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2011 Fantasy outlooks: St. Louis Cardinals

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As late as Aug. 13 last year, the Cardinals were in sole possession of first place, but a 21-27 record down the stretch spoiled an otherwise promising season.

Starting pitching, which had been a strength for most of the season, was unreliable over the final weeks, as even aces Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter went through rough stretches. The lineup, featuring fearsome Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the middle of the order, held up its end of the bargain throughout the year. Pujols didn't quite meet his usual standards of production, but he still finished second in the National League in OPS with a 1.011 mark, just behind Joey Votto. Holliday, in his first full season in St. Louis, chipped in with a .312 batting average, 28 home runs and 103 RBI.

With the signing of Lance Berkman to handle right field as the team's major offseason move, the Cardinals are hoping that the squad that finished five games off the Reds' pace in the NL Central last year can get them back into the postseason in 2011. They do get a minor offensive upgrade at shortstop, replacing Brendan Ryan with Ryan Theriot, but otherwise, the Cardinals will rely on improved health and statistical rebounds to work their way back to a playoff berth. The team will look to have third baseman David Freese and fifth starter Kyle Lohse around for a full season as they recover from injuries. Skip Schumaker will try to jump start the offense from the top of the order, attempting to bounce back from a down year, and Yadier Molina will also hope to rebound from a low on-base percentage (.329).

Perhaps the X-factor for the Cardinals is 24-year-old Colby Rasmus, who improved vastly over his 2009 rookie season, but suffered from inconsistency and a tumultuous relationship with manager Tony LaRussa. With another step forward, Rasmus could give the Cardinals a formidable bat to further protect Pujols and Holliday in the batting order.

One thing LaRussa won't have to worry about is his bullpen. Closer Ryan Franklin has been a steady ninth-inning presence over the last three seasons but should he falter, they have good fallback options in Jason Motte, Kyle McClellan and Mitchell Boggs.

With Pujols, Holliday, Wainwright and Carpenter, the Cardinals don't lack for high-end Fantasy talent, but they have plenty of good complementary pieces, too. The ability of players like Berkman, Molina and Rasmus to play to their potential is critical to St. Louis' success this season, and it could be for many Fantasy owners as well.

Sleeper ... Jaime Garcia, SP

After sneaking his way into the fifth starter's spot in spring training last year, no one could have been more of a sleeper than Rookie of the Year candidate Garcia. This year he is more of a known quantity, but the lefty could still surprise many owners. Pitching coach Dave Duncan loves ground ball pitchers, and Garcia is a good one. He not only avoids the long ball, but he is a better bat-misser than other groundballers like Tim Hudson and Trevor Cahill. Garcia finished sixth in the majors in ERA (2.70) last season, but contrary to the perception of many, Garcia could have many more ERA leaderboard appearances in his future. He could perform like a No. 3 Fantasy starter in mixed leagues, but because more than a few owners will expect a serious dropoff, you can draft him later.

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Breakout ... David Freese, 3B

With just four homers in 240 at-bats, Freese's rookie season power output was a disappointment. After all, this was the same player who knocked 26 taters in his first season at Triple-A after having been skipped over Double-A. Last year he had surgery on both ankles, which have bothered him over the past two seasons. He is expected to be ready for the start of the season, and he still has the potential to deliver around 20 home runs with a batting average near last season's .296. That's solid mixed-league production, but he is likely to be available in the late rounds.

Bust ... Ryan Theriot, SS

That whistling noise you hear is the sound of Theriot's on-base percentage falling off a cliff. After completing the 2008 season with a .387 mark, he has finished the last two years at .343 and .321. His batting average has dropped along with his line drive rate, and he has also become less patient, drawing fewer walks. In spite of making fewer visits to the basepaths, Theriot has maintained his status as a 20-steal threat, but without a better batting average and on-base percentage, that isn't enough to make him rosterable in standard mixed leagues, even in Rotisserie formats.

St. Louis Cardinals Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Skip Schumaker 2B 1 Adam Wainwright RH
2 Ryan Theriot SS 2 Chris Carpenter RH
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Jaime Garcia LH
4 Matt Holliday LF 4 Jake Westbrook RH
5 Colby Rasmus CF 5 Kyle Lohse RH
6 Lance Berkman RF Alt Miguel Batista RH
7 Yadier Molina C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 David Freese 3B CL Ryan Franklin RH
Top bench options SU Jason Motte RH
R Allen Craig OF RP Kyle McClellan RH
R Jim Edmonds OF RP Trever Miller LH
R Nick Punto 3B/SS RP Mitchell Boggs RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Shelby Miller 20 SP Class A Double-A
Zipped through the Midwest League with few problems, but won't get to St. Louis until next year at the earliest.
2 Zack Cox 21 3B Rookie Class A
2010 first-rounder held his own in the Arizona Fall League. Gets his first real minor league test this year.
3 Lance Lynn 23 SP Triple-A Triple-A
Struggled in his first tour of Triple-A, but still the team's best arm in the upper minors. Could debut in '11.
4 Carlos Martinez 19 SP Rookie Class A
Probably still at least two years away from the majors, but mid-90s fastball could speed his path.
5 Daniel Descalso 24 3B Majors Majors
Good contact hitter who should see some time in a utility role this year.
Best of the rest: Tyrell Jenkins, SP; Eduardo Sanchez, RP; Seth Blair, SP; Jordan Swaggerty, RP; Joe Kelly, RP; Matt Carpenter, 3B; Oscar Taveras, OF; Deryk Hooker, SP; Adam Reifer, RP; Cody Stanley, C; John Gast, SP; Tommy Pham, OF; Trevor Rosenthal, SP; Nick Longmire, OF; Blake King, RP; Bryan Anderson, C; Steven Hill, C; Daryl Jones, OF; and Robert Stock, C.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Adrian Gonzalez confident in 'deeper lineup' for Dodgers
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:26 am ET) Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez had an MLB-best 116 RBI in 2014, mostly batting in front of the likes of Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez. While both players are no longer part of the Dodgers' batting order, Gonzalez is not worried about lineup protection, per the Los Angeles Times.

"I think we're deeper, so I don't think we're going to be so dependent on the middle of the order," Gonzalez said Monday. "People say that we lost power, but I think we just put the power in different areas of the lineup."

Some of the key acquisitions this offseason for the Dodgers have been shortstop Jimmy Rollins, catcher Yasmani Grandal and second baseman Howie Kendrick. Gonzalez is confident in the new additions to the lineup.

"They're going to battle every at-bat," Gonzalez said. "They're going to be prepared. I'm not saying that we didn't before, but I think the guys that we got are guys that are going to be tougher to game plan for. From that end, it will be a deeper lineup."


Orioles' Matt Wieters has goal of being ready by opening day
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:15 am ET) Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who is throwing from 150 feet in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, said he is preparing to be ready by opening day.

"The rehab's going well and going how it's supposed to from all the talk I've gotten with Dr. (James) Andrews and my physical therapist down here and Richie (Bancells)," Wieters said, per MASNsports.com. "Everything's kind of moved along and we're preparing for me to be ready for opening day. We still have a good couple of months before we're there, so it's still going to be a lot of work to put into it, but that's what I'm preparing for. We're trying to get all the steps checked off before we get there.

"We'll see when I'm actually going to be able to get behind the plate and catch in games during spring training, but it's just a matter of making sure the arm has been tested enough to where when we do get into games with adrenaline and a little bit of pressure that we're ready to go."

Wieters added making sure his shoulder is also in good shape is part of the rehab process coming off elbow surgery.

"(Monday) we went out to 150 just to test it out a little bit," he said, "and everything has kind of checked out and we've had nothing really major to set back the progression."


Indians want Michael Bourn to get back to his base-stealing ways
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) The Indians want outfielder Michael Bourn to get back to his base-stealing ways, according to the Plain Dealer

Prior to joining the team, Bourn had compiled five straight seasons with at least 40 steals. Since joining the team, he's stolen 33 bases in two seasons. Injuries have played a role in his decline. Bourn admitted he had some trouble adjusting to the American League in his first season with Cleveland. He tore his hamstring on the final day of the season, and had offseason surgery, but the issue still plagued him in 2014. 

Manager Terry Francona agreed, saying "When he gets on base, he has to disrupt the game." Francona added, "he wants to do it really bad, he just wasn't in position to do it the last couple of years. Hopefully, those injuries are limited and he can use his legs because he's a huge part of what we do."

Bourn, 32, hit .257/.314/.360 over 444 at-bats last year.


Rockies, Adam Ottavino avoid arbitration
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) The Rockies have avoided arbitration with pitcher Adam Ottavino, according to MLB.com.

Ottavino agreed to a one-year deal with the club. Ottavino will make $1.3 million next season, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The 29-year-old posted a 3.60 ERA over 65 innings last year.


Astros looking at pitcher Kevin Correia
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) The Astros are looking to add pitcher Kevin Correia, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Houston is said to be seeking a backend starter, and Correia fits the bill. The 34-year-old posted a 5.44 ERA over 154 innings with the Twins and Dodgers last year. 


Angels hopeful Garrett Richards will be ready for opening day
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) The Angels are hopeful that pitcher Garrett Richards will be ready by opening day, according to the Orange County Register

If Richards isn't ready for the start of the season, the team expects him to be back shortly after that. Richards had knee surgery in August, but he's been able to make progress. General manager Jerry DiPoto said he was "optimistic" about Richards' status. Richards has been able to increase his running on a treadmill, and hasn't experienced any issues with his throwing program, according to DiPoto. Richards is currently throwing from 125 to 150 feet about five times per week.

Richards posted a 2.61 ERA over 168 2/3 innings last year.


Orioles' Matt Wieters throwing from 150 feet
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) Orioles catcher Matt Wieters has begun throwing from 150 feet, according to MASN.

Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery last season, and is working his way back from the surgery. He was cleared to start throwing from 150 feet on Monday. Wieters had previously been throwing from 120 feet. He said he's preparing as if he'll be ready for opening day.

Wieters hit .308/.339/.500 over 104 at-bats last year.


Orioles bring in Parmelee, De La Rosa on minor-league deals
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) The Orioles have signed outfielder Chris Parmelee and pitcher Dane De La Rosa on minor-league deals, according to MLB.com.

The 26-year-old Parmelee spent his first four seasons in Minnesota before becoming a free-agent during the offseason. Parmelee hit .256/.307/.384 over 250 at-bats last year.

De La Rosa, 31, pitched just 2 1/3 innings with the Angels last season. He had knee surgery in September.


David Buchanan will compete for one of two spots in Phillies' rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan said refininig his curveball has been a point of emphasis this offseason, as he prepares to compete for a spot in the rotation this spring, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I had success with (my curveball) in certain games,” he said. “It started coming along there toward the end. But it’s definitely something that has a lot of work still to go. It’s definitely something I’m working on. It’s getting better, which is all I can ask for.”

There is two spots currently open in the rotation behind Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Aaron Harang. Buchanan, Jerome Williams and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez are considered the leading candidates for the openings in the rotation. 

“There’s going to be some competition,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week. “I think that’s the only way that you can get better is by creating competition. I can’t sit here and tell you today that David Buchanan’s going to be one of our guys in the rotation, but he absolutely is going to get an opportunity to pitch in spring training and be ready and compete for one of those spots.”


Santana fine after throwing bullpen session; winter-league status is TBD
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) Free agent starting pitcher Johan Santana threw a bullpen session Sunday and is said to be feeling fine, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is now up to his Venezuelan winter league team to decide if he will pitch for them in the finals.

Santana has been dealing with some shoulder discomfort, which has put his status for the remainder of the winter-league season in doubt. Santana is hoping to latch on with another major-league team after suffering a torn Achilles in June.

The Yankees, Padres and Blue Jays are among the teams showing interest in signing the former two-time AL Cy Young award winner.


 
 
 
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