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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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Arismendy Alcantara fine for Friday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:03 am ET) Cubs rookie outfielder Arismendy Alcantara has returned to action for the Friday afternoon game against the visiting Dodgers. He had been sidelined since Tuesday with a wrist injury.

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Miller took a one-hopper off the bat of Ryan Braun in the sixth inning that prompted a visit from the trainer. He finished the inning before coming out of the game after 82 pitches.

The 23-year-old starter has been on a roll with four earned runs allowed in his last 34 innings pitched covering five starts.


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by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:31 am ET) Angels left-hander Wade LeBlanc performed well enough Thursday night against Seattle to earn another start, per the Orange County Register. He is set to pitch again next Tuesday in Oakland.

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by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:25 am ET) Royals second baseman Christian Colon has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sept. 7, with a fractured middle finger.

He performed encouragingly during several stints with the big league team this season. Colon boasts a stat line of .302/.348/.442 in 20 games.


Mark Trumbo plagued by back ailment
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:20 am ET) Back spasms caused the absence of Diamondbacks outfielder/first baseman Mark Trumbo from the Thursday lineup, but Kirk Gibson does not believe it's serious, per azcentral.com.

"He probably needed an off day anyway," Gibson said.

Trumbo has not played since Wednesday. Injuries have limited him to 293 at-bats this season.


Fernando Rodney breaks franchise mark for saves
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:21 am ET) Mariners closer Fernando Rodney escaped a rough outing with the save Thursday night against the Angels in Anaheim.

Rodney allowed a solo home run to Hank Conger but struck out Tony Campana looking to end the game. He was charged with one run on one hit and no walks while striking out one in one inning of work, closing out a 3-1 victory. He now holds the franchise record with 46 saves on the year. He owns a 2.70 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP over 63 1/3 innings of work.

Wilin Rosario launches walkoff shot vs. D-Backs
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:16 am ET) Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario came up big at the plate Thursday night at home, launching a walkoff home run in the ninth to lift his team past the Diamondbacks.

Down one run, Rosaio took Addison Reed deep for a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth to end the game. Rosario also doubled in the second and added two singles. He finished 4 for 5 with a run scored and three RBI in a 7-6 victory. He is hitting .265 with 12 homers and 51 RBI over 359 at-bats.

Felix Hernandez fans 11 in a no-decision vs. Angels
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez put together another gem but didn't receive any run support in a no-decision Thursday night against the Angels. The right-hander permitted three hits and two walks while striking out 11 over seven innings of work.

Over his last four starts covering 28 innings, Hernandez has allowed only three earned runs. He owns a 2.07 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP over 32 starts (226 innings). His next start will come Tuesday at Toronto.

Wade LeBlanc gives five-plus scoreless innings in spot start
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(1:00 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc wasn't a factor into the decision in a spot start on Thursday at home against Seattle. The left-hander permitted three hits and no walks while striking out three over 5 1/3 scoreless innings of work.

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(12:55 am ET) Indians reliever Cody Allen struck out two and worked his way past a hit in a scoreless 13th inning for the save Thursday night against the Astros in Houston. He has converted 22 of 25 save chances, with a 2.03 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP over 66 2/3 innings of work.

 
 
 
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