Drew Silva

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World Series Standouts

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Putting stock into postseason numbers is often dangerous. The sample sizes, usually three-to-four weeks and sometimes shorter, are too small for the development of any kind of truths that would lead our readers to 2012 fantasy success.

But we here at Rotoworld must celebrate one of baseball’s most fascinating Octobers in some fashion.

There’s nothing like a seven-game series, and the drama in each of those seven games was stunning.

Below is a look at the Fall Classic’s standout players, and what we can learn -- if anything -- from their various performances throughout baseball's 2011 playoffs. Congratulations to the 2011 Cardinals.

David Freese - 3B - Cardinals

A child of St. Louis’ suburbs, Freese enjoyed a storybook 2011 postseason run that saw him bat .397/.465/.794 with 21 RBI (an MLB record) and 50 total bases (also an MLB record). He was a force in the NLDS, the NLCS, and the Fall Classic, and he vaulted himself from a run-of-the-mill infielder into a household name within a matter of weeks. But expectations have to be realistic heading into 2012. Freese finished with an OPS under .800 this season and in the year before, and he still carries the stigma of being injury-prone. If he can stay healthy for 150-plus games in 2012, maybe the home run total climbs into the 20s. And maybe the OPS jumps closer to .830. But we must avoid thinking of the 28-year-old as a sure-fire masher.

Mike Napoli - C - Rangers

Dedicated fantasy owners have been aware of Napoli's game-changing power stroke for years. During the 2011 regular season and then into October, he finally got an opportunity to put it on display for the casual baseball fan. Napoli batted .320 with a 1.046 OPS over 113 regular season games before hitting .350 with a 1.164 OPS during the playoffs. He's finally under a manager who knows the benefits of giving him everyday playing time and he should continue to flourish in Texas, where homers fly often. The 30-year-old catcher is better than his reputation defensively and needs to be selected in the early rounds of 2012 fantasy drafts.

Nelson Cruz - OF - Rangers

Cruz dealt with hamstring injury after hamstring injury during the 2011 regular season and wound up posting his lowest OPS (.821) since 2007. But he came alive in the playoffs, smashing a record eight home runs and tallying 16 RBI in 17 games. He nearly hit a ninth home run in Game 7 of the World Series, but it was robbed at the wall. Cruz is a risky guy to spend a high fantasy draft pick on because of his many yearly trips to the disabled list, but the 31-year-old Dominican outfielder can slug with the best of 'em when healthy. And that shouldn't change next year.

Jason Motte - RP - Cardinals

The Cardinals shuffled the roles of their relievers with great frequency this season, mostly by necessity. Ryan Franklin began the year closing games, Eduardo Sanchez got opportunities once Franklin fizzled, and Fernando Salas tallied a total of 24 saves in 30 chances after that. But, by the end of it all, there was only one clear closer in St. Louis: Motte. The bearded 29-year-old can reach 99 mph with his fastball and has developed a cutter that works nicely as a change-of-pace pitch. He was a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities during the playoffs and will enter 2012 with a firm grasp on the Rebirds' ninth-inning gig.

Chris Carpenter - SP - Cardinals

Everything seemed to click for Carpenter in the final month of the regular season, and he kept that momentum rolling right into the playoffs. The 36-year-old veteran went 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in September, then 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA in the postseason. He started three World Series games and gutted through a sore elbow to lead the Cardinals to their 11th championship. The former Cy Young Award winner was inked to a two-year, $21 million extension in mid-September and should remain a top-level fantasy starter over the course of that contract.

Derek Holland - SP - Rangers

Beyond Freese, Holland's star rose faster than any other player in the 2011 World Series. After shutting down a quick-strike Cardinals offense for 8 1/3 innings in Game 4, the 25-year-old left-hander put on a show for the FOX broadcast during Game 5, impersonating a few living and deceased celebrities. The personality is there, but so is the talent. Holland posted a 3.95 ERA in 32 starts during the regular season, striking out 162 batters and walking only 67 in 198 innings. If he progresses even a little bit, he can be a frontline fantasy starter as soon as 2012.

Allen Craig - UTIL - Cardinals

"The Wrench" became a hero in St. Louis for his play during this year's Fall Classic. He drove in the go-ahead run as a pinch-hitter in Game 1, did the same in Game 2, then homered when given his first start of the series in Game 3. Craig went yard again in Games 6 and 7, and robbed a near-homer by Cruz on the final night of the World Series. The big-time moments were everywhere. And it would stand to reason that Craig has earned himself more regular playing time. But at which position? Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Lance Berkman are locked in to the three outfield spots and Craig probably isn't athletic enough to handle second base. Unless Albert Pujols decides to sign elsewhere, "The Wrench" could remain in a bench role.

Drew Silva is a baseball editor for Rotoworld and also contributes on NBC Sports' Hardball Talk. He can be found on Twitter.
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