to land on the DL at some point this year. With Wainwright looking to start the season healthy and what should be another solid season from Carpenter and Garcia, they are should have the arms for another competitive year. And while most Cardinals fan are still reveling in their World Series win and coming to grips with losing Pujols, there are a lot of good things to look forward too as well. Recently Keith Law named the Cardinals the fourth best farm system with Miller, Carlos Martinez and Oscar Taveras leading the way. The future looks bright for the Cardinals and their fans.
Sean Brown is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Sean in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of MaudDib.
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