Saturday, February 25

St. Louis Cardinals - Built for the Regular Season

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Starting Pitching

Well, their ace isn't half bad - defending Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter anchors the rotation. He'll probably regress somewhat, but that's not really to blame - it was a Cy Young season, after all. Backing him up in the rotation is a former A - Mark Mulder slots in at the 2 hole. His fellow former A (Matt Morris) left for San Francisco.

Behind that, well, that's where things get interesting. Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis - some combination thereof - will take the 3 and 4 spots in the rotation. While evidently these guys are something slightly above league average, I don't see it, I never really have. Yeah, it's personal bias. Nope, numbers won't convince me. I just see them as reliable innings-eaters; there's nothing wrong with that.

It's the final spot in the rotation that presents the most intrigue this season. The eating joke here is way too obvious, but I'm not taking it; Sidney Ponson (Sir Bar Fight, if you will) was signed to a pretty cheap deal this offseason as an insurance policy/possible 5th starter. The risk/reward is slanted fairly solidly in favor of reward; I don't think anybody's expecting much out of him, and if he's reliable when he gets the ball, that's all anyone's going to ask. However, the more intriguing option lies with Anthony Reyes, who's the #41 prospect in Baseball America's Top 100. More importantly, he's the Cards' only representative in said Top 100, so a lot hinges on his success. Will they give him the spot out of camp? I figure he'll get it at some point during the year if it doesn't happen immediately.

Rough Rotation Guess:
Ace: Chris Carpenter
2nd: Mark Mulder
3rd: Jeff Suppan
4th: Jason Marquis
5th: Anthony Reyes

Fantasy Value:

Carpenter's rock-solid. Reyes presents some possible long-term value (although not as much as others who are coming up at this time), and Mulder should be better than he was last year. I figure Carpenter's regression will be made up by Mulder's improvement. Suppan and Marquis you can take or leave. Personally speaking, I'd leave.

More Information:
Chris Carpenter

Closer / Bullpen:

Jason Isringhausen is back again as the closer. He'll have - again - an entirely new bullpen around him, not the least of which is new setup man / ex-Mets closer Braden Looper. Ricardo Rincon, Adam Wainwright, and Julio Mateo are ....well, they're the guys I've heard of.

There's not really a whole lot to say about this bullpen. It's LaRussa - he'll use these guys all the time. Randomly. You'll see all these guys a lot.

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Jason Isringhausen
8th inning: Braden Looper
7th inning: Ricardo Rincon
Sit. Right: Brad Thompson
Sit. Lefty: Randy Flores
Mop-Up: Sidney Ponson

Fantasy Value:
Saves = value. Looper shouldn't be half bad in a lower-stress role, either, I figure. Not to mention someone random from the Cards' pen always puts together a monster middle relief year. Of course, only worry about that in NL leagues and deep leagues.


Let's start with the guys you know. Albert Pujols is still the offensive class of the NL. Last year, he even started adding speed to his game, which is just sick. Scott Rolen is back from injury, and with any luck (for the Cards), he'll be back to his fantastic offensive ouput.

David Eckstein returns at short and at the top of the lineup. He's got grit, spunk, moxie, whatever sportswriters want to call it. Basically, he's short and in the major leagues. Call a spade a spade. Of course, you could do a lot worse for your everyday shortstop, too. Yadier Molina will be the catcher - yup, he's one of the Molina kids. Their parents will love them in their old age.

Second base is the only spot of interest, really. Juinor Spivey came over from the Nats (originally Brewers), and he'll be the second baseman ... until he gets injured. If/when that happens, Aaron Miles (from Colorado) will start. If both of them go down (don't laugh, this happened in DC last year), Hector Luna will be the starting second baseman. Either way, doesn't matter a whole lot - it's either the 2 hole or the 8 hole anyway, and most likely the 8.

Projected Infield:
C: Yadier Molina
1B: Albert Pujols
2B: Juinor Spivey
SS: David Eckstein
3B: Scott Rolen

Fantasy Value:
Those corner infielders - they don't suck. Everyone else is position filler - not bad, but not great.

More Information:
Scott Rolen
Juinor Spivey


Juan Encarnacion swung a big year last year into a right field gig (and a likely 6-spot in the batting lineup) at Busch. Not a bad deal - if he performs decently, it shouldn't be a bad signing.

Part of the reason for that is the presence of Jim Edmonds in center. He's getting older, yes, but he still has another year or two in him before his body completely falls apart, I think. Of course, I could be wrong, but he seems like the type of player that when he hits the wall, he hits the wall and just keels over dead. (Then again, given his play in the field, maybe that's not the wisest analogy to use.)

Larry Bigbie is the new left fielder of choice. Poor So Taguchi - almost had a starting job yet again. Still, look for some pretty constant substitutions out here, too.

Projected Outfield:
RF: Juan Encarnacion
CF: Jim Edmonds
LF: Larry Bigbie

Fantasy Value:
Edmonds should be an above-average outfielder; Encarnacion and Bigbie, slightly below. It all depends on how much Edmonds declines, though - he should still have a prime batting spot to get both pitches to hit and runs to drive in, which will help.

More Information:
Jim Edmonds

Extra Stuff:

Simply put, I don't see how anyone can stop these guys in the NL Central again this year. Day-in, day-out, they'll just relentlessly harass you. No doubt that they are the regular season crown jewel of the NL, at least in my book. The lineup is simply too deep, and while the rotation's not spectacular, they know they'll have run support, and way more often than not, that'll be enough to get the job done.

So then the question is what can go wrong between now and then? Well, a couple of pitching injuries. More people going down for the season in the infield (i.e., if Rolen can't go again). I'm still worried about these guys in a short or long series - Carpenter's good, yes, but everyone else ranges from reachable to scary in a playoff situation. They should be safer in a short series (toss Carpenter out there twice and hope for the best), but their last short series wasn't a big test. Of course, they did get bounced by the Astros in their last long series.

These guys pretty much stood pat this offseason, electing only to tinker. While I can hardly fault them for that, I do have to wonder what that means for their postseason hopes.