It’s hard to find a more exciting team than the 2014 St Louis Cardinals, both in Fantasy and otherwise. They have one of the best young pitching staffs in the game, led by perennial all-star Adam Wainwright, and an offense that rivals any other in the National League.
After making an impressive run to the World Series last year, losing in six games to the BoSox, the Cards return most of the same team from last year.
Carlos Beltran left for the money in New York, but he was replaced by trading oft-injured 3B David Freese to the Angels for Peter Bourjos, and signing veteran Johnny Peralta.
They are the odds-on favorite to come out of the National League and have plenty of interesting Fantasy storylines.
Projected 2014 St Louis Cardinals “Go-To” Lineup
- Matt Carpenter, 3B
- Peter Bourjos, CF
- Matt Holliday, LF
- Allen Craig, RF
- Matt Adams, 1B
- Yadier Molina, C
- Johnny Peralta, SS
- Kolten Wong, 2B
- SP1 Adam Wainwright
- SP2 Shelby Miller
- SP3 Michael Wacha
- SP4 Jaime Garcia
- SP5 Lance Lynn
- Other starters to know: Joe Kelly
- Setup men: Jason Motte, Carlos Martinez
- Closer: Trevor Rosenthal
Fantasy Studs: Adam Wainwright, Matt Holiday
Wainwright is the definition of a Fantasy stud. In 2013, the big righty was a workhorse, leading the league in innings pitched (241), while racking up 219 strikeouts (sixth) with a 2.94 ERA (12th) and 1.07 WHIP (ninth), guiding the Cardinals to 19 wins (second) and looking every bit as dominant, as his pre-Tommy John surgery form.
Including his struggles in the first half of 2012, when he clearly wasn’t back to full strength, Wainwright has posted an amazing five-year average of 207 IP, 184 Ks with an ERA of 2.98 and a WHIP of 1.15. Starting pitcher is just too deep, so I doubt I will be drafting him, but if I had my choice of starting pitchers, Clayton Kershaw would be the only pitcher I’d want before Wainwright.
While Allen Craig is getting a lot of the publicity this year (more on him later), the most valuable hitter on the Cardinals is still the ultra-reliable Matt Holliday. While he doesn’t have the power he once had in his prime, Holliday is almost a lock to hit .300 with 100 runs and 100 RBI.
Hitting in the three-hole of the dangerous Cards lineup, he will have plenty of opportunities to pad his stats. I have little doubt that a healthy Holliday will outperform his average draft position. I would love to get him as my No. 2 OF in standard leagues.
Breakout Candidate: Matt Adams, Michael Wacha
Matt Adams burst on the scene in 2011 while playing in the Texas League (Double-A) winning the league’s MVP award by batting .300 with 32 HRs and 101 RBI.
After struggling in his first taste of the bigs in 2012, he spent most of 2013 stuck in a bench role while Allen Craig was the primary first basemen. With Beltran no longer occupying an OF spot, Craig is free to move off 1B and Matt Adams will finally get the starting job he deserves.
Despite only getting 296 ABs in 2013, Adams finished the year batting .284 with 17 HR, 46 runs and 54 RBI. Considering the .337 BABIP, some regression is likely coming in the average department, but Adams has legit 30-plus HR power and it will be on full display this year.
Michael Wacha started to breakout last year, posting a studly 2.78 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 64.2 IP while striking out over a batter an inning. In the postseason, he was even better leading the Cards to four crucial wins in his five starts, while only allowing 9 runs in 30.1 innings (2.64 ERA) and allowing less than a baserunner per inning (0.91 WHIP).
So why exactly is Wacha consistently ranked outside the top 30 SPs? Beats me! If you manage to find him outside the top 25 SP in your league, please do me a favor and jump all over that. You can thank me when you win your Fantasy championship.
Sleeper Candidates: Jaime Garcia
After being limited to only 29 starts due to injury over his last two years, Jaime Garcia is the forgotten man in the Cardinals’ rotation. However, there is tons of value as a sleeper that most people are missing out on. Jaime can be consistently found ranked well outside the top 100 starting pitchers and that is an outrage.
From 2010-2012, Garcia was a pretty reliable starter posting a 3.36 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP while averaging a 7.24 K/9, numbers that compare very favorably to teammate Lance Lynn’s (a top 50 SP) last two years. The health is obviously a concern, but Garcia will be ready for spring training and is well worth the risk to see if he can rediscover his pre-injury form.
Bust Candidate: Allen Craig
Allen Craig is such a Fantasy tease. He’s a reliable average producer (at least .307 in each of the last three years) and racks up the RBI, but his power hasn’t developed as expected.
While last year’s 13 HRs can be brushed aside due to his crazy low 11.7% HR/FB rate, I’ve given up hope that the 30-HR power that he flashed in 2012 is going to materialize.
Not that I don’t think he’s talented, but I have more faith in Darren McFadden making it through a season healthy than I do Allen Craig. Over his first three full-time seasons he has missed an average of over FIFTY games per season. To put that in perspective, out of three full seasons, he’s essentially missed an entire season’s worth of games. And that’s not even including the missed time in the postseason. For the price of around the No. 20 OF, I’m staying far away.
Top Rookies: Oscar Taveras
The Cardinals are going to have a very hard time coming close last year’s crop of rookies as Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Adams were all named to the 2013 Baseball America All-Rookie team, and Wacha wowed the world on route to his NLCS MVP.
This year, with a trio of potential stars in Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong and Carlos Martinez, the future is still bright.
Considering the position, Wong may be a valuable player for his power-speed combination potential, but the real star in the making is Taveras. If you’re reading Fantasy Baseball articles in February I’m sure you already know him well, so I won’t go into detail, but Taveras is one injury away from a starting outfield job and a spot in one of the best lineups in baseball.
Even without that, Taveras has the skills to send Bourjos and his career .306 OBP to the fourth outfielder role. Although, it would be hard to draft and stash Taveras in standard leagues, he’s a must-own in keeper and deeper mixed leagues. He is ready to contribute at the major league level, so don’t be surprised if you see him starting for the Cards in the second half of the year.
What You Should Know: 2014 St Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are a team I’m going to invest heavily in this year. Offensively, led by veterans Matt Holiday and Yadier Molina, they are a team that should score plenty of runs.
Adams, Bourjos and Kolten Wong are all players that have sleeper appeal and can impress this year. On the pitching side, Miller, Wacha and Garcia are all players to target, while closer Rosenthal should be one of the first closers off the board. He has lights out stuff and should have no trouble running with the job.
The 2014 St Louis Cardinals will be a force to be reckoned with this year, make sure you’re along for the ride.
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