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2013 Fantasy outlooks: St. Louis Cardinals

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Years from now, fans will still remember that the Giants won the 2012 World Series, but they may not remember that the Cardinals were painfully close to a successful defense of their 2011 title. Needing just one more win to clinch a World Series berth after Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, the Giants shut down the Cards' offense in three straight games, denying them a face-off against the American League champion Tigers.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Now the Cardinals enter the 2013 season with essentially the same team from a year ago. Sure, first baseman Lance Berkman is gone, but knee injuries limited him to 32 games and a .444 slugging percentage last season. The biggest loss this offseason is actually the departure of free agent starting pitcher Kyle Lohse, who led the Cardinals' starters in innings, games started, ERA and WHIP. Chris Carpenter, who missed all but the last two weeks of the regular season due to thoracic outlet syndrome, was supposed to fill the vacancy left by Lohse. However, it appears that Carpenter's ongoing health struggles will keep him out for yet another season and possibly put an end to his career.

Adam Wainwright will return to head up the rotation, along with Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn. Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly will compete for the fifth starter's slot. While each of the projected top four starters, save for Westbrook, is draftable in standard mixed leagues, Wainwright could be especially valuable for Fantasy owners. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, he posted strikeout, walk and ground ball rates similar to those of his pre-surgery years, but an unusually low strand rate inflated his ERA to 3.94. Though last season's ERA doesn't hint at it, Wainwright would be a solid pick to be your staff ace if you miss out on the other top options. Jason Motte will return as St. Louis' closer, and like Wainwright, he could make substantial improvements to his ERA -- which at 2.75, wasn't so bad to begin with -- and match his total of 42 saves.

The lineup also remains intact, with Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and David Freese all looming as potential power threats and run-producers. Either Jon Jay or Rafael Furcal is likely to assume the leadoff spot. Jay filled that role late last season, and if he reprises it, he could be a surprising source of runs and batting average. He could also help with stolen bases, as he collected 12 of them after the All-Star break.

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Jon Jay CF
2. Carlos Beltran RF
3. Matt Holliday LF
4. Allen Craig 1B
5. Yadier Molina C
6. David Freese 3B
7. Daniel Descalso 2B
8. Rafael Furcal SS
Bench Ty Wigginton 1B/3B
Bench Matt Carpenter 1B/3B/OF
Bench Pete Kozma SS

The Cardinals won't put much young talent on display this season, but their collection of reliable veterans should keep them in contention for at least another year. Meanwhile, the organization has enough prospects in the farm system to not only keep the major league squad competitve for years to come, but also to continue as a fertile source of draftable Fantasy talent.

Injury-risk sleeper ... Jaime Garcia, starting pitcher

Garcia was shut down during the postseason with a rotator cuff strain and inflammation in his left shoulder, but because he opted to forego surgery, he could be ready for opening day. Though Garcia has insisted this offseason that his recovery is going well, owners will still take a risk in drafting him. That said, Garcia should be available late in standard mixed league drafts, and if he is healthy, he could be a tremendous value. His command has improved with each season, but last season's 3.92 ERA created the illusion of a downturn. As with Wainwright, if he can just strand a few more runners -- and Garcia has shown that he is capable of that -- owners should reap the reward of a lower ERA and higher overall Fantasy value.

Bust ... Carlos Beltran, outfielder

If owners focus on Beltran's 32 home runs and 97 RBI from a season ago, they may feel emboldened to draft him among the top 30 outfielders. In fact, I did this myself in our early Head-to-Head mock draft conducted in December. I knew Beltran's power numbers were pumped up by an unsustainably high home run per flyball rate over the season's first two months, but what I overlooked was the severe deterioration in his plate discipline. He continued a four-year trend of swinging at offerings outside the strike zone at an increasing rate. Last season's 124 strikeouts -- his highest total since 2002 -- were no accident, and if the trend continues he could pay the price with a sub-.260 average and depleted power and run production stats. Resist the urge to take Beltran until 40 or so outfielders have come off the board.

Impact prospect ... Shelby Miller, relief pitcher

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Adam Wainwright RHP
2. Jaime Garcia LHP
3. Jake Westbrook RHP
4. Lance Lynn RHP
5. Shelby Miller RHP
ALT Trevor Rosenthal RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Jason Motte RHP
2. Mitchell Boggs RHP
3. Edward Mujica RHP
4. Marc Rzepczynski LHP
5. Fernando Salas RHP

Even before Carpenter's continued health issues came to light, Miller was a contender for a rotation spot, but with Carpenter likely to be out, the rookie's chances to break camp as a starter got a lot better. The 22-year-old's 4.74 ERA at Triple-A Memphis last season may make it look as if he is not quite ready for prime time, but that mark was inflated by a midseason eight-game stretch in which he allowed 12 home runs over 34 2/3 innings and posted an 8.57 ERA. Miller finished his minor league season strong and performed well during his September big league callup, in which he made five relief appearances and a start. It's not a lock that Miller will be on the opening day roster, but even in the event that he starts off in Triple-A, he should be rostered in most mixed leagues.

Prospects Report

As if the Cardinals don't already have a potent lineup, they also have outfielder Oscar Taveras -- one of the top-hitting prospects in the minors -- as a potential midseason callup. The 20-year-old hits for power and average, and he will likely start the year at Triple-A Memphis. ... So, too, will Kolten Wong, though there is a more immediate opportunity for him to crack the Cardinals' lineup this season. Should Daniel Descalso flounder as an everyday second baseman, Wong could inherit the job. ... First baseman Matt Adams' bat may be major-league ready, but barring an injury, there's no room for him in St. Louis. He's still worth a look in deep long-term keeper leagues. ... Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal both have ace potential and both could find themselves in the Cardinals' rotation sometime this year. If Rosenthal loses out in the fifth starter competition this spring, he could fill a setup or middle relief role, at least initially. ... Hard-throwing Carlos Martinez is at least another year away from the majors, and when he does arrive it could be either as a starter or reliever. ... Though he was drafted as the Cardinals' first-round pick just last summer, Michael Wacha isn't far behind, giving the organization yet another young arm with high upside.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Red Sox agree to deal with pitcher Alexi Ogando
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(3:52 pm ET) The Red Sox have agreed to a deal with pitcher Alexi Ogando, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is a one-year, major-league contract, according to FOX Sports.

Ogando has been a free agent since being non-tendered by the Rangers in December. Ogando made just 27 relief appearances in 2014 due to an elbow injury. He went 2-3 with a 6.84 ERA.

Ogando, who was an All-Star in 2011, also has experience starting at the major-league level, going 19-12 with a 3.40 ERA in 48 career starts.


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(3:42 pm ET) The Braves traded pitchers David Hale and Gus Schlosser to the Rockies on Friday in exchange for catchers Jose Briceno and Chris O’Dowd.

Hale went 4-5 with a 3.30 ERA in 45 relief appearances for Atlanta in 2014. He struck out 44 batters and issued 39 walks in 87 1/3 innings.

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"I don't know if I'd say we're buying time for Moya," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said last week. "Probably when a guy as talented as Moya is ready, he'll make his way onto a team. I don't think we could absolutely say, trying to win a pennant, trying to win a world championship, you can count on him being 100 percent ready."

The 23-year-old Moya hit .276 with a .555 slugging percentage, .861 OPS, 33 doubles, 35 home runs and 105 RBI in 133 games last season at Double-A. He has a career .251/.444/.739 slash line over six minor-league seasons.

Moya also made a brief appearance in the majors last season, batting .375 (3 for 8) in 11 games.

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(3:23 pm ET) The Braves signed catcher Jesus Flores to a minor-league contract Friday, which includes an invite to spring training, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Pirates sign Wilkin Castillo, Josh Wall to minor-league deals
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(3:18 pm ET) The Pirates have signed catcher Wilkin Castillo and pitcher Josh Wall to minor-league contracts, which include invites to spring training.

Rockies sign Betancourt, Quintanilla to minor-league deals
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:11 pm ET) The Rockies signed former closer Rafael Betancourt and infielder Omar Quintanilla to minor-league contracts Friday, per MLB.com. 

Quintanilla spent the last two seasons with the Mets, while Betancourt did not pitch in the majors in 2014 as he was working his way back from Tommy John surgery. He did pitch in the minors, going 2-0 with a 4.66 ERA.

"I have another chance," Betancourt said by phone from his offseason home in Orlando, Fla. "Compared to how it was last year or even when I was pitching in games, I feel a lot more normal now.

"When I threw for the Rockies last week, I threw all my pitches -- fastball, changeup and breaking ball. Last year, I didn't throw any breaking balls, because my arm felt weird. It's 16 months after surgery and everything is going well. I'm also happy the Rockies stuck with me; they have a new GM [Jeff Bridich] but still were there for me, and I appreciate that."


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