Some watch baseball for the pure entertainment of the game. Others live and die with the fate of their hometown team. And then there are the fantasy baseball junkies amongst us, who often could care less about a win or loss as long as an individual player accumulates some stolen bases. This article is intended for that last group, with a a special eye on the roster of the St. Louis Cardinals and how the roster is shaping up early in Spring Training with an emphasis on stats accumulated through today.
- Matt Holliday
- Yadier Molina
- Allen Craig
- Adam Wainwright
These are all players who have a proven record over multiple seasons of producing well above the average fantasy player. Spring training statistics matter little for these players, as they will be starting on Opening Day regardless and very likely produce for the whole year after that.
All three players are healthy in Spring Training which is the most important factor. Holliday is having an especially good spring with a .588 OBP and .714 SLUG. Holliday usually is a bit unappreciated in fantasy leagues because he never produces that huge, 120 RBI 950 OPS year in St. Louis, but he has proven reliable for 90 RBI and 850 OPS in recent years, which is more than good enough to start in any fantasy outfield.
Wainwright has a 1.69 ERA and he is healthy, which likely means he is due for another top five Cy Young type performance again in 2014. The one worrying factor for Wainwright was his large workload in 2013 with the Cardinals playoff run. So far, Wainwright does not appear strained.
The Potential Risers
- Peter Bourjos
- Matt Adams
- Michael Wacha
- Trevor Rosenthal
These players can potentially receive more playing this year which means more production for fantasy owners. Bourjos is coming back from an injury plagued 2013. Rosenthal is being installed as closer after Jason Motte suffered an arm injury last year and Edward Mujica left for Boston.
The bad news for Bourjos is that he has been largely sharing time 50/50 with Jon Jay. Bourjos has nine at-bats this spring, compared to 21 for Jay. Part of this can be attributed to "leg tightness" suffered by Bourjos which has kept him out of games. Still, that is hardly comforting for a player who has traditionally missed playing time with injuries. Bourjos has hit well in his limited at bats (.500 OBP and .556 SLUG), but at this point every indication is that he will be platooned with Jon Jay which really limits his value.
Adams has received more at-bats with Allen Craig moving to right field to fill the spot left by Carlos Beltran. So far Adams has done what Matt Adams does, which is hit the baseball well. Adams has a .350 OBP and a .500 SLUG with five RBI and and a very long homerun.
Wacha continues to baffle hitters following his magical playoff run in 2014. Wacha has a 1.69 ERA this spring with a 1.29 WHIP and 4 K over 4 IP. At some point hitters will probably make adjustments and hit Wacha better, but it has not happened yet.
Rosenthal suffered a groin strain in late February. However, the injury was minor and Rosenthal has since taken the mound. Rosenthal did give up a run in his return, but the key thing is his velocity, which is still reported to be at over 100 MPH. Rosenthal appears set to join Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman as the elite closers in the National League.
Martinez has all the ability in the world, but the question is whether he would ever get a chance to start in St. Louis. So far, Martinez has impressed with a 3.00 ERA and 0.67 WHIP in his two early starts. Meanwhile, Jaimie Garcia has been shelved with more shoulder pain and Joe Kelly has suffered an abysmal 15.75 ERA. With that, Martinez has gone from the darkhorse for the fifth starter spot to the apparent favorite. If he does start, Martinez is a potential fantasy boon as a contributor in all five ptiching categories.
The question for Wong was how much playing time he would get with Mark Ellis breathing down his neck. After struggling early (no hits and 4 K in 10 at-bats) Wong has rallied and is now sporting a .348 OBP and .500 SLUG after hitting a two-run bomb yesterday against the Mets. Ellis will probably take 100-150 at-bats from Wong, but Wong's future still appears bright as the long-term answer for the club at second base.
Oscar Taveras has had perhaps the worst spring of any Cardinals player, primarily because Taveras cannot seem to get playing time. Taveras had ankle surgery in the offseason, but was expected to be ready to compete for a roster spot in Spring Training. However, since the start of spring Taveras and Cardinals management have had a sort of soap opera dealing with the ankle. Taveras subsequently had to prove that he was healthy. Taveras did demonstrate his health and subsequently roped a double in the gap. This would be Taveras only start though, as he then suffered a hamstring injury and has not seen an at-bat since. Taveras is almost certain to start the year in AAA now, where he will have to hit well and hope a roster spot opens up for him to see the big leagues.
On the other end is Stephen Piscotty, who has done nothing but impress both in the field and with his arm. Piscotty has shown an advanced approach at the plate which has produced a .353 OBP and .600 SLUG over 15 at-bats. Rumors of Piscotty overtaking Taveras as the top hitting prospect are well overblown (Taveras has a ton more talent and power potential), but Piscotty has demonstrated his worth this spring. The bad news for Piscotty is that he appears blocked by Craig, Jay, and Taveras at the right field position.