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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
Agent: Former Red Sox standout Kevin Youkilis retiring
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:38 am ET) Former Red Sox standout third baseman Kevin Youkilis has called it quits, his agent told the Boston Herald.

Youkilis, who retires with a .281 lifetime average and 150 home runs, played in Japan last season and batted just .215 in 65 at-bats.


Brewers decline option on 2B Rickie Weeks
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:26 am ET) Second baseman Rickie Weeks, who has been playing with the Brewers since 2003, will be wearing a different uniform in 2015, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which is reporting that the team will not pick up his $14.5 option.

The 32-year-old Weeks has certainly played himself out of that salary range. His production has dropped markedly in recent years, though his .274 average this season was his highest since 2006. Weeks, however, earned just 252 at-bats and struck out an alarming 73 times.


Rays expected to pick up option on 2B Ben Zobrist
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:19 am ET) The Rays are expected to exercise their $7.5 option on second baseman Ben Zobrist before its Saturday deadline, per the Tampa Bay Times.

The 2014 season was marked by consistency and production from Zobrist, who was voted the team's most valuable player by the local baseball writers. He compiled a stat line of .272/.354/.395, scored 83 runs and added 10 stolen bases.


Report: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka could leave Mets for Japan
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:11 am ET) Veteran right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka has stated his desire to pitch as a starter somewhere going forward - and that somewhere could be Japan.

The Pacific League champion Fukuoka Softbank Hawks are planning to offer Matsuzaka a four-year deal, according to Sports Hochi. The deal would be worth about $3.58 million per season.

The 34-year-old Matsuzaka went 3-3 with a 3.89 ERA for the Mets in 2014. Only nine of his 34 appearances were as a starter and he is unlikely to land a spot in the rotation of a Mets team next season that is getting younger, healthier and stronger.


Diamondbacks clear their 60-day disabled list
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/30/2014) The Diamondbacks have moved four players off the 60-day disabled list, according to the Arizona Republic

Bronson Arroyo, Patrick Corbin, David Hernandez and Matt Reynolds were activated Thursday. Players are not allowed to be on the 60-day disabled list during the offseason. They can be put back on the 60-day DL once the season begins again. 


Diamondbacks bring back Daniel Hudson, Matt Reynolds
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/30/2014) The Diamondbacks have picked up options on Daniel Hudson and Matt Reynolds, according to the Arizona Republic

Hudson returned to the majors after undergoing two Tommy John surgery. He tossed just 2 2/3 innings, posting a 13.50 ERA. Reynolds spent all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery. 


Padres decline option on Josh Johnson, but could bring him back
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/30/2014) The Padres have declined an option on pitcher Josh Johnson, according to MLB.com.

Johnson missed most of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was owed $4 million next season, but the Padres opted to buy out the final year on his contract. Despite the move, Johnson could return to San Diego at a lesser price. The 30-year-old pitcher reportedly has interest in staying with the club. 


Orioles decline to bring back Nick Hundley
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/30/2014) The Orioles have declined an option on catcher Nick Hundley.

Hundley hit .243/.273/.358 over 218 at-bats last season between San Diego and Baltimore. He was set to earn $5 million in 2015, but the Orioles didn't want him at that price. He'll look to hook on with another club this winter.


Orioles decline option on Nick Markakis
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/30/2014) The Orioles have declined an option on outfielder Nick Markakis.

Markakis was owed $17.5 million next season, but the team opted to buy out his contract for $2 million. The 30-year-old Markakis will head into the offseason a free-agent. He hit .276/.342/.386 over 642 at-bats last year.


Orioles bring back Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O'Day
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/30/2014) The Orioles have brought back pitcher Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O'Day for next season.

The club had options on both players and decided to pick them up. Chen posted a 3.54 ERA over 185 2/3 innings last year. O'Day posted a 1.70 ERA over 68 2/3 innings. 


 
 
 
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