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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

By Michael Wong

Jupiter, Fla.--The St. Louis Cardinals want you to know they should not be forgotten.  With teams like the New York Yankees, World Series-winning Houston Astros, and always the Washington Nationals getting a ton of the contending pop coming into spring training, the Cardinals want to make a point that they are still very much a force to be reckoned with.  One of the most well-run organizations in baseball, the Cards endured a rare down year in 2017 at 83-79 (by their standards that is a down year) and there are more questions than usual this spring.  So with that said, let's check in on some of the fantasy baseball-related items surrounding them as spring training games are fully underway.

1.  How legit was Tommy Pham's 2017 breakout?  Wow there are a million moving parts worth discussing here but the bottom line is that Pham was excellent in 2017 to say the least.  Undrafted in most leagues, Pham didn't even make the Cardinals out of spring training before taking advantage of an early promotion to post tremendous five-tool numbers that included a .306 average, 23 home runs, and 25 steals.  Now keep in mind Pham had never hit for that type of power before and his average was propped up sky-high .368 BABIP as well.  Added to the risk is that Pham has a long injury history to be aware of as well.  So how do we proceed here?  Well for one thing, don't draft Pham as an OF 1 despite the numbers suggesting he is.  You ideally want to select Pham as a top OF 2 and no more and if he gets selected above that level, let him go without a thought.  There is too much uncertainty here to depend on a full encore and so going the above route is the proper way to handle this.

2.  Doesn't Carlos Martinez leave you a tad uneasy to invest in him as an ace?  I think so and for a number of reasons.  While there is no doubting the power arsenal that Martinez brings to the table, his 3.64 ERA and was far from ace-worthy a year ago.  In fact, that number should have been worse as Martinez' .284 BABIP was quite lucky and his adjusted FIP of 3.91 was quite elevated.  Finally, Martinez has a long history of both poor control and shoulder problems and so that is quite a number of red flags for a guy who is being priced as a fantasy baseball ace.

3.  Who is going to close?  Manager Mike Matheny said at the start of spring training that the Cards don't currently have a closer but there are a few candidates who could emerge here.  The veteran candidates include Bud Norris and Luke Gregerson who both have dabbled in the ninth inning with mixed results in the past.  Then there is lefty Tyler Lyons who has the best "closer-like" repertoire but who is still very green as a major leaguer.  If we had to hedge right this very moment, Lyons would be the guy to target in fantasy baseball drafts but this is a very fluid situation.

4.  Luke Weaver has the goods!  There is much attention being focused on top Cardinals pitching prospect Luke Weaver and for good reason as he comes off a big 2017 minor league performance and looked far from over-matched in his 60.1 major league frames last season.  Weaver collects strikeouts by the bunches which instantly gets the sleeper radar blaring but there is a long injury history to be aware of temper things some.  As long as you resist the urge to pay through the nose, Weaver is one of the top sleeper pitchers to target this spring.

5.  Paul DeJong should be handled with care in drafts.  The Fantasy Sports Boss already sounded the bust alarms on the shortstop DeJong who exploded overnight last season by cracking 25 home runs and batting .285 in just 103 games in his debut with the Cardinals.  Clearly, DeJong caught major league pitchers off guard a year ago and now these same hurlers will have a clear plan on how to attack his weaknesses.  There are weaknesses in DeJong's swing as his 28.0 K/9 rate was horrible with the Cardinals last season and to make matters worse, he doesn't offset that by drawing walks (4.7 BB/9).  Throw in a very lucky .349 BABIP last season and DeJong carries some major bust potential in the draft.


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