2017 Fantasy BaseballAndrew Miller

2017 Fantasy Baseball: St. Louis Cardinals Team Preview

OFFSEASON OVERVIEW

St. Louis had a quiet offseason with only one major move – picking up Dexter Fowler from the rival Chicago Cubs for five years and $82.5 million. Fowler’s set to leadoff for the Cardinals and should continue to put up quality numbers that fantasy owners have become accustomed to from the 30-year-old over the past few seasons. The only other major news coming from St. Louis this winter is the offseason surgery of young pitching super-prospect Alex Reyes. Reyes was set to push for a rotation spot in spring training, but his mid-February Tommy John surgery delays his first full season in the Gateway City until 2018 at the earliest.

TOP DRAFT PICKS (STUDS)

Long gone are the days of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday racking up the home runs and RBIs. Now, the Cardinals are a little less star-dominated and have several key contributors. Matt Carpenter led the team in wRC+ last year at 135, which ranked 16th in the Majors and was equal to Mookie Betts’ mark and better than Edwin Encarnacion’s. Despite hitting seven fewer home runs than 2015’s 28 jacks, Carpenter had a career-best .235 Isolated power, which was the same as Robinson Cano’s and Mike Trout’s. Carpenter most likely has first, second and third base eligibility in your league. Once the top hitters come off the board at each of those positions, Carpenter is right at the top of the second tier at each spot.

Carlos Martinez’s 2016 solidified his spot as the Cardinals’ ace. His 3.04 ERA ranked 10th among qualified starters, and even though his FIP and xFIP were well below that mark that’s his second year in a row with an ERA below 3.05. His other numbers remained very similar to his breakout 2015. I don’t know if there’s much more upside here, but if he remains constant with this production he’s a low-end SP 2/high-end SP 3.

HIGH UPSIDE (SLEEPERS)

Stephen Piscotty had a stellar sophomore season, hitting 22 bombs and building off a great rookie year. Just like most of his teammates, I don’t see much upside with Piscotty, but his floor makes him a very reliable pick if you load up on high-risk hitters in the early rounds. I think he’s a top 30 outfielder with an easy shot at 25 homers, a .280 average and a .350 OBP. Randal Grichuk hit a career-high 25 homers in ’16, and his .254 Iso in the last two seasons ranks 12th among all hitters with at least 800 plate appearances. He’s going to strike out a lot and not hit for a high average, but if you want a shot at this year’s Khris Davis, Grichuk could give you 30+ home runs from a last-round pick.

HIGH DOWNSIDE (BUSTS)

Going by current average draft position numbers there are very few Cardinals players who could be picked high enough to be considered busts. I’d caution against drafting Yadier Molina earlier than his current 13 ADP among catchers. He’s caught so many games over the years and racked up a lot of wear and tear on his body. He’s consistent, but there are plenty of other catchers who have more upside than he does.

CLOSER SITUATION

Seung Hwan Oh recorded his first MLB save July 2 and was unstoppable for most of the season. He struck out 32 percent of batters while walking less than 6 percent of hitters. His ERA was below 2, and his FIP and xFIP were both below 3. He didn’t have any problems with walks or home runs. His current ADP is fifth among closers, and after that top tier I think he’s a pretty safe investment at the right price. Just don’t overdraft him.

IMPACT MINOR LEAGUERS

With Alex Reyes going down for the season, Carson Kelly takes over as the Cardinals’ top prospect. He’s going to be more valuable to the Cardinals than to your fantasy team anytime soon, but he’s got a chance to be Molina-like offensively sometime down the road. Luke Weaver made his MLB debut last year, starting eight games and striking out 45 batters in only 36.1 innings. He should be the first replacement for any starters this season, and he’s worth keeping an eye on if he makes any starts this year for the big league club.

SURPRISING STAT

Aledmys Diaz had a 132 wRC+ last year, his rookie season, which ranked second among qualified shortstops – ahead of Manny Machado and Carlos Correa, among others. Diaz’s .369 OBP ranked tied for first among shortstops. He put together a great rookie year, combining great power with very good plate discipline to be a top contributor at the position. This year he’s going on average around pick 132, which is ninth among shortstops. The top eight shortstops are going in the top 62 picks. So if you’re looking for a bargain at the position, Diaz’s mid-round value is someone you could target.

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