Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Finding Keepers: St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals were one of only two teams to finish the 2010 season with three players in the Top 20, according to
ESPN's Player Rater system. Unfortunately, for the Cards, only two of those players will be fantasy relevant for the 2011 season.

1B Albert Pujols has undoubtedly been the greatest player in baseball over the past decade, fantasy or not. In the first 10 seasons of his career, he's averaging 156 games played with a .331 batting average, 41 HR, 123 RBI, 119 Runs and even 8 SB a year. AVERAGING! If you have the first pick in your draft, you take Albert and smile. If you have the second pick in your draft, you hope someone gets cute with their pick and Albert falls in your lap. If you have the third pick in your league, sorry but Albert is gone. Better luck next year (or next draft).

OF Matt Holliday finished 2010 as the 7th-ranked outfielder and begins 2011 ranked as the 4th best. To me that says he's projecting better numbers this season than he had last year or staying steady and others are projecting worse numbers. His slash line looked like this: .312/95/28/103/9. Keep him around for years to come, as he's showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

I want to take a moment to discuss the danger of drafting (or even locking in keepers) in February. I'm just as excited as the next guy to want to draft and get the fantasy baseball season rolling as soon as all the major services announce they are open for business but it makes no sense to do it so early. (All five of the leagues I'm participating in this year have drafted in the last two weeks or are still yet to draft.) And this is not just about possible injuries. There are jobs to be won and lost, too. SP Adam Wainwright suffered an injury that will require Tommy John surgery and keep him out the entire 2011 season and possibly beyond. This all happened by February 24th. Fantasy leagues, as a whole, benefit from not having a team use a precious top pick or keeper selection on an injured player. Show restraint and draft as late as possible.

SP Chris Carpenter is on the keeper bubble since he, too, is dealing with an injury that could linger. I've already witnessed experienced fantasy players skip over him in live drafts. So either they were assessing the risk as too high or the uncertainty caused them to focus their efforts elsewhere. More than likely this injury won't linger all year and some owners got a fantasy ace at a bargain price.

23-year-old OF Colby Rasmus should be a keeper. The problem with that statement is that I don't agree that he is a keeper, yet. He's shown 20+ HR potential and the ability to get his batting average up near .280 but he's yet to gain the confidence of his manager and at times it feels like the franchise has yet to support him and his abilities. Is it a question of maturity (or lack thereof)? A trade this offseason would have had me feeling a lot better about his 2011 season. has him being drafted around the same time (93.35) as D'Backs OF Chris Young. I've targeted Young in all four drafts I've completed so far. Not once did I consider Rasmus as an alternative option.

Best of the rest but not keepers:
  • 1B/OF Lance Berkman was brought in to provide some offensive punch to the lineup and defensively man RF. He could put up some nice numbers if he's able to stay healthy. If.
  • SP Jaime Garcia was a great find for savvy owners last year that paid attention during the Spring and early April. Expect some regression from 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA but don't over invest.
  • CL Ryan Franklin projects to save around 30 games. RP Jason Motte could chip away at some saves, too. Neither are elite.
  • 3B David Freese could be a nice, cheap option at a shallow position with his .300/15/80 potential.
  • C Yadier Molina is an option at catcher that won't kill you (.280/7/50)  to own but probably won't excite you either.
The St. Louis Cardinals' roster has two elite fantasy baseball players that are definite keepers (Pujols and Holliday) for 2011 and beyond. I'd love to see a healthy Carpenter make another run at 20 wins and Rasmus to put up monster numbers but the reality of either happening seems remotely possible, at best.

I'm down to just one team left to cover (the Toronto Blue Jays) in my "Finding Keepers" series of articles. I hope you'll take the time to check out your favorite team. Hopefully you'll notice that the structure and depth of the team coverages got better the more I wrote them. I'd love to hear some feedback in the comments section.

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