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2012 Fantasy outlooks: St. Louis Cardinals

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Sputtering into the last week of August with a record that was just four games over .500, 2011 looked like a lost season for the Cardinals. However, instead of missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, St. Louis won 23 of their final 32 games, snuck into the postseason, and captured their 11th World Series championship.

It's hard to know what was more surprising: the Cards' seven-game victory over the Rangers in the Fall Classic or Albert Pujols' decision to bolt the Gateway City for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Pujols' departure via free agency was just one tremor in an earthquake of an offseason that has rocked the Cardinals' world. Also gone are long-time skipper Tony LaRussa, who announced his retirement, and pitching coach Dave Duncan, who is taking a leave of absence. Stretch-run acquisition Edwin Jackson is no longer a part of the pitching staff, but the offseason hasn't only been about subtraction. Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist replaced LaRussa and Duncan, respectively, and free agent signee Carlos Beltran will replace Pujols in the lineup and shift Lance Berkman to first base.

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Perhaps the biggest addition in 2012 will be Adam Wainwright, who is expected to return after missing all of the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery. Barring a setback, he should be ready to start the year in the rotation and give the Cardinals the true ace that they lacked in 2011. The rotation will otherwise have the same look as last season with Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook all reprising their roles from a year ago. Aside from Beltran, the lineup should have a familiar feel as well, and only second base appears to be up for grabs in spring training. Converted shortstop Tyler Greene should have the upper hand in the battle for the starting role, though he will have to hold off Daniel Descalso and Skip Schumaker to win the job.

Despite an offseason of losses, the Cardinals look to be a contender yet again in 2012. After all, they aren't the only NL Central team to lose an All-Star first baseman, as Prince Fielder will head to spring training with a team other than the Brewers for the first time. They also have enough depth to weather the loss of a key regular, just as they did last year.

Sleeper ... Tyler Greene, 2B

Greene is the preseason favorite to win the starting job at second base, and he could prove to be a late bloomer. Like teammate Allen Craig, he has impressive minor league power numbers, but he's had to wait until his late 20s to get a chance at a regular role in the majors. Greene's ability to draw walks and steal bases has already translated to the majors during his limited time with the Cardinals. If he can deliver double-digit homer totals like he has in the minors, Greene will suddenly be in high demand in standard mixed leagues.

Impact 2012 prospect ... Shelby Miller, SP

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Over the last two seasons, Miller has zipped through the Cardinals' system, leaving a trail of frustrated batters in his wake. He is clearly the organization's best pitcher in the upper minors, and he may not need much more time to show that he is major-league ready. Should the front office look to ditch Kyle Lohse's or Jake Westbrook's expiring contract midseason, or should an injury arise, Miller could be called into action. With a mid-summer recall, Miller would become a hot waiver wire commodity, so especially in deeper leagues, he is worth considering as a reserve option on Draft Day.

Bust ... Kyle Lohse, SP

Coming off a 2010 season marred by forearm surgery and a 6.55 ERA, expectations were low for Lohse entering last year. However, he emerged healthy and put together his best campaign in three seasons. With a 14-8 record, 3.39 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, Lohse became a staple in standard mixed leagues, but he is not a strong bet to repeat his success. Lohse benefited from opponents hitting just .191 against him on ground balls, but that mark is likely to rise, especially with subpar middle infield defense behind him. Despite what his 2011 stats might suggest, owners who draft Lohse in standard mixed leagues this year will likely regret their choice.

2012 St. Louis Cardinals Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Chris Carpenter RH
2 Jon Jay CF 2 Adam Wainwright RH
3 Carlos Beltran RF 3 Jaime Garcia LH
4 Matt Holliday LF 4 Kyle Lohse RH
5 Lance Berkman 1B 5 Jake Westbrook RH
6 David Freese 3B Alt Lance Lynn RH
7 Yadier Molina C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Tyler Greene 2B CL Jason Motte RH
Top bench options SU Eduardo Sanchez RH
R Daniel Descalso INF RP Fernando Salas RH
R Skip Schumaker 2B/OF RP Marc Rzepczynski LH
R Koyie Hill C RP Kyle McClellan RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Shelby Miller 21 SP Double-A Triple-A
Miller dominated at two levels last season. He has a strong chance to contribute at the big-league level by midseason.
2 Carlos Martinez 20 SP Class A Class A
The Futures Game alum has been wild, but he's still a potential ace. Certainly worth the attention of long-term keeper league owners.
3 Zack Cox 22 3B Double-A Double-A
His power has yet to emerge, but Cox is a good gap hitter, much like the player -- David Freese -- who is blocking him in St. Louis.
4 Matthew Adams 23 1B Double-A Triple-A
Adams took advantage of a hitter-friendly ballpark in Double-A. 2012 will be a critical year for the potential 2013 starting first baseman.
5 Jordan Swagerty 22 SP Double-A Double-A
Swagerty could figure into the Cardinals' bullpen plans during the second half of 2012, and he could be a future closer.
Best of the rest: Oscar Taveras, OF; Tyrell Jenkins, SP; Kolten Wong, 2B; Trevor Rosenthal, SP; Matt Carpenter, 3B; John Gast, SP; Maikel Cleto, SP; Ryan Jackson, SS; Charlie Tilson, OF, Joe Kelly, SP; Brandon Dickson, SP; Cody Stanley, C; Thomas Pham, OF; Adron Chambers, OF; Tony Cruz, C; Mark Hamilton, OF; Pete Kozma, SS; Adam Reifer, RP.

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Player News
Report: David Aardsma to throw bullpen next week for teams
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:07 am ET) Free-agent pitcher David Aardsma will throw a bullpen session for interested teams next week, according to his agent, Jamie Murphy.

"(Aardsma) is looking to showcase added velocity after a change in mechanics and an extremely intense offseason workout regimen," Murphy told FoxSports.com senior baseball writer Ken Rosenthal.

Aardsma missed the entire 2014 season after suffering a torn adductor muscle. He was last with the Mets in 2013 when he posted a 2-2 record with a 4.31 ERA and 36 strikeouts.


Orioles' Jonathan Schoop trying to cut weight for upcoming season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:37 am ET) Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop wants to raise the level of his game for the 2015 season. The 22-year-old is hoping to be more mentally and physically prepared for the grind of the 162-game season.

"My weight is lower than last year. I want to have more range and be faster. Trying to steal some more bases and be faster for the team on the bases to help put more pressure on the defense." Schoop said. "I learned a lot from my teammates. They helped me a lot. One year of experience. I'm better than last year. Mentally and physically, everything. My ups and downs helped me a lot to know myself better too."

Schoop, who hit .209 with 16 home runs and 45 RBI in 2014, is also taking more advice from his teammates about his approach at the plate.

"Be patient. Don't chase too many pitches. Let them throw strikes and swing at strikes. Just have to work on getting better pitches to hit. See how they pitch you. If I can do that, I'll be better," he said. "I worked on everything (this winter). I want to get faster. You have to work on all of it, speed, defense. I want to be a better player than last year."


Twins' Byron Buxton named No. 1 prospect by MLB.com
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:00 am ET) Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was named the top prospect in baseball by MLB.com Friday.

Buxton played just 31 games in 2014 due to wrist and concussion issues and finished with a .240/.313/.405 line along with four home runs, 16 RBI and six stolen bases in 121 at-bats with high Class A Fort Myers. He also went 0 for 3 at the Double-A level. Buxton is making his second straight appearance atop MLB.com's top prospect list.

The rest of MLB.com's top-five prospects (in order) are Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, Astros shotstop Carlos Correa, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and Cubs shortstop Addison Russell. None of the quartet appeared in the top five of last year's MLB.com prospect list, though all four cracked the top 12.


Red Sox designate Drake Britton for assignment
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Red Sox designated pitcher Drake Britton for assignment Friday, clearing a roster spot for pitcher Alexi Ogando.

Britton appeared in seven games with the Red Sox in 2014, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out four batters and walking two. He posted a 5.86 ERA and 37:38 K:BB ratio in 58 1/3 innings with Triple-A Pawtucket.


Peter Moylan 'doing fantastic' in return from Tommy John
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Free-agent pitcher Peter Moylan indicated Friday that he's "doing fantastic" in his return from his second Tommy John surgery, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"I’m doing fantastic, mate. Dropped 35 pounds," Moylan said. “My goal is to be 100 percent by end of spring. Ball is coming out great, though. Probably have to throw for some teams right around the start of spring to gauge interest, but there have already been some nibbles, which is encouraging."

Moylan underwent the procedure last March after receiving a non-roster invitation from the Astros. He's throwing from about 70 percent strength off a mound and in the process of deciding whether to sign a a deal in the near future or after the season begins. He hopes to resume pitching in the big leagues by midseason at the earliest.

Moylan has made 309 appearances since debuting in 2006, compiling a 21-9 record, 2.80 ERA and 213:121 K:BB ratio in 276 innings.


Braves' Shelby Miller: Sinker is 'going to take me to the next level'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Braves starting pitcher Shelby Miller had an up-and-down season with the Cardinals in 2014. He began the season by going 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA before going 2-7 with a 5.11 ERA over his next 16 appearances (15 starts).

Miller, however, was able to finish the season on a high note, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and .190 opponents' batting average over his final seven starts. Miller attributes his success down the stretch to incorporating a sinker into his repertoire, per FOX Sports South.

"I said I'm going to throw some of these, and we'll see where it's at," Miller said of a conversation he had with catcher A.J. Pierzynski before an Aug. 23 start against the Phillies. "It felt good so we just went with it. I started throwing it literally within three days. It's a good pitch that I picked up quick.

"I still need a lot of work with it. I need a lot of work with all my pitches. There's all sorts of ways to get better. But I think that's definitely a pitch that will help me be more efficient and take me deeper into games. That's [the sinker] going to be a huge pitch for me this year that's ultimately going to take me to the next level. Not only that but kind of mixing it all together, becoming more of a complete pitcher more than a thrower."

Miller added he will also begin to work more on his changeup, which he threw just 2.2 percent of the time in 2014, per FanGraphs.com.

"I know [Braves pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] has been known for changeups," Miller said. "A lot of great pitchers have come through this organization, [and] that's a pitch I would love to pick up. I want to be able to throw it more consistently, [and] have a little bit more confidence in it."


Scott Baker agrees to minor-league deal with Yankees
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Yankees agreed to a minor-league deal with pitcher Scott Baker, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. If Baker makes the major-league roster, he will be paid $1.5 million.

Baker made 25 appearances (eight starts) for the Rangers in 2014, going 3-4 with a 5.47 ERA. He had 55 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings.


Rockies designate Jayson Aquino for assignment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) After completing a two-team trade Friday, the Rockies decided to designate Jayson Aquino for assignment, the team announced.

Aquino spent 2014 bouncing around the minor league, pitching in 18 games with a 5.13 ERA in 107 innings pitched. He went 5-10 with 83 strikeouts in stints with both Double-A Tulsa and Class A Modesto.


Report: Red Sox express willingness to trade Edward Mujica
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Red Sox have expressed a willingness to trade reliever Edward Mujica, a source told FOX Sports. The right-handed reliever is set to make $4.75 million in 2015.

Mujica, who was an All-Star with St. Louis in 2013, went 2-4 with a 3.90 ERA and eight saves in his first season with Boston in 2014.


Orioles 1B/OF Steve Pearce agrees to $3.7M salary for 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Orioles avoided arbitration with outfielder/first baseman Steve Pearce, agreeing to a $3.7 million salary for 2015, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Pearce reportedly filed for $5.4 million, while the Orioles reportedly offered $2 million.

Pearce is coming off his best season as a major leaguer, batting .293 with a .373 on-base percentage, .556 slugging percentage, .930 OPS, 21 home runs, 26 doubles and 49 RBI in 102 games.


 
 
 
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