Cardinals: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Preview

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals

AL East: BAL, BOS, NYY, TB, TOR

NL East: ATL, NYM, PHI, MIA, WAS

AL Central: KC, CWS, DET, CLE, MIN

The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t make many moves this offseason, but the one move they did make added an important piece to the offense.

In any other year, the St. Louis Cardinals win the National League Central. Last season was the year of the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals are one of the most consistent teams in baseball. They finished either first of second in the division for eight straight seasons.

The offense featured one 30-home run hitter and five more 20-home run hitters. Unfortunately for them, Matt Holliday signed with the New York Yankees. With that, though, the team signed away an important piece of the Cubs’ World Series team.

The downside of this offense is there is no speed. Two players laid the team with just seven steals. Speed can be found late, but you won’t be drafting them from the Cardinals.

The pitching staff had three double-digit win pitchers, but they had inflated ratio stats. The strikeouts were there, but the highest K/9 was 8.0.

Four of the five Cardinals starting pitchers rank inside my top 76. One of them may not be worth drafting in standard leagues, but it all depends on your format.

The Cardinals bullpen was a tale of two halves. The first half featured a veteran closer falling off of a cliff. The second half saw an unknown take control of the position and earn the starting job for 2017. They are still both ranked inside my top-31 relief pitchers.

Busch Stadium ranks more as a pitcher-friendly park after last season. However, their rotation wasn’t able to capitalize on the field’s layout. The Cardinals hitters crushed the ball both home and away but performed better on the road.

I have 13 Cardinals ranked inside my top 300. Their catcher, first baseman, third baseman, shortstop, all three outfielders, four starters and two relief pitchers. That is a lot of talent on one team.

Oct 2, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) walks off the field after getting the final out of the fifth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals rotation was hit or miss overall. Fellow FanSided site, RedBirdRants listed five questions for the rotation here.

Carlos Martinez was clearly the team’s best pitcher. He had a 3.02 ERA, 1.224 WHIP, and 16-9 record. He also had an 8.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 195.1 innings. The potential of 200 strikeouts and another 15 wins puts Martinez inside my top 20.

Veteran Adam Wainwright recorded 13 wins, but it came with a 4.62 ERA and 1.404 WHIP. Looking at his career, this looks like it’s the outlier. I expect a return to form for the 35-year-old pitcher. He is my No. 46 pitcher.

Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, and Michael Wacha round out the rotation. Wacha is the highest rated at No. 76. Leake and Lynn aren’t ranked. Lynn didn’t pitch in 2016 as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The pitcher you may want the most is in Triple-A, and his name is Alex Reyes. He had a 1.57 ERA, 1.217 WHIP, and 4-1 record 12 games. If one of the bottom three pitchers struggles, expect to see Reyes sooner rather than later.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds

As I teased, the Cardinals bullpen underwent a transformation last season.

The team began with Trevor Rosenthal as the closer. He ended the first half with 14 saves in 17 chances, 5.40 ERA, and 2.00 WHIP. He also missed all of August and the first half of September. There are rumors that the Cardinals may transition him into a starter, but I wouldn’t expect it.

I have Oh as one of my sleeper closers for next season. As the set-up man, he had a 1.75 ERA, 0.885 WHIP, two saves and 14 holds. When he took over the closer job, Oh had a 2.16 ERA, 0.960 WHIP and 17 saves in 20 chances. He will be turning 35 in July but pitched at a high level.

The Cardinals signed Brett Cecil in November. He makes the St. Louis bullpen a top-10 staff. He had a 3.93 ERA and 1.282 WHIP with the Toronto Blue Jays last season.

With Oh at the top, Rosenthal hopefully bouncing back, Cecil being a solid pitcher and Kevin Siegrist good too, the starting pitchers have plenty of support.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals had a lot of pieces in the infield, but they didn’t seem to be in the right spot.

Yadier Molina is a constant behind the plate. He hit .308, but only eight home runs and 58 RBI. He comes in at my No. 14 catcher. Molina is getting older and the position is evolving. If you need a backup or injury replacement, Molina is your guy.

Matt Carpenter will be the starting first baseman. He will have first, second and third base eligibility. He hit 21 homers, 68 RBI and .271 in 129 games. If Carpenter can play 140 games, then he could move into the top 10 among first basemen.

Kolten Wong was not good. Plain and simple. He had a .240 average with five home runs and 23 RBI. He’s not even the best second base-eligible player on his team.

Jedd Gyorko will take over third base from Jhonny Peralta. He surprised a lot of people in his first season with the Cardinals, hitting 30 home runs. He also had 59 RBI and a .243 average. I don’t expect another 30 homers, but 25 seems like a good number. Gyorko is my No. 16 third baseman.

Aledmys Diaz had a quietly good season. He hit 17 homers and 65 RBI with a .300 average. He also had seven steals. If he can keep the power and contact while increasing his speed, he can be a top-10 shortstop. Diaz is not that far off, coming in at No. 11.

MLB: World Series-Chicago Cubs at Cleveland Indians

The Cardinals have two young outfielders in Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. The third outfielder has a championship ring on his finger in Dexter Fowler.

Brad Kelly wrote about the fantasy impact Fowler will have on himself and his teammates. Not to repeat Kelly, but I think it will be a good move all around. He has familiarity with the pitchers and ballparks in the division. He is my No. 44 outfielder.

Piscotty was the breakout outfielder. He hit 22 home runs, 85 RBI and .273. The right fielder finished No. 110 overall on the Player Rater last season. Piscotty ranks as my No. 23 outfielder.

Grichuk had a flip in performance from 2015 to 2016. He had a 17 HR/47 RBI/.276 line in 103 games in 2015. Grichuk hit 24 HR/68 RBI/.240 in 132 games last season. There are plenty of power-hitting outfielders, so I wish he goes back to being a contact hitter with some power.

If he does, then his value goes up for me. A 22-home run, .240 outfielder doesn’t excite me.

Sep 19, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Stephen Piscotty (55) celebrates with teammates following the game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The St. Louis Cardinals won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals have the second-most players ranked in my 300. As I mentioned in the introduction, I have four of their five infielders, all three outfielders, four starters, and two relievers ranked.

I like their hitters for power more than contact. The starters worry me a bit because of their high 2016 ERAs, but hopeful they will correct that. The bullpen has a lot of value, especially Oh. He will be overlooked on draft day.

The team has a few prospects that could make it to the majors at some point this season. Dynasty owners are already aware. This team has value in all leagues.