St. Louis Cardinals: 2016 Fantasy Preview

N.L. Central

St. Louis Cardinals

Must Own Fantasy Player: Matt Carpenter

Potential Fantasy Bust: Jaime Garcia

Prospect to Watch: Alexander Reyes

The St. Louis Cardinals added another division crown to their storied franchise in 2015, while also being the only 100 win team in the league. But, after losing some key players this offseason, can the Cards continue to remain atop the division?

One of the biggest surprise fantasy performances last season, came from Matt Carpenter. Now he has had several seasons of being a quality AVG/RBI/Run producer, but last season he did all that and added an unreal 20 HR power uptick from 2014. The power surge was attributed to a more aggressive approach at the plate as Carpenter began to ambush first pitch strikes.

Drafters should not expect 28 HR again in 2016 as pitchers will start to adjust as well, but he should fall nicely in the 15-20 range, while still providing his other solid peripheral stats. The rest of the infield looks to be composed of some of the same faces as 2015.

Jhonny Peralta had a solid season, but faded mightily in the second half. He still remains a solid power source out of the MI spots this spring, even though the power dip will be something to monitor during the season. Kolten Wong did not have too bad of a first season either, but struggles against lefties and his place at the bottom of the order hurt his value. Wong has 20HR/20SB upside, so he should be continually targeted this spring, and  hopefully the ballclub  realizes that they would be better off with him sliding into the second spot of the lineup.

The only real question in the infield, is who will step up and man first base. The competition looks to come down to Matt Adams, Brandon Moss and even Stephen Piscotty. Adams has the longest tenure with the club, but struggled last season through injuries. He still has not shown the power upside that the team thought he would have, but he has shown to be a solid low tier starting first basemen.

When the Cards brought Moss in last season, he was on fire and looked to be a huge upgrade. But, he could never get it going with the club and could not bring the offensive production the team needed. He has shown to be a consistent power threat the last three seasons though, so if he can get the job, 30 homers and 80+ RBI are a realistic possibility.

Piscotty entered the fold at first as well last season, but he also looks primed to be the starter in right field. He will undoubtedly be a solid target this spring regardless of where he starts, so his playing time does not look to be jeopardy. The rest of the outfield situation looks to play out with Randal Grichuk and Matt Holliday in left. Holliday has been incredibly consistent his entire career, but battled injuries as well last season. He is still capable of posting 20 homers and 90 RBI, which makes him a nice buy low candidate.

I am a big fan of Grichuk and his solid batted ball data, and a breakout could be on the horizon. He makes solid contact, evidenced by his 17 homers in only 103 games last season, so he will be a popular target this spring. If Holliday or Grichuk goes down to injury, do not sleep on Tommy Pham either, as he showed some positive flashes last season as well.

The heartbeat of the team remains to be, Yadier Molina. Molina battled a thumb injury all season and he had to have eventual surgery this offseason. He recently got his thumb cast off, and may even be ready to start the season. The unfortunate aspect though, is that his offense has been steadily declining even before last season, so owners should only expect him to offer decent AVG/RBI numbers moving forward.

In the April of last season, Adam Wainwright went down to an torn Achilles, ending the majority of his regular season. That theme reared its ugly head again heading into 2016, as Lance Lynn went down with TJ surgery in the winter. Wainwright remarkably came back last season, and looked his usual self. He appears to be one of the more overlooked starters in drafts already, so this season may be the opportune to target him.

The rest of the rotation looks to consist of, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Mike Leake, and Jaime Garcia. Martinez is on the precipice of breaking out, and if he can continue developing, it should not surprise anyone to see him emerge as a top 15 SP. Wacha and Leake are both decent mid-tier starters, but their upside is capped by low K outputs.

Garcia is listed as a potential bust, only because it is hard to trust him to stay healthy for 30 starts in 2016. He has battled a multitude of arm injuries, but showed last season that when right, he can be terrific. Owners could look to him as a late round rotation flier this spring, but they would probably be better off leaving him on the waiver wire entering the season.

A continual strength for Cards has been there tremendous bullpen. Trevor Rosenthal stepped up and reminded everyone why he should be considered as a top RP in baseball. Left handed relievers, Kevin Siegrist, is one of the more underrated pitchers in the league and is rough matchup for both righties and lefties. They added Japanese stud reliever Seung-hwan Oh this offseason, and with Jordan Walden returning from injury, they are stacked once again.

The Cards farm system is continually one of the best in the league, and they develop talent better than anyone in baseball. One of their “can’t miss” prospects though has to be pitcher, Alex Reyes. Reyes has an electric arm and dominated in the minors last season, and it appeared as though that he would be in the running for a spot in the Cards rotation this spring. But, a suspension ended that potential plan, making him unavailable till around mid-June. His talent is legit, so just keep his name in the back of your mind going into the season.

The top teams in the N.L. Central all appear loaded and have the ability to capture the division’s crown. It will be a dogfight all season, so for the Cards to come out on top, they will need their young and upcoming starter to step up and perform. It will be one of the best races to watch this season.

Looking for more team previews?

NL West: L.A. Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals, New York Mets

NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates