When it comes to developing talent from within to promote a steady, competitive team, there’s the Cardinals, and then there’s everyone else. In 2012, their first year sans Pujols, the Cards won 88 games and made it to Game 5 of the NLCS. In that game, 11 of the 15 players who appeared for the Cards were homegrown. It’s certainly no coincidence that the 2013 lineup looks remarkably similar to last year’s, or that, once again, the Cardinals have a consensus top-three minor league system.
While the Cards suffered a recent blow — Chris Carpenter won’t pitch this season, as his assortment of arm, elbow and nerve issues finally caught up to him, and indeed his career might be over — their stunning amount of minor league pitching depth means that his absence will not be a crippling blow. With Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly in the mix for the 5th spot in the rotation, fantasy owners will want to closely monitor this situation, as all three names have intriguing potential.
Finally, though he’s not likely to see a full slate of AB until 2014 (unless there’s an early, serious OF injury, but between Holliday/Jay/Beltran that’s not exactly unlikely), no Cardinals article would be complete without a mention of Oscar Taveras. No worse than the third-best prospect in the game (and he’s No. 1 in my personal rankings), Taveras is a gifted, athletic outfielder with a preternatural ability to put the barrel on the ball, even with an exceptionally violent and powerful swing. GM John Mozeliak calls him the organization’s best hitting prospect since Albert Pujols, and in four minor league seasons, Taveras owns a career line of .321/.381/.525. Keep your eye on this one, folks.
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 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Yadier Molina||.315||.373||.501||65||22||76||12||563|
|1B Allen Craig||.307||.354||.522||76||22||92||2||469|
|2B Daniel Descalso||.227||.303||.324||41||4||26||6||426|
|SS Rafael Furcal||.264||.325||.346||69||5||49||12||531|
|3B David Freese||.293||.372||.467||70||20||79||3||567|
|LF Matt Holliday||.295||.379||.497||95||27||102||4||688|
|CF Jon Jay||.305||.373||.400||70||4||40||19||502|
|RF Carlos Beltran||.269||.346||.495||83||32||97||13||619|
Unsettled: Second base. Because of the above-mentioned minor league depth and success in developing homegrown talent, the Cardinals enter 2013 with very few question marks. Second base, however, is the glaring exception. With Skip Schumaker off to the Dodgers, Daniel Descalso gets the job by default, though there may be a token positional battle with Pete Kozma or Ryan Jackson. None of these names are fantasy relevant, but one name to tuck into your back pocket is Kolten Wong. Taken 22nd overall in the 2011 draft, Wong profiles as an offensive-minded 2B in the mold of Jason Kipnis. Don’t expect him to do much this season, but he has the skills to flirt with a .300 average while contributing across the board and providing much-needed stability to the position long-term.
Target: Matt Holliday. He gets tagged with the “not quite a star, plus old and boring” label enough to drive his price down to the back end of the top 50. Current ADP reports have him being selected a full round after Allen Craig, who’s a very trendy pick this year. Craig had never been a full-time player before last year and has made four trips to the DL in the past two years. Holliday was just shy of a .300/30/100 season and is exactly the kind of consistent producer you want to take in the 3rd/4th round. At that price, he doesn’t have to beat his projections to be a great pick.
|Adam Wainwright (R)||14-13||3.94||1.25||184||52||198.2|
|Jake Westbrook (R)||13-11||3.97||1.39||106||52||174.2|
|Lance Lynn (R)||18-7||3.78||1.32||180||64||176.0|
|Jamie Garcia (L)||7-7||3.92||1.36||98||30||121.2|
|Joe Kelly (R)||5-7||3.53||1.38||75||36||107.0|
Unsettled: Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal will compete for the last spot, and while Rosenthal and Miller are the long-term possible stars, I’d imagine Kelly gets the nod to start the season. I believe both Miller and Rosenthal will start games this year, though. Between Lynn’s attitude, Westbrook’s age and Garcia’s shoulder, I foresee the Cardinals needing to tap their impressive SP depth.
Target: Adam Wainwright. Let’s look at some stats from 2009, 2011 and 2012 (Wainwright was hurt all of 2010). Strikeouts: 21.9%, 23.4%, 22.1%. Walks: 6.8%, 6.2%, 6.3%. Ground balls: 50.7%, 51.6%, 50.8%. Now let’s look at his ERA from those years: 2.63, 2.42, 3.94. Due to random variations in BABIP and LOB%, Wainwright’s ERA went from amazing to “meh” with his component ratios remaining virtually unchanged. Wainwright’s ADP is hovering near 75 at the moment, and if you can get him there, pounce on it. He’s being taken along with Chris Sale and James Shields. This is your chance to draft an ace valued like a No. 2 pitcher.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Jason Motte (R)||42||2.75||0.92||86||17||72.0|
|Mitchell Boggs (R)||0||2.21||1.05||58||21||73.1|
Chasing Saves: Motte led the league in saves last year, and there was really nothing to complain about with his other stats. He’s always been a bit prone to the long ball, but his ability to get strikeouts and limit walks makes up for it. He has that “proven closer” tag, and even with the very strong Cardinals bullpen it would take a lot for him to be seriously challenged. The only sticking point is a fantasy one; he’ll likely be the second or third closer off the board. You could have Motte around pick 100 to 120, or you could have Greg Holland 75 picks later.
The Cardinals have a strong team once again, and are very well set up to contend for a playoff spot in 2013. Fantasy-wise, there are no true stars, but there’s plenty of sneaky value to be had. Beyond the above-mentioned Holliday and Wainwright, David Freese is hovering around an ADP of 150 to 170, and if you can snag him there and need a 3B, he can be a big boost to batting average (an underlooked category in rotisserie) and could produce 20 HR.
The Cardinals are also a team, as mentioned above, with a long track record of developing prospects, so in applicable leagues, it’s helpful to know a few of the top names. Taveras, Miller, Rosenthal and Wong have been mentioned, but another couple names to squirrel away: Carlos Martinez, who isn’t as refined as their other pitchers but has the stuff to headline a rotation or be a lights-out closer; Michael Wacha, who’s getting a lot of hype after being drafted last spring and putting up 40 Ks against just four walks in 21 innings with improved velocity; and Tyrell Jenkins, who flew under the radar with injuries and command wobbles but is on the same level (and was compared to as recently as last year) talent-wise as Taijuan Walker.
Meanwhile, in 2013, it’s business as usual for a team that’s made the playoffs nine times and won the World Series twice since the year 2000.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Chicago White Sox.
Indy Zoeller is 27-year old baseball fan and aspiring writer. He follows the Mariners with a curious mix of hope and cynicism and looks forward to the day when he no longer has to find an Auxiliary Backup Team to root for during the playoffs. He posts as lane_anasazi2 on the Cafe.
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