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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
Yangervis Solarte homers for Padres in loss
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:40 pm ET) Padres third baseman Yangervis Solarte homered for the second time in three days in Saturday's loss to St. Louis. 

Solarte snapped a 57 game homer drought on Thursday. He now has four homers on the year. 


Pirates closer Mark Melancon earns league-leading 26th save
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:40 pm ET) It's Independence Day. The last time Pirates closer Mark Melancon gave up a run, Memorial Day was just a twinkle in the eye of Father Time.

Melancon surrendered nothing but a walk and weakly hit infield single to the Indians on Saturday in tying Glen Perkins for the major league lead with 26 saves. He has not allowed a run in his last 25 appearances.

Things did get a bit hairy with two outs when he pitched around torrid Jason Kipnis for a walk and Francisco Lindor dumped a seeing-eye dribbler to short for a hit. But Melancon induced tough Michael Brandley to ground out to secure the victory.

His 1.62 ERA is at its lowest point since April 13.


Rockies' John Axford returns from inactive list; Justin Miller optioned
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:34 pm ET) The Rockies have reinstated reliever John Axford from the Family Medical Emergency list, the team announced on Saturday. Axford had been away from the team since Tuesday.

Right-hander Justin Miller was optioned to Triple-A to clear a spot on the 25-man roster.


Indians rookie SP Cody Anderson great again, but falls to Pirates
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:31 pm ET) Indians right-hander Cody Anderson was saddled with his first career defeat Saturday in Pittsburgh. But aside from the decision, it was another triumph.

Anderson earned his first complete game by pitching eight innings and allowing just one run on six hits. He walked none, fanned four and tossed a mere 92 pitches.

The impressive rookie, whose only hiccup was an RBI single to Neil Walker in the sixth, has given up just two runs in 23 2/3 innings over three starts. He actually raised his ERA to 0.76 in taking the loss.


Cardinals' Trevor Rosenthal gets 24th save of year
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:30 pm ET) Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 24th save of the season, against Ssan Diego on Saturday. 

Rosenthal allowed one hit and converted his 16th straight save opportunity. He's allowed at least one hit in each of his last five outings. 


Pirates SP Jeff Locke key to success in Saturday victory
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:26 pm ET) The last time Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke took the mound for the eighth inning he was making his second start of the season.

He did it again Saturday against Cleveland. And he completed it with a shutout and just 89 pitches in the book. He did not finish it - closer Mark Melancon did that - but Locke did raise his record to 5-4 and shrink his ERA to 4.15 with the effort. That is its lowest point since April 23.

Locke breezed, giving up just two hits with no walks and six strikeouts. Cleveland managed both of those singles in the second inning. Double plays in both of the first two frames helped Locke keep his pitch count down. He retired the last 19 batters he faced and has yielded just five earned runs in his last 29 innings pitched.


Cardinals' Seth Maness earns win in relief
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:25 pm ET) Seth Maness pitched a perfect eighth inning to earn the win for the Cardinals on Saturday. 

Maness moved to 3-0 on the year with his first win since June 26. 


Padres' Brandon Maurer suffers first loss of season
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:19 pm ET) Padres reliever Brandon Maurer suffered his first loss of the season, Saturday against St. Louis. 

Maurer gave up an unearned run in the eighth inning to drop to 5-1 on the year. It was the fifth straight game he hasn't allowed an earned run. 


Diamondbacks activate C Oscar Hernandez from DL; Dorn optioned
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:19 pm ET) The Diamondbacks have reinstated catcher Oscar Hernandez from the 60-day disabled list, the team announced on Saturday. Hernandez has been out all season due to a broken hand.

Hernandez played in 13 rehab games, going 8 for 38 with three RBI.  

As a Rule 5 draft pick, the Diamondbacks must keep a healthy Hernandez on the 25-man roster, or risk losing him back to the Rays.

The D-Backs have optioned outfielder Danny Dorn to Triple-A to clear room on the roster for Hernandez.


Phillies bench 1B Ryan Howard for Saturday game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:15 pm ET) Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has been slumping lately and struggling all year against left-handers. The result is that he is out of the lineup Saturday against Atlanta southpaw Alex Wood.

Howard has just two hits in his last 21 at-bats in dropping his average from .231 to .221. He is batting just .131 (8-for-61) against lefties this season.


 
 
 
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