Our Fantasy Baseball friend, Kyle Soppe, takes a closer look at the 2014 St Louis Cardinals in Daily Fantasy play for the upcoming Fantasy season. You can follow him @unSOPpable23 on Twitter.
The National League champions had another quality season in 2013 when it comes to providing Daily Fantasy Baseball owners with consistent players.
Gone are the days of Hall-of-Fame production from Albert Pujols, but the production he once brought has been divvied up through a handful of players that proved worthy of rostering with regularity in 2013.
Matt Carpenter was able to breakout with 199 hits, 126 runs, 11 homer, and 78 RBI, the equivalent of Fantasy gold at the second base position. His .873 OPS was better than fantasy studs like Evan Longoria, Jose Bautista, and teammate Yadier Molina. Allen Craig regressed a bit statistically from 2012 (76/22/92 with a .522 slugging percentage dropped to 71/13/97 and a .457 slugging percentage) despite a 34-point rise in BABIP and 39 more at-bats.
On the mound, it was more of the same, as Adam Wainwright notched at least 19 wins, 200 strikeouts, and a sub 3.00 ERA for the third time in four seasons. St. Louis used the postseason to establish what appears to be a dominate closer in Trevor Rosenthal (11.2 innings pitched, seven base runners allowed, 18 strikeouts, one win, four saves, and a 2.64 ERA), potentially providing some added value to all members of the starting rotation.
As a team, the Cardinals boasted the third-best scoring offense that ranked fourth in batting average but only 27th in home runs and 29th in stolen bases. The offense is station to station, which has the ability to win ball games, but can be frustrating at times for Fantasy owners chasing tremendous upside.
Their pitching staff ranked fifth in ERA, a repeatable feat if they continue to attack the strike zone (sixth fewest walks) without giving up the long ball (only the Pirates allowed fewer bombs).
With Molina behind the dish, the Cardinals were once again one of the hardest teams to steal on (actually led the league in 2013, catching 40 percent of base stealers), making them the worst team to start a leadoff hitter against.
2014 St Louis Cardinals in Daily Fantasy Preview
I expect the 2014 regular season to look similar to that of 2013 for the Cardinals, even with some lineup changes.
Carlos Beltran took his talents to the Big Apple, but if St. Louis decides to shift Craig to the outfield and make Matt Adams their regular first basemen (nothing official has been announced, but this seems likely), the power and run producing void figures to be negligible.
Peter Bourjos was acquired from the Angles to bat leadoff and play center field in 2014, and while the move to St. Louis figures to limit any speed upside here (the Cardinals have ranked in the bottom 20 percent of the league in SBs for three consecutive seasons), there’s potential value in hitting atop an elite lineup (leadoff hitters finished with a 131/11/78/.300 line last season).
Jhonny Peralta was brought over from Detroit in an effort to bring run production to the shortstop position (Cardinal shortstops combined for an underwhelming batting line of 61/4/54/.222 in 2013), and while I believe he can improve upon those numbers, I’m not buying him as a viable contributor in the Daily Fantasy Baseball world (see “Hitter to Avoid”). He’ll turn 32 in May, has never played for a National League team, and is fresh off of a strong season that was cut short thanks to a 50-game Biogenesis suspension.
The pitching staff, which has basically been a breeding ground for sleeper Fantasy pitchers over the last decade, will once again be led by Wainwright, but he will be supported by two young phonemes.
Shelby Miller (see “Pitcher to Roster at Home”) showed glimpses of greatness last season while Michael Wacha stole the show in the NL playoffs (3-0 with a 0.43 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, and 9.4 k/9).
Personally, I see Lance Lynn (34-18 3.82 for his career) and Jamie Garcia (39-25 3.45, shoulder injury) rounding out the rotation. But 25-year-old Joe Kelly (10-2 2.39 in the final three months of the regular season) is a threat should one of them struggle out of the gate or if Garcia can’t pitch until later in the season.
Daily Fantasy Cardinals Breakdown
Here’s a quick spotlight on some players you should pay attention to once Daily Fantasy Baseball games get going.
Hitter to Avoid: Jhonny Peralta, SS
For the first time since 2007, the shortstop had a better batting line against lefties (.352/.404/.560) than righties (.282/.338/.412), a trend I’m not buying into given his track record.
His 2013 season included his highest K% in six seasons and his lowest BB/K since his rookie season (2003). Add in a touch of PEDs and a new team in a new league? There is no way I am paying for his 162-game pace from last year (76/13/83/.303).
Breakout Hitter: Matt Adams, 1B
Grown man power. His career trajectory is to that of Justin Morneau, a pattern that suggests a massive2014 should he step to the plate 500-600 times. It’s not a huge sample size, but his walk rate increased while his strikeout rate decreased from his rookie campaign, a promising stat for a player with this sort of power.
Adams’ .503 slugging percentage last season would have ranked inside the top ten had he had enough at-bats (ahead of 30-plus HR players like Evan Longoria, Adam Jones, and Mark Trumbo), and he has the potential to maintain, if not improve, that rate this season in the middle of the Cardinals lineup.
Batter to Roster at Home: Matt Carpenter, 2B
For the second consecutive season, the 28-year-old second baseman was considerably more valuable at home (.300/.369/.521 in 2012 and .360/.432/.540 in 2013) than on the road (.288/.361/.410 and .276/.353/.422 respectively).
The middle infield positions are top heavy, so if you’re going to spend big, Carpenter at home is as good a bet as there is in the majors.
If you’re looking ahead, the Cardinals play 19 of 22 games at home from May 12 through June 3 and have a nice nine-game home stand as the season concludes (September 12-21) and the big-time daily tournaments begin.
Pitcher to Roster at Home: Shelby Miller
I’m all in on this youngster, and even if you don’t share my optimism, you can’t deny his dominance at home. At only 23 years of age, Miller notched a 10-3 record with nine quality starts at Busch Stadium with a 1.75 ERA (nearly a run better home ERA than Yu Darvish and almost three runs better than that of Matt Cain).
The Cardinals were careful with Miller as last season concluded (finished with 173.1 innings pitched), making it reasonable to think he could pitch more this season and thus hold strong Fantasy value for the entirety of the season. Busch Stadium is a pitcher’s park and the 2014 St Louis Cardinals will once again be a very good team, giving Miller every opportunity to be a nice value option at home in 2014.