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“That’s Amore!” St. Louis Cardinals Preview 2017

Falling one game short of the 2016 Wild Card game, the Cardinals will look to bounce back in 2017. 2016 saw the Cardinals pitching staff finish 12th overall compared to number one overall in 2015. This decline was easily evident in the starting rotation’s increase from a 2.99 ERA and 326 earned runs to 4.33 and 449. Adam Wainwright, arguably one of the most consistent starting pitchers in the game, had his worst statistical season in which he set career-highs in HR (22), ERA (4.62), and tied for the highest WHIP (1.40) since 2007, his first full season as a starting pitcher. I assure this won’t happen again, and Wainwright is one of my top three choices for NL Comeback Player of the Year. One of the bright spots was relief pitcher Seung Hwan Oh who filled in for injury-plagued closer Trevor Rosenthal and finished the season 19 saves, 1.92 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 103 strikeouts. The 2016 Cardinals offensive production was another story. They finished the season scoring 779 runs (647 in 2015), hitting 225 home runs (137 in 2015), .767 OPS (.716 in 2015), and outscoring their opponents 779-712. This increase in offensive production is directly correlated to the solid seasons by Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, and newcomer Jedd Gyorko. A few things stick out in terms of the team’s splits. The team was 24-23 in one-run games with 173 runs scored and 172 runs against. Being over .500 in one-run games always gives a team life in the playoff chase. In terms of the National League Central, the Cardinals finished with a 42-34 record, but still finished 17.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs. Outside of the division the team was 36-30, and 8-12 during interleague play. The split that amazed me the most was the Cardinals’ home/road split. At home, the team went 38-43, while finishing 48-33 on the road. If the team won two more home games, they beat out San Francisco for the final Wild Card spot. The old cliché became true: pitching wins ball games, and you have to win at home. I look for the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals to forget last season, and to rebound while playing with the sour taste in their mouths left from falling just short of the playoffs. This week, I bring you the second team preview in “That’s Amore!” St. Louis Cardinals Preview 2017.

Notable Off-Season Moves:

November 21 – Signed free agent LHP Brett Cecil.

December 1 – Traded LHP Jaime Garcia to Atlanta Braves for RHP Chris Ellis, RHP John Gant, and 2B Luke Dykstra.

December 9 – Signed free agent CF Dexter Fowler

Projected Batting Order:

CF – Dexter Fowler .271/14/50/15 SB
SS – Aledmys Diaz .285/15/65
1B – Matt Carpenter .278/27/95
RF – Stephen Piscotty .273/26/85
LF – Randal Grichuk .243/24/71
C – Yadier Molina .301/9/63
2B – Kolten Wong .247/10/49/20 SB
Pitcher

Projected Pitching Rotation:

Carlos Martinez (RHP) 15-8/3.00/188 K
Adam Wainwright (RHP) 16-10/3.97/170 K
Mike Leake (RHP) 11-11/4.54/125 K
Lance Lynn (RHP) 9-7/3.69/120 K
Michael Wacha (RHP) 8-7/3.90/121 K
Kevin Siegrist (LHP) [Setup] 2.95/22 Holds/65 K
Seung-hwan Oh 2.20/39 Saves/91 K

Minor League Maestro Spotlight:

Alex Reyes, RHP

ETA: 2018 (Underwent Tommy John surgery in February)

Reyes was primed for a solid 2017 campaign after dominating after his call in 2016. In 46.0 innings, Reyes went 4-1 (12 GP/5 GS) with a 1.57 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and [52:23] K:BB. Reyes possess top-of-the rotation stuff, and reaches the high-90s with his fastball with a phenomenal curveball. His changeup has progressed at each stop in the minor leagues while adding another weapon to his repertoire. At 22, Reyes is still a young player, and while he has a long road ahead of him while rehabbing from Tommy John, he’s primed to enter 2018 with a great chance at locking up a starting spot in the Cardinals rotation. Throughout four minor league seasons, Reyes has compiled a 20-21 record to go along with a 3.50 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and 449 strikeouts to 170 walks. No one will forget the success he had after being called up in 2016, and look for the righty to pickup after recovering from Tommy John.

Eliezer Alvarez, 2B

ETA: 2019

The Cardinals have a history of finding talent, and Alvarez could be their next gem through the international pipeline. 2016 saw Alvarez slash .323/.404/.476 while swiping 36 bags. He has the ability to play both middle infield positions, but projects cement him at second especially if Aledmys Diaz holds onto the starting job. He had a rough go around in the field committing 27 errors, but this number will drastically drop as he better defines his defensive abilities. Since his inaugural professional season in 2012, at 17, Alvarez has owned a career slash line of .293/.369/.440 with 12 HR, 127 RBI, and 64 stolen bases. As he adds mass to his 5’11” 165lb frame, there’s no reason he couldn’t slide over to third base. Right now, Alvarez is quiet amongst the fantasy baseball community, but if he has another big season and makes his way through Double-A he will be high up on everyone’s list in 2018. Remember his name, you will have him on your radar in the very near future.

Dakota Hudson, RHP

ETA: 2018-2019

Taken 34th overall in last season’s first-year player draft, Hudson was dominant in his final season at Mississippi State. Arguably a top-10 talent, Hudson fell down the draft boards and landed with one of the best organizations in Major League Baseball. At 6’5″ 215lbs, Hudson possesses ideal size for a starting pitcher. His repertoire includes a mid-to-high 90s fastball, a devastating slider, a changeup that keeps getting better, and above-average curve. Through 12 games in 2016, Hudson went 2-1 with a 0.68 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and a 19:7 K:BB in 13.1 IP. It’s only a matter of time before the Cardinals yet again develop a dynamite starting pitcher, and Hudson needs to be monitored by all owners of dynasty and keeper leagues.

Fantasy Outlook:

While 2016 might have been a down year for fantasy owners of St. Louis Cardinals pitchers, there were bright spots in Carlos Martinez and closer Seung Hwan Oh. For leagues that count holds and IRS+Holds, Kevin Siegrist was dynamite and should be so in 2017. Numerous offensive players were owned and six players reached the 20 home run plateau. Of the six, four are returning and shortstop Aledmys Diaz was just shy with 17 home runs of his own. This season expect a solid season from newly signed centerfielder Dexter Fowler. He should score around 85 runs while being a solid fourth outfield option in all fantasy leagues. There’s no questioning that Matt Carpenter has become the must-own St. Louis Cardinal. However, if he only carries first base eligibility owners could run into a conundrum as in recent years Carpenter carried multiple position eligibility. He’s still primed for 20+ HR and 75+ RBI. With the emergence of Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, fantasy owners have solid options after first and second tier outfielders come off the draft boards. Shortstop Aledmys Diaz looks like a lock to build off of a solid rookie season. Catcher Yadier Molina still holds value after top catching options come off the board, and I project him to hit .300 for a second straight season. The second base position could see multiple players getting playing time. While I have Kolten Wong penciled in as the Opening Day starter, no one can forget that Jedd Gyorko led the 2016 Cardinals with 30 HR in 400 at-bats. While Kolten Wong brings better defense and the ability to steal bags, Gyorko’s power can’t be ignored. If Gyorko hits a hot streak he will get the playing time.

Adam Wainwright had a season to forget in 2016. He’ll be up there in the running for NL Comeback Player of the Year, and I believe the righty will reach the 16 win plateau. While his ERA will be in the high-3.00, he should strikeout a solid number of batters. Of all the starting pitchers in this rotation, Carlos Martinez is the player to own. Of course, if Alex Reyes didn’t need Tommy John surgery I would’ve recommended targeting him in the mid-to-late rounds. Martinez was dynamite in 2016 posting a 16-9 record to go along with 174 strikeouts, a 3.04 ERA, and 1.22 WHIP. His numbers will be similar in 2017, and I project him to surpass 180 strikeouts. He’s a very solid number two option in fantasy baseball. As I mentioned earlier, Kevin Siegrist should lead this team in holds, and is a valuable asset in leagues that count holds as well as IRS+Holds. He finished 2016 with a sub-3.00 ERA (2.77) and 1.10 WHIP. I look for a second straight sub-3.00 ERA and whip under 1.25. Newly acquired LHP Brett Cecil is another reliever to keep an eye on as he’s definitely another pitcher with strong IRS+Holds numbers. Lastly, Seung Hwan Oh has earned the closing role, and should be a top-10 closer in 2017. He’s a great strikeout candidate (11.64 K9), and should push for 40 saves. This team will be better than last season, and they have numerous choices for fantasy baseball. Look for the 2017 Cardinals to push for the division, and ultimately lock up a Wild Card spot.

Season Projection: 91-71 (2nd in NL Central [1st Wild Card Spot])

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 12th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #78 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we break down both West divisions. We will discuss potential lineups, rotations, bullpens, and any minor league potential for each team along with a heavy fantasy spin.

Our guests this week are Kevin Bzdek and Kevin O’Hara. Kevin Bzdek is one of our newest additions to our baseball writing staff in 2017. His articles publish every Friday morning. Kevin O’Hara is a big dynasty baseball fan and a moderator for the fantasy baseball community on reddit.com.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 19th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #79 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss player updates, players being overdrafted, and overall fantasy updates.

Our guest this week is Jon Merkel. Jon is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com in both baseball and football. His articles publish every Wednesday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

 

I'm a former collegiate and semi-pro baseball player. I underwent successful Tommy John Surgery in 2008, and can give a wide-range of tips on the surgery and rehabilitation. Chicago sports are the love of my life [Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls] as well as Serie A football [Forza Rossoneri!]. 2018 will be my fourth writing for Major League Fantasy Sports, and each season gets better than the previous. 2016 was very emotional for Cubs fans alike. After 108 years, they finally scaled the mountaintop! "Baseball been berry, berry good to me!"

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