St. Louis Cardinals 2017 Team Preview

2016 Recap: 86-76, 2nd in the NL Central. For the first time since 2010, the St. Louis Cardinals failed to make the postseason. The devil magic (I will be referencing the Cardinals use of devil magic a lot, that’s the only logical explanation for how they are so good every year) that has carried them throughout most of this century wasn’t quite enough to keep pace with the super Cubs in the NL Central. There was no one particular reason that you can point to and say exactly why the Cards didn’t make the postseason, they were in the top half of the league in runs scored and team ERA. They had a positive overall WAR at every position except third base (even that was barely negative at -0.1). They were just flat out not quite good enough. This offseason was about catching the Cubs and what better way to take catch another team then take one of their better players. Enter in leadoff man Dexter Fowler who should make an already deep Cardinals lineup even deeper in 2017.

Offseason Moves:

Significant Additions: OF Dexter Fowler, LHP Brett Cecil

Significant Subtractions: 1B/OF Matt Holliday, 1B/OF Brandon Moss, OF Jeremy Hazelbaker, LHP Jaime Garcia

Projected Lineup and Breakdown:

  1. CF Dexter Fowler
  2. SS Aledmys Diaz
  3. 1B Matt Carpenter
  4. RF Stephen Piscotty
  5. C Yadier Molina
  6. 3B Jedd Gyorko
  7. 2B Kolten Wong
  8. LF Randal Grichuk

There are no true superstars in this lineup, in fact most of the Cardinals key contributors have come out of obscurity (aka devil magic) to become real major league hitters. For example, this time last year not even Cardinals fans had heard of shortstop Aledmys Diaz. Fast forward one year and Diaz was an All Star in 2016 and finished fifth in the rookie of the year voting. Again, Cardinals devil magic at its finest. In all seriousness this is a super deep lineup and there is no easy out before you get to the pitcher slot. All eight of their projected starters could pop 15 or more home runs this season and no one would be surprised. They’ll probably even have someone come off the bench that no one has ever heard of and hit 10+ homers. Advanced numbers just don’t quite give the Cardinals enough credit for finding the players they do and getting the most out of them. Adding Dexter Fowler adds a true leadoff hitter that St. Louis has needed for several years and you could see a path where they have a top five lineup in the NL this season.

Projected rotation, Bullpen, and Breakdown:

Rotation –

  • RHP Carlos Martinez
  • RHP Adam Wainwright
  • RHP Mike Leake
  • RHP Lance Lynn
  • RHP Michael Wacha

Bullpen –

  • RHP Seung hwan Oh – Closer
  • LHP Kevin Siegrist
  • RHP Trevor Rosenthal
  • LHP Brett Cecil
  • RHP Jonathan Broxton

If there is one aspect of this team I question whether or not the devil magic can fix, it’s the starting rotation. Carlos Martinez is a frontline starter that a lot people do not talk about, but after him there are a ton of question marks. Adam Wainwright had the worst season of his career (4.62 ERA) in 2016 and at age 35 he looks done. Mike Leake is nothing more than an innings eater and offers no real upside or chance at improving. Lance Lynn hasn’t pitched in the majors since July of 2015 due to an elbow injury and although he was a nice pitcher pre injury (3.37 career ERA) you just never know how players will perform when they first come back from Tommy John surgery. Michael Wacha went from getting Cy Young buzz last preseason to long man in the bullpen by September. Wacha was bad all season giving up almost as many hits (159) in 138 innings during 2016 as he did in 181.1 innings in 2015 (162). If Wacha cannot rebound or if there is a major injury to anyone on this staff, the Cards could be in trouble quick as they’ve already lost top pitching prospect Alex Reyes for the season with Tommy John surgery. Reyes was expected to compete and likely win a rotation spot before his injury. The bullpen should once again be a strength for the Cards as Seung hwan Oh came over from Korea last season and was unhittable posting a 1.92 ERA and a 0.916 WHIP.

Fantasy Analysis:

Stud: 2B Matt Carpenter. Carpenter is someone I didn’t really believe in until last season. Call it player improvement or call it Cardinals devil magic, but Carpenter can just flat out hit. Carpenter has always had great on base skills (lead the league in walks in 2014), but two years ago he finally found his power swing and has hit 28 and 21 home runs each of the last two years. Throw in that he is eligible at 2B, 3B, and 1B in most formats and you’ve got yourself a real asset for your fantasy team at a reasonable cost going around pick 72 in drafts.

Sleeper: SP Luke Weaver. I already went over my concerns about the majority of the Cardinals rotation. The guy who is likely to take over if anyone gets hurt or performs poorly? That would be Luke Weaver who in eight starts for the Cards last season struck out 45 batters in 36.1 innings and kept his walk rate below 3 per 9 innings. I like Weaver’s talent, but I also do not believe in most of the St. Louis rotation. It has the potential to be flaming hot garbage. Speaking of flaming hot garbage…

Bust: SP Adam Wainwright. Did anyone watch Wainwright try and pitch last season? There’s nothing left here yet he is somehow being drafted as someone you’ll need to rely on (SP# 61) and going ahead of guys who are not only have tons of upside (Walker, Snell, Richards), but ahead of guys who are also more safe and didn’t have a WHIP over 1.40 last season (Estrada, DeSclafani, Kennedy). Do not look at the name, this isn’t 2010 anymore. Avoid at all cost.

2017 Record Prediction: Despite my major concerns about their starting rotation, you just cannot count out the Cardinals devil magic. They get back to the postseason in 2017. 86-76, 2nd in the NL Central. Wild card 2 of 2.

-Randy Haines

Check out our other 2017 team previews here.

Photo Credit: USATSI

Statistics are courtesy of Baseball reference and Fangraphs

Projected rosters are courtesy of rosterresource.com and accurate as of 3/10

Fantasy ADP data courtesy of STATS.com and The NFBC

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