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Editor’s note: We continue our countdown of how MLB’s 30 teams rank in terms of fantasy baseball assets. At No. 17, here’s Andy Behrens’ snapshot of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals claimed their millionth division and/or league flag last season, winning 91 games and ultimately reaching the NLCS, where they were dismissed by the Nationals. All things considered, it was a hugely successful year, which of course is nothing new for this franchise. St. Louis didn’t make major changes in the offseason, but none were needed. The lineup is potent — a blend of vets and young talent — and the starting rotation has an emerging ace at the top. As ever, the Cards are going to be a problem for the rest of the National League.
Jack Flaherty will be the first St. Louis fantasy commodity off the board in pretty much every draft (ADP 21.3). You can snag him in Round 2 and it won’t (or shouldn’t) be viewed as a reach. He’s obscene, and only 24 years old. Flaherty produced a 0.97 WHIP over 196.2 innings last season, striking out 231 batters while walking 55. His K-rate has held over the past two seasons while the walks have come down. He’s a star — just look at this filth:
Draft and enjoy. No one else in the Cardinals’ starting staff is anywhere near Flaherty in terms of fantasy upside or relevance, and the team’s presumptive No. 2 arm, Miles Mikolas, is battling elbow/forearm issues. Carlos Martinez is reportedly healthy and headed for a rotation spot. New arrival Kwang-Hyun Kim has passed the eye test this spring, too; he could have mixed-league appeal, assuming he lands a starting role.
The biggest open fantasy (and MLB club) question surrounding this team at present is how, exactly, manager Mike Shildt plans to handle the ninth inning. We’re drafting Giovanny Gallegos as if he’s the likeliest closer — he was lights-out last year (0.81 WHIP, 11.3 K/9) — but the team might very well leave him in the role in which he excelled. Andrew Miller may no longer be a bankable option, as he was dealing with arm issues prior to the spring training shutdown. Other closing options include ... well, pretty much everyone. Jordan Hicks is returning from Tommy John surgery but isn’t going to make an appearance until July at the earliest. If you’re drafting Gallegos, do it because he’s simply a great reliever who can have a positive impact on your ratios. He’s no lock for a big save total, at least not yet.
Paul Goldschmidt is a well-established fantasy commodity deserving his top-five positional ADP, likely to deliver another three-category impact season in homers, RBI and runs. His batting average dipped 30 points last year, but the key batted-ball rates were in line with prior seasons. Goldy hit .290 or better for six straight years before leaving Arizona, so a bounce-back wouldn’t come as much of a surprise. He almost never misses games, a huge plus. Yadier Molina stubbornly refuses to decline and makes for a fine end-game option in deep formats. Paul DeJong offers very cheap power at shortstop (ADP 196.4), a reflection of the depth of his position and the general availability of power. Nonetheless, DeJong has clear value. Tommy Edman was a revelation last season, slashing .304/.350/.500 with 11 HRs and 15 steals over 92 games. He should see time all over the diamond, giving him a path to regular at-bats and multi-position eligibility.
St. Louis, naturally, has a prospect on the way who has the potential to make a serious fantasy splash. Dylan Carlson produced a 26/20 season in the high minors last year while hitting .292/.372/.542. He’d also been raking during spring training. Whenever he arrives, fantasy managers should be ready to add.