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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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Player News
Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch admits to pressing too hard last spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:41 am ET) Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch is still pushing to earn a spot on the team's starting rotation this spring, but he knows he pushed a bit too hard last year, reports the Dallas Morning News.

"I was just trying to do a little too much," said Tepesch, who threw a scoreless inning on 14 pitches in Sunday's intrasquad game. "I was trying to make perfect pitches and staying who I am. Getting sent down allowed me to look at what made me successful and try to own those types of things. It was beneficial. I also now know that I can only control what I do. If I stay focused on that, pressure takes care of itself."


Tigers' Blaine Hardy hoping to reign in his accuracy in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Tigers pitcher Blaine Hardy is using this spring training to work on his control. Hardy struggled in 2014 with his control, walking 20 batters in 39 innings pitched.

"Last year I walked more people than I would've liked," he said to MLB.com. "That's definitely a learning point, learning the strike zone. It's a little bit different, a little bit smaller, but more consistent. With that being said, I felt like I had a good year, and hopefully I'll be able to come in and do the same thing with less walks."

Manager Brad Ausmus didn't think Hardy's season was as bad as people believe it was.

"I thought he did a good job for us, quite frankly," Ausmus said. "It kind of irks me a little bit when people want to split players' seasons up: Player X had a good year, but he really struggled in the second half. He still had a good year.

"Guys are going to struggle at some point in the season. It's probably more likely they struggle in the second half as they tire, but you can't discount what they did in the first half. Those games are just as important to win."


Rockies' Jhoulys Chacin faces hitters for first time Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin is feeling good about his health so far in camp. Good enough, in fact, that the 27-year-old faced hitters Saturday for the first time this spring.

Sunday, Chacin said he was without pain.

"Today I feel normal -- not like before," Chacin said. "I threw everything and felt good. I need to get into games to really feel back to normal, like it did two years ago [14-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 31 starts]. I know I've got a long way to go. I don't know what my velocity was, but it'll come up a little."

Chacin injured his rotator cuff in the middle of last season, forcing him out of action for nearly half the season.


Indians P Gavin Floyd comes out of live BP session pain free
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Following his first live batting practice of spring training, Indians pitcher Gavin Floyd came away without any pain the elbow he broke last season.

With the Braves in 2014, Floyd fractured his elbow in a game against the Nationals on June 19. The injury required surgery, which ended his season. Sunday morning's batting practice marked the first time he'd thrown to a batter since that game. 

"It's just another step," Floyd said via MLB.com. "It's the first time I had a significant bullpen, cooled down for a little bit and then got back out there. I felt really good. I've just got to continue to make progress and build up strength. Usually, that's just by doing it over and over again, and using spring to do that."


White Sox's Gordon Beckham working at multiple infield positions
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Gordon Beckham's main goal this spring training is to win the White Sox's starting second baseman position. 

But for now, the White Sox are planning to use him at multiple positions in the infield during Cactus League play, according to MLB.com. This is somewhat new for Beckham, as he played second base during his first five-plus Major League seasons with the White Sox. 

Though Beckham is looking to earn the starting job at second base, he seems to be enjoying playing multiple spots so far. 

"I'm actually kind of enjoying running around," Beckham said. "I like popping around the infield. I know the coaches and the people making the decisions know I can play second base and know I can play it well. There has been an emphasis on them just telling me to get some work in other places."

Beckham actually played shortstop in college at the University of Georgia and played that position, as well as third base, after the White Sox traded him to the Angels. He was brought back to Chicago on a one-year deal. 

Beckham hit a single-season worse .226 for both the Angels and White Sox a season ago. 


Giants' Tim Lincecum to 'piggyback' starter this week
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Giants manager Bruce Bochy said pitcher Tim Lincecum will see a relief appearance early this week, according to MLB.com

Lincecum is generating rave reviews for his performance early on in spring training. However, he won't be getting a start this week. Bochy said Lincecum will "piggyback" either Madison Bumgarner (Tuesday), Jake Peavy (Wednesday), Ryan Vogelsong (Thursday) or Yusmeiro Petit (Friday) this week. 

This means Lincecum will come in and get a starter's workload in relief. 


Giants' Jake Peavy to start Wednesday for Giants
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Following Madison Bumgarner's exhibition start on Tuesday, the Giants will go with Jake Peavy to start Wednesday's Cactus League game against the Athletics, manager Bruce Bochy announced via MLB.com

Ryan Vogelsong will pitch Thursday against the Cubs and Yusmeiro Petit will go Friday against the Rangers. 


White Sox's Gordon Beckham working at multiple infield positions
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Gordon Beckham's main goal this spring training is to win the White Sox's  starting second baseman position. 

But for now, the White Sox are planning to use him at multiple positions in the infield during Cactus League play, according to MLB.com. This is somewhat new for Beckham, as he played second base during his first five-plus Major League seasons with the White Sox. 

Though Beckham is looking to earn the starting job at second base, he seems to be enjoying playing multiple spots so far. 

"I'm actually kind of enjoying running around," Beckham said. "I like popping around the infield. I know the coaches and the people making the decisions know I can play second base and know I can play it well. There has been an emphasis on them just telling me to get some work in other places."

Beckham actually played shortstop in college at the University of Georgia and played that position, as well as third base, after the White Sox traded him to the Angels. He was brought back to Chicago on a one-year deal. 

Beckham hit a single-season worse .226 for both the Angels and White Sox a season ago. 


Phillies pitcher Paul Clemens fighting for spot in bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
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"Some pitching coaches tell me how incredible my arm is and that I could play for a long time, so I think I've been showing some guys what I bring to the table," Clemens said. "I had a couple really good conversations with front office and some guys around here, so it's definitely motivating."

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"Sometimes I think I get too overzealous with my fastball and I just pound it and pound it and pound it. So picking my spots more, being smarter. You can't really challenge guys at this level. Once in a while you've got to pick your spots, but you can't challenge too many guys, even the guys you don't really know their names as much. You've still got to pitch."


Athletics to ease Coco Crisp into action this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/1/2015) Athletics manager Bob Melvin wants to take things slow with veteran outfielder Coco Crisp this spring, reports MLB.com.

"I'll probably hold him out the first few because I'm going to cut down on his workload," Melvin said Sunday.

Crisp, who is dealing with a case of pinkeye, was held out of an intrasquad scrimmage, even though he was able to take part in batting practice.


 
 
 
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