The St. Louis Cardinals organization deserves high praise for their accomplishments. The year after winning the World Series and then losing the decade’s best player in Albert Pujols with no immediate compensation, St. Louis managed to make it within a game of returning to the series. All the while, St. Louis has compiled what most regard as the league’s best farm system. St. Louis has playoff potential again in 2013 with even brighter things on the horizon. This roster is packed with fantasy baseball stars both young and old that require the attention of owners.
Looking up and down the Cardinals roster it is astonishing to behold such an exceptional roster built primarily through player development. Utilizing their farm system has been a staple of the St. Louis franchise since their inception over a century ago. In this era of baseball free agency, however, it is remarkable to witness a team build and sustain so much success from within their organization.
St. Louis features all-star caliber players throughout their lineup. One of the most underrated stars in all of baseball is first baseman Allen Craig. Craig was one of the main why St. Louis didn’t miss a beat after the departure of Pujols. In his first season as a starter taking over for “the machine”, Craig took over the nickname by producing runs at a tremendous rate. In just 117 games, Craig drove in 92 runs while hitting .307 and crushing 22 home runs. Craig is not only on the verge of becoming an elite fantasy player but should be discussed as a possible MVP candidate entering the season.
Craig wasn’t outdone by his teammates but he had plenty of support in a lineup that ranked fifth in runs and first in on-base percentage. Yadier Molina had the best season of his decorated career, finishing fourth in the MVP voting. Molina batted .315 while hitting 22 homers and capturing his fifth consecutive gold glove.
Surrounded by talent, Carlos Beltran was rejuvenated leading the team with 32 home runs. Beltran led the league in homers through part of the first half but began to show his age down the stretch, hitting just .236 with 12 bombs after the break. He can still be counted on as a low-end fantasy starter but expect his average and home runs to take experience a slight regression.
David Freese and Matt Holliday were consistent producers for the Cardinals throughout the entire season. Both hit better than .290 and 20 home runs and figure to do so again in 2013 if they stay healthy.
St. Louis received sad but anticipated news when aging Chris Carpenter announced that he’s unlikely to pitch again. He was never able to overcome his shoulder issues and is at the age where time is against him. With their organizational depth, St. Louis has the ability to fill any void with a number of young power arms.
The staff will continue to be led by Adam Wainwright who took a step back in 2012 but is still among the top pitchers in the game. St. Louis doesn’t have the list of aces that many top have acquired but they are sure to receive consistency from their rotation.
While they have enough experienced arms to make up a capable rotation, St. Louis has several young pitchers in Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly who are competing for the opportunity to start. However, none have had overwhelming springs to distinguish themselves among the competition. Miller, who has an electric arsenal of pitches and projects as front-end starter, may be in the lead for the fifth spot.
St. Louis’ top five fantasy hitters: 1. Allen Craig, 2. Yadier Molina, 3. Matt Holliday, 4. David Freese, 5. Carlos Beltran
Saint Louis’ top three fantasy pitchers: 1. Adam Wainwright, 2. Shelby Miller, 3. Jamie Garcia.
St. Louis projected record: 85-77
Stay tuned over the next month while I preview one team each day in preparation for the 2013 baseball season.