The Cardinals are loaded with fantasy talent and just picking 10 of them to watch is a pretty tough task. They are the Reds’s main competition going into the 2013 season and offer a good mix of older veterans who are constantly productive and up-and-coming youngsters who are almost certainly going to keep St. Louis’s winning tradition going.
Here are 10 to watch in 2013:
Adam Wainwright (SP): With Chris Carpenter already scheduled to miss the 2013 campaign, Wainwright becomes the key man in St. Louis’s hopes for a 2013 playoff experience. So long as he stays healthy and pitches at least as well as he did last year the Cardinals should be competitive. A sub 4.00 ERA is almost inevitable, and a sub 3.50 is certainly possible to go with the 8-plus Ks / 9 IP. He’s looked good this spring and seems poised for another fine year.
Matt Holliday (OF): Holliday is one of these guys who you’d be able to wheel up to the plate at age 70 and still expect to be able to hit. His speed is long gone, but he’s a solid four-category producer who’ll go not long after the elite level outfielders are off the board. The biggest concerns with him are age and health, though he’s been plenty durable for many years.
Lance Lynn (SP): Lynn struck out just over a batter per inning last year and has established himself as a key player in St. Louis’s playoff hopes for 2013. While he’s just 26 and still has upside it wouldn’t be a surprise if he failed to match last season’s 17 wins and if his K rate trailed off to something closer to 6.5-7 / 9IP. Still between the upside and the offensive potential of the Cardinals he’s a good bet if he’s not going for big money as there is plenty of profit potential here.
Matt Adams (1B): Adams is one of those guys who really can hit; problem is that the Cardinals don’t really have a first base slot for him to take over as they’ve just inked Allen Craig to a five-year deal and plan on slotting him in at first. With Oscar Tavaras looming as the backup outfielder (rather than Craig shifting there), playing time might be major factor, but if he can garner 300 or more ABs he has a lot to offer.
Carlos Beltran (OF): Beltran’s 2012 was just a monster, but an anomalous one that would be next to impossible to repeat. So how much will he regress? Bad knees and being 36 years old weigh against him, as does the fact that his spring has been limited already by a very slowly healing bruised toe. With health a .265-70-22-81-6 seems like a reasonable estimate.
Jamie Garcia (SP): Garcia is no world beater but he’s a reliable middle-of-the-order hurler who if he can avoid the DL list will contribute quality fantasy stats. Injury however is a real concern as he opted for rehab, rather than surgery, for a frayed rotator cuff in the offseason. However the recommendation for rehab came from Dr. James Andrews, who’s essentially the arm guru of MLB pitchers. Otherwise his only real weakness would come in the WHIP category, which is likely to stay above the magic 1.30 line.
Yadier Molina (C): The best hitting of the Molina brothers comes into this season at age 30 and ranks in the top 5 in terms of catchers. There is little to no upside here but catchers who can hit .300 with 15-20 home runs and are double digit speed threats simply don’t come along all that often.
Oscar Tavaras (OF): Barring injury, John Jay’s days of patrolling centerfield on an everyday basis for the Cardinals are certainly numbered. Tavaras is coming, and he’s coming like a freight train. The big lefty can hit for average, with power and even has a little bit of speed to boot. If he breaks camp on the roster he should be able to contribute right way. That said even with 500 ABs, he’s not likely to hit 20 home runs or steal 10 bases and he’ll probably open the season at AAA. David Freese (3B): At age 29 David Freese showed us what he could do if he could stay healthy. for an entire season. It was the first time the fragile Freese has managed more than 333 at bats in a season at this level. There is no upside and plenty of risk, even if he manages to stay healthy a slight regression from last season’s .292-70-20-79 seems to be in order.
Shelby Miller/Trevor Rosenthal (SPs): Ok, I’m cheating here, but I’d be remiss to not at least mention this duo of pitchers in the mix for the Cardinals final rotation spot. Both have huge upsides and true ace potential, but Miller is be the favorite to win the job since Rosenthal excelled in 22 innings in the pen last year, and Miller has thrown more innings in a single season. It’s possible the Cards go with their third option, Joe Kelly, to give Miller more seasoning in the minors.