Team preview: St. Louis Cardinals
1. SS: Ryan Theriot
2. CF: Colby Rasmus
3. 1B: Albert Pujols
4. LF: Matt Holliday
5. RF: Lance Berkman
6. 3B: David Freese
7. C: Yadier Molina
8. 2B: Skip Schumaker
1. SP: Chris Carpenter
2. SP Jake Westbrook
3. SP: Jaime Garcia
4. SP: Kyle Lohse
5. SP: Kyle McClellan
CL: Ryan Franklin
• Last year’s public hissing match between Rasmus and manager Tony La Russa sure was fun, wasn’t it? I’ve got Rasmus ranked 14th among the outfielders, mainly because he has tremendous talent and a solid early-career track record at only age 24. However, danger lurks, as last year’s high-strikeout rate and lucky BABIP (.354) point to a possible batting average decline. I’d still draft Rasmus in the fourth round in standard leagues, but my fingers would be crossed.
• Berkman’s OPS against lefties last season was .517. In 2009, it was .705. At age 35, it’s very possible that Berkman is close to done. But the Cardinals are prepared to give him plenty of playing time in right field, even though he hasn’t spent any time in the outfield since 2007.
Berkman qualifies at first base in most fantasy leagues, and should be avoided in standard-league formats. His best chance for success is probably in a platoon role. While the Cardinals have a good track record and getting results out of part-time players, Berkman won’t help standard leaguers unless he plays every day. He could bat second some of the time, by the way.
• I have a sleeper crush on Freese, who hit 26 homers at Triple A in 2008 before an up-and-down 2009 and an injury-shortened 2010. Freese is ranked 22nd on my hot corner list, but I could see grabbing him as a flyer late in a standard-league draft.
• You think Garcia is going to repeat his 2.70 ERA? The three projection systems I’ve seen so far have him for 3.36, 3.86 and 3.96. Garcia strikes out a decent number of batters, and induces plenty of ground balls. I kind of like him, and it’s hard not to love the Hall of Fame track record of his pitching coach. However, remember that he was a little lucky last year, and has a checkered injury history. Garcia is 40th in my starter rankings.
• Adam Wainwright’s season-ending elbow injury removed a top-five starter from the draft pool. McClellan is likely to replace Wainwright in the rotation. If NL-only owners have learned anything from pitching coach Dave Duncan, it’s that he can make chicken salad out of ...
• Odd man out: Jon Jay got regular duty in the outfield during the second half of 2010, but his best bet for playing time this season is for Berkman to become a defensive liability. That’s not an unrealistic scenario at all.
• Top prospects: Starting pitcher Lance Lynn should get the first call if the rotation needs a fill-in. Down the road, righty Shelby Miller looks like a potential ace and should be owned in dynasty formats. He’s a year or two away, though.
• Backup closer: Is this the year Franklin’s so-so stuff catches up with him? If so, let’s once again speculate on Jason Motte for saves. Motte basically pumps high-90s heat and dares people to hit it.