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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
Buster Posey smacks walkoff home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:23 am ET) Giants catcher Buster Posey went 3 for 5 with three RBI and hit a walkoff, two-run home run in his team's 4-2 win over the Rockies Wednesday.

Posey gave his team a 2-1 lead with an RBI single in the seventh inning, but the Rockies managed to even the game in the top of the ninth. The catcher came up with one on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth and came through with a game-ending homer. Posey has hit .292/.348/.465 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI in 449 at-bats.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:21 am ET) Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio was stuck with a loss Wednesday, allowing a walkoff two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth in his team's 4-2 defeat against the Giants.

Nicasio (5-6) wrapped two strikeouts around a single before Buster Posey deposited a pitch over the left-field wall to end the game. He's surrendered six earned runs in 10 innings since rejoining the team in early August. Nicasio owns a 5.86 ERA and 55:28 K:BB ratio in 83 innings.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:18 am ET) Giants closer Santiago Casilla blews a save opportunity Wednesday, giving up one earned run on one hit and one walk in one inning, but he still managed to pick up a win in his team's 4-2 victory over the Rockies.

Casilla (2-3) threw just five of his 15 pitches for strikes Wednesday, and a Justin Morneau double brought home a run and cost the closer a save. He owns a 1.71 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 39:14 K:BB ratio in 47 1/3 innings.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:16 am ET) Angels first baseman Albert Pujols was removed from Wednesday's game due to minor calf tightness, MLB.com reports.

The injury isn't expected to cost Pujols time, as manager Mike Scioscia expects to have him in the lineup Thursday. The first baseman went 0 for 3 with a walk and an RBI before coming out of Wednesday's game.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
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Trout tied the game at 1-1 with an RBI single in the third inning and piled on with his seventh-inning solo home run. He has four multi-hit performances in his last six games, with three including a home run. Trout has hit .291/.378/.565 with 30 home runs and 94 RBI in 501 at-bats.


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Hudson hadn't completed eight innings in a start since the end of June, and he needed just 87 pitches to pull off the feat Wednesday. His only damage came on a fifth-inning home run. Hudson owns a 2.90 ERA and 106:29 K:BB ratio in 167 2/3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Rockies again Monday, this time in Colorado.


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(1:10 am ET) Rockies pitcher Franklin Morales didn't factor into the decision Wednesday, allowing one earned run on seven hits and one walk in six innings while striking out six in his team's 4-2 loss to the Giants.

Morales hadn't completed six innings while holding the opposition to one run or fewer since April before doing so Wednesday, when his only run came on a bunt single in the fourth inning. He owns a 5.14 ERA and 86:55 K:BB ratio in 124 1/3 innings. Morales is scheduled to face the Giants again Monday.


Zach Duke takes first loss Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:10 am ET) Brewers pitcher Zach Duke was stuck with his first loss Wednesday, giving up one earned run on two hits and one walk while recording two outs in his team's 3-2, 10th-inning defeat against the Padres.

Duke (4-1) put the first two batters of the bottom of the 10th inning on base but looked like he may escape with the game still tied after retiring the next two batters. It didn't happen, as a single brought home the game-ending run. Duke, who has put together a rocky August, owns a 2.47 ERA and 63:15 K:BB ratio in 51 innings.


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Alvarez (10-6) watched a four-start winning streak end Wednesday, allowing three runs in the third inning before serving up solo home runs in the fourth and seventh innings. He's now given up four home runs in his last two starts combined. Alvarez owns a 2.75 ERA and 97:29 K:BB ratio in 157 innings. He's scheduled to face the Mets Monday.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:01 am ET) Angels pitcher Hector Santiago earned a win Wednesday, allowing one earned run on three hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings while striking out six in his team's 6-1 victory over the Marlins.

Santiago (4-7) fell behind 1-0 after surrendering a home run in the third inning, but he was able to buckle down and hold the Marlins at bay over the rest of the start. He owns a 3.28 ERA and 94:41 K:BB ratio in 107 innings. Santiago is set to face the Astros Tuesday.


 
 
 
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