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Pressing Fantasy Baseball Questions: The 2018 St. Louis Cardinals

The perennial contenders figure to be fighting for a playoff spot once again in 2018, as the Cardinals bring back most of last year’s roster with the addition of a new middle of the order hitter. After trying hard to trade for Giancarlo Stanton yet ultimately failing, St. Louis acquired Marcell Ozuna, who’s coming off a monstrous campaign while just entering his prime and more than just a consolation prize. The Cardinals don’t stand out in any area but also have no real weaknesses and while they may not have any true fantasy superstars, there are plenty of interesting options on this roster, so let’s get right to the pressing fantasy questions.

Q: Who’s the closer?

A: The Cardinals enter with one of the cloudier closing situations in baseball, as there’s no clear dominant arm in the pen despite it being a contending team that recorded the seventh-best relief pitching ERA in MLB last season. An eventual trade may be the likeliest outcome, but as of now, Luke Gregerson enters as the favorite to close, with Dominic Leone, Bud Norris and Tyler Lyons also competing for the role.

Gregerson has been dealing with a sore oblique but is feeling better. He was generally considered the favorite entering spring training and has experience, but given his heavy reliance on his slider (he throws it nearly half the time), Gregerson can struggle against lefties, making him hardly ideal for an inflexible role. Lyons may be next up, but he’s a left-hander, and Norris has turned himself into a darkhorse candidate who’s practically free at draft tables. Leone, meanwhile, has allowed one run over four appearances and has racked up a couple of saves in spring.

In what appears to be a committee, take whomever comes cheapest in a situation that’s a mess for fantasy owners.

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Q: How good is Tommy Pham?

A: He’d shown glimpses of potential, but injuries had always held Pham back until last season, when he truly broke out, joining the .300/.400/.500 club (one of only seven players in it last year), producing a 148 wRC+ that ranked top-10 in baseball (and the same mark Kris Bryant had the year earlier when he won an MVP). Pham doesn’t project to hit for a ton more power unless he changes his approach, but he just batted .300 and went 23/25 in only 444 at bats, so he’s a legit top-20 fantasy outfielder. Pham’s durability remains a concern, but he’s also a good defender and baserunner, and the addition of Ozuna should help his counting stats while locked into a great lineup spot, so there’s a lot to like here.

Q: Who’s a breakout candidate?

A: Luke Weaver is the obvious pick here, and while he’s hardly flying under the radar, there’s reason to be excited. Weaver benefits from pitching both in front of what should be a good defense as well as a home park that’s markedly decreased run scoring and homers over the last three seasons. The former first round pick showed improved velocity last year and albeit in a sample of just 60.1 innings, his 3.17 FIP and 21.8 K-BB% would’ve both ranked in the top-10 among starters. Weaver’s breakout is imminent.

[2018 Fantasy Baseball rankings: Overall | H | P | C | 1B | 2B | 3B |SS | OF | SP | RP]

Quick Hits: Yadier Molina completely changed last year, setting career highs in Hard%, K% and SwStr%, as he sacrificed contact for power. It’s easy to avoid a 35-year-old catcher coming off such an outlier season, but regression has been priced into his ADP…Matt Carpenter is another boring veteran who’s often profitable in fantasy leagues, but he’s already hurt, and fantasy owners want to see what Jose Martinez can do anyway…Harrison Bader is a prospect to note, and his path to playing time accelerated with the Randal Grichuk trade…Kolten Wong’s once promising fantasy intrigue has faded with him platooning from the bottom of the order, but he did hit .285 last year, and he’s running like crazy in spring…Paul DeJong was one of the more pleasant surprises in 2017, but his breakout came with one steal and a 124:21 K:BB ratio over 108 games…Jedd Gyorko has hit 50 homers over the last two years in fewer than 430 ABs in both and is 2B eligible, yet he’s barely owned in 50 percent of Yahoo leagues

Alex Reyes might have the most long-term fantasy upside on the roster, but he’ll be handled carefully coming off Tommy John surgery, likely not to appear in the majors until May at the earliest. His initial role remains unclear, but Reyes is another option in the pen before he eventually settles in as a dominant starter…It’s been a great run, Adam Wainwright…It’s possible Carlos Martinez has a Cy Young type campaign in him at some point. Maybe it’s this year…Miles Mikolas resurrected his career over the last three seasons in Japan and is an intriguing fantasy arm given his situation, but if you’re looking for one mid-tier SP to target on St. Louis, make it Michael Wacha.

Cardinals Projected Lineup

RF Dexter Fowler
CF Tommy Pham
1B Matt Carpenter
LF Marcell Ozuna
C Yadier Molina
SS Paul DeJong
3B Jeff Gyorko
2B Kolten Wong

Cardinals Projected Staff

SP Carlos Martinez
SP Adam Wainwright
SP Michael Wacha
SP Luke Weaver
SP Miles Mikolas

RP Luke Gregerson
RP Dominic Leone
RP Bud Norris
RP Tyler Lyons

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