The St. Louis Cardinals are not bad this season. They have just been drawn that way. Losing an all-world player at first base has a way of changing perceptions, though. Too bad. If any team can overcome the loss of a future Hall of Fame manager, future Hall of Fame 1B, and arguably the game’s best pitching coach, it just might be the Cardinals. Not many teams could absorb the loss of a 5.4 WAR player (Pujols) while adding back a 5.9 WAR player (Wainwright) who lost a year to injury. Still, they need some guys to step up, if they hope to top 90 wins again and at least sneak into the playoffs. Fortunately for the Cardinals, their roster has no shortage of potential candidates to make that step this season.
Do look for an opportunity to draft Adam Wainwright after a few rounds of pitchers come off the big board. He looks to be recovering just fine from Tommy John surgery, but it would be a mistake to rely too heavily on a guy who likely will not pitch more than 175-180 innings.
Despite Yadier Molina‘s slash line of .305/.349/.465/.814, don’t take Molina too early. There are at least a half-dozen more productive catchers in the game. He may be around the top 10 in all of MLB, and he certainly makes the top 5 in the National League.
Don’t go looking for speed on the Cardinals. You will not find it in the dugout, in the locker room, or on the field. It just is not there. Even if the team takes a more aggressive approach to stealing bases under new manager Mike Matheny, we are still talking about a team on which 15 stolen bases could set the pace. Look elsewhere for someone to pad the stolen base numbers.
Do keep in mind that Matt Holliday consistently provides solid numbers as an outfielder. In 2011, he managed 83 runs scored and 75 RBI despite playing in only 124 games due to injury and a fight with a moth. Also, do remember Lance Berkman, because Berkman managed some stout numbers (.959 OPS) while qualifying for both the outfield and 1B.
Reigning World Series MVP David Freese may not project to a top tier guy at the hot corner, but his stock should still be on the rise after he crammed 21 RBI into 18 postseason games in 2011. The downside to Freese is that he has never stayed healthy enough to reach 100 games played during the regular season. Still, Freese’s potential make him an interesting candidate, especially for fantasy players who have a “corner infield” position to fill.
Steer clear of Rafael Furcal, Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene, and Skip Schumaker. Just say “no”. Don’t be overly tempted by Allen Craig, either. Despite Craig’s propensity to hit for both power and average, he simply does not have a starting job and only appeared in 75 games last season. If you want to take a flyer on someone who could pick up a lot of at-bats due to his ability to back up injured players at several positions, then Craig might be the guy.
Do keep in mind that Carlos Beltran and Jon Jay both potentially provide value for your outfield. When you need to fill 6 outfield slots, there are only so many superstars to go around. Fine. It may very well be the other 4 outfielders you draft that make the difference, though. Players like Jay (.350 lifetime OBP) and Beltran (84 RBI, 78 runs in 2011), should make it onto your radar after the halfway point of your draft.
Do remember Jason Motte when you start getting into the 2nd tier of closers. In 68 innings, he struck out 63 while compiling a 2.25 ERA and .956 WHIP. If only Motte had been the closer for the entire season, maybe he would be forcing his name into that conversation for “elite” status. Until then, he wins the unofficial title of “Best Returning Closer with only 9 Saves” from last season.
Feel free to comment or provide constructive criticism. The comment section for this article would be ideal for feedback. If you use the Twitter, then you can find me there (@gr33nazn), and I welcome a slight amount of ridicule there as well. Please DO take time to read the other DOs and DONTs articles that the excellent team of writers (plus me) has taken the time to put together. Each one reads like an insider cheat sheet for each team. Thanks for following along and good luck on draft day.