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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
Jay Bruce homers twice, drives in three
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/21/2014) Reds outfielder Jay Bruce sandwiched two solo homers around an RBI single in a 7-2 win Sunday over the Cardinals. Bruce, hitting .217, is up to 18 homers and 65 RBI.

Lance Lynn fans nine in defeat
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/21/2014) Cardinals starter Lance Lynn struck out nine over six innings Sunday, but took the loss in a 7-2 defeat to the Reds. Lynn allowed three runs on four hits, including two homers to Jay Bruce, while walking a pair.

Now 15-10 with a 2.73 ERA, Lynn is scheduled to face Arizona on Saturday.


Alfredo Simon registers 15th win
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/21/2014) Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon improved to 15-10 Sunday with six strong innings in a 7-2 win over the Cardinals. Simon allowed two runs on seven hits, striking out three and walking two, and lowered his ERA to 3.34.

Simon had gone seven innings in four of his previous five starts, and he owned a 17-inning scoreless stretch before the Cards scored in the fifth. He'll take on the Pirates at home Saturday.


Royals done sitting Billy Butler
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) Though Billy Butler looked like he may have lost his DH job to Josh Willingham for the first couple weeks after Eric Hosmer returned from a hand injury, Royals manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City Star Sunday that the longtime Royal will play every day the rest of the way.

Butler went 2 for 4 with an RBI Sunday against the Tigers. It was just his sixth start in the team's last 15 games.


Jed Lowrie exits after getting hit in foot
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) Athletics shortstop Jed Lowrie was hit in the foot by a pitch in his first at-bat Sunday against the Phillies, but the Athletics didn't remove him from the game until the fifth inning. Nick Punto took his place.

"He's all right," manager Bob Melvin told MLB.com. "Just got it pretty good on the foot. As a shortstop you have to have your range, and on the ball in the hole he was having a little trouble getting over there."

Lowrie is day to day.


Xander Bogaerts should be back Tuesday
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who left Sunday's game with a stiff neck, should be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Rays, according to the Providence Journal. The injury was the aftereffect of him getting hit by a ricocheted ball in batting practice.

Though Bogaerts is having a so-so rookie season, he has been terrific in September, batting .312 (24 for 77) with four home runs and an .840 OPS.


Pedro Alvarez could return for postseason
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) Though Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who hasn't played since Sept. 5, has been ruled out for the rest of the regular season, he could potentially return for the NLDS if the Pirates advance that far, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune. The Pirates are currently tied with the Giants for the top wild card spot.

Alvarez had lost his starting third base job to Josh Harrison even before the injury, but he had begun transitioning to first base, making five starts there.


Jason Heyward has swelling in the thumb
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, who was out of the lineup for a third straight game Sunday against the Mets because of a thumb injury, hasn't been able to grip a bat yet because of swelling in the thumb, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He remains day to day.

Chaz Roe designated for assignment
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) The Yankees designated right-hander Chaz Roe for assignment Sunday. Roe made three appearances for them in September, allowing two earned runs on three hits and three walks in two innings.

Astros relievers have hurt obliques
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) According to the Houston Chronicle, Astros relievers Darin Downs and Josh Fields are both nursing oblique injuries. Because Downs aggravated a previous injury, he could possibly miss the rest of the season.

Downs last pitched in a game Friday. Fields, who was beginning to earn some save opportunities, hasn't pitched since Sept. 9.


 
 
 
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