By Michael Wong
Jupiter, Fla.--Quite possibly the most well-run organization not only in Major League Baseball but in all of sports, the St. Louis Cardinals are one again a decent contender for a 2017 playoff spot. Of course like with all teams, this is under the "health permitting" guise which already has been a challenge for the team after seeing their top pitching prospect Alex Reyes go down to Tommy John elbow surgery. Be that as it may, the Cards will be a factor and so let's check in one some fantasy baseball-related items for 2017.
1. With Reyes down and out, who steps up to fill the void in the Cards rotation? It looks like faded prospect Michael Wacha will be the guy for better or for worse. At one time a top pitching prospect himself who looked like a future ace when he came up in 2013, a shoulder injury that first cropped up in 2015 have sapped a great deal of juice from Wacha's stuff. The result was a horrid 5.09 ERA and a K/9 rate that has dipped down to a mediocre 7.43 mark in 2016. While Wacha has thrown well early in camp, he is nothing more than an SP 5 at the still young age of 25. We have said over and over again that a shoulder injury can be death to a pitcher's repertoire and that looks like what has taken place with Wacha.
2. Where is Matt Carpenter playing now? Another year and another new position for Carpenter who heads into the 2017 fantasy baseball season already eligible at second and third base and who will add first soon after the year gets underway. Having changed his offensive approach on the fly in becoming more of a power hitter at the expense of his batting average the last two seasons, Carpenter is a terrific and stable fantasy baseball bat no matter where you put him. Having hit 28 and 21 home runs the last two years, Carpenter has proven his power spike in 2015 was no fluke but swinging more for the fences has made him more of a .275 hitter then the .300-plus guy he was when he first came up. Always a big asset in runs and RBI as well, Carpenter is as safe a pick as you can make.
3. Shouldn't Carlos Martinez be a bit more advanced then where he is right now? This seems like a silly question since Martinez has logged splendid ERA's of 3.01 and 3.04 the last two years but there are some underlying issues that worry us. Like with Michael Wacha, Martinez has suffered some shoulder trouble which first appeared in 2015. While he has still put up big ERA's, Martinez saw his K/9 go from 9.22 in 2015 down to 8.02 last season. That is a pretty steep dip and brings forth worries that the shoulder injury sapped some pop from his stuff. Throw in ongoing control problems (3.23 BB/9) which makes him a shoddy WHIP guy and Martinez is more a tease then a top-end fantasy baseball starter.
4. Holy power from Jedd Gyorko. That has always been the scouting report here as Gyorko can really pile up the home runs but there is not much beyond that in fantasy baseball terms. 30 home runs in 438 at-bats is a tremendous number which Gyorko put up last season but his .243 average was terrible. Gyorko also doesn't run at all which is not what you want from your middle infield. What you want to do with Gyorko is draft him as a very versatile bench bat who you can plug in when needed such as a light schedule day or when injuries impact your lineup.
5. Aledmys Diaz was a nice surprise last season. Where can he go from here? Pretty much more of the same. Diaz was a tremendous pure hitter last season as he had an excellent K/9 of 13.0 and his BB/9 of 8.9 was also terrific. Thus the .300 average was no shock and Diaz should be back around there again in 2017 as he mans shortstop for the Cards. Again nothing too flashy here as Diaz stole just 4 bags and hit 17 home runs but if you have speed elsewhere, the kid can b a help to you.