Team Previews in a Fantasy Nutshell: St. Louis Cardinals
Projected Starting Lineup
C Yadier Molina—Yad hasn’t hit for much power since 2012, but if you are looking for a catcher who can hit .300 and not kill you across the board, he might be one to nab in the mid to late rounds of your draft.
1B Matt Carpenter—Carpenter was dealing with a back injury earlier in spring training, but he appears to be healthy and getting himself ready for the start of the season. Carpenter has extra value in leagues because he qualifies at three different positions which gives Fantasy owners the flexibility they need in case of an in-season injury. He’s a rock solid 5th round pick in mixed leagues this year.
2B Kolten Wong—At one time Wong looked like the jewel of the Cardinals farm system, but recently he has looked like a player in over his head at the plate. I still think there is room for growth, especially in regards to speed. Unfortunately, Wong hits down in the batting order which seldom gives him great pitches to hit or the chance to knock in runs. He is nothing more than a late round flier this season.
SS Aledmys Diaz—Who saw Diaz’s 2016 coming? Admittedly, not me. But Diaz showed decent power last year which seemed to come out of nowhere. I am going to assume a 15-20% regression on last year’s stats, and if I am wrong, I will admit it once again in next year’s team preview.
3B Jedd Gyorko—It took Gyorko to get out of San Diego to start reaching his potential. When given the opportunity last season in 400 at bats, Gyorko knocked 30 home runs and showed that the 23 home runs he hit in his rookie season were not a fluke. I think Gyorko can build on last year’s numbers but only if given 500 at bats.
OF Randal Grichuk—I have Grichuk penciled in for 30+ home runs in 2017. He’s never going to hit for a high average or show much speed on the base paths, but if you are looking for HR/RBI late in your draft, he might be the perfect guy.
OF Dexter Fowler—I have touted Fowler for the past few years and have usually been disappointed in him for one reason or another. He had two successful seasons with the Cubs and parlayed a World Series ring into a large free agent contract with the Cardinals. Players usually thrive in the winning atmosphere that the Cards clubhouse offers, so it would be no surprise to see Fowler take off and have a career year.
OF Stephen Piscotty—Piscotty showed in his first full-season last year why the Cardinals were so high on him. He is the type of player whose whole is better than the sum of his parts. Look for him to hit .280 with 25/85/85/10 this season.
Util Matt Adams—Adams has sadly been relegated to becoming a platoon player who only plays vs. RHP. He still has big power in his bat, but it looks like he will not be given the 500 at bats he needs to become a dominant force in the lineup.
SP Carlos Martinez—In the LABR draft I decided to wait on pitching and took Martinez in the 5th round as my SP1. I was very comfortable with that selection as I think he is ready to step up in class and become a top starter in the NL. CMart needs to cut down on his walks mostly, but that is the only thing keeping him back from Fantasy stardom.
SP Adam Wainwright—After ten years of great statistics, Waino put up a real stinker last season. Now at 35 years old, there will certainly be someone in your draft room who thinks that he will be able to rebound. I am not as confident. Something seems to be amiss with Waino after his 2015 injury, and I am not so sure that he can recover.
SP Mike Leake—Leake is a soft-tossing pitcher who tends to get lit up in the games where he struggles. Letting up eight runs in two innings can kill an ERA quickly. For that reason alone, I tend to avoid him in seasonal leagues and only look at him when he has a good matchup in DFS.
SP Lance Lynn—Expect Lynn to have a few struggles especially in the first half of 2017 as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. Pitchers often say that their velocity returns way before their location does and often it takes about 15 months for them to regain 100 percent effectiveness. For that reason, I would look to Lynn as a nice trade candidate in the second half of the season more than I would as a player to rely upon in April.
SP Luke Weaver—Weaver was optioned to minor league camp last week, but I think he is a name to stash away for 2017. He is almost assured of being the first man called up in case of injury, and now he will go to Triple-A to begin the season to refine his pitches.
SP Michael Wacha—In 2015 Wacha looked like he was on the precipice of becoming one of the top young starters in baseball. Then last year, it seemed like he dealt with a myriad of shoulder injuries that sapped his velocity and caused him to struggle all year. Wacha is a probably a good bounce-back candidate this season if he is healthy. Thus far in spring training, he has looked great which might portend things to come in 2017.
Closer Seung Hwan Oh—Oh originally came over to help solidify the Cardinals bullpen behind Trevor Rosenthal, but very quickly the coaches noticed that Oh was the best reliever that the team had. He went on to save 19 games last season and had a microscopic ERA and WHIP. Oh has to be considered a top five closer this year and should be taken as such in drafts.