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Team Roundup: Cardinals

Friday, October 26, 2018


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St. Louis Cardinals

2018 Record: 88-74

Third Place, NL Central

Team ERA: 3.85 (12th)

Team OPS: .730 (11th)



What Went Right


For the 17th time in the last 18 years, the Cardinals finished with a winning record. They went 41-28 under new manager Mike Shildt, who replaced Mike Matheny just before the All-Star break and officially secured a three-year contract at the end of August. Miles Mikolas proved to be one of the best free agent signings of the 2017-2018 offseason, posting an 18-4 record, 2.83 ERA, and 1.07 WHIP across 200 2/3 innings in the first year of a two-year, $15.5 million deal. Jack Flaherty emerged as a front-line starter at age 22, delivering a 3.34 ERA and 182 strikeouts over 151 innings. Matt Carpenter launched a career-high 36 home runs alongside a career-best .897 OPS. Harrison Bader put his stamp on the starting center field job, finishing fourth among all major league outfielders in defensive runs saved. Jordan Hicks, a surprise addition to the Opening Day roster, threw the fastest pitch of the 2018 season, a 105.1 mph heater to Odubel Herrera in May. Yadier Molina hit 20 home runs and caught 1,017 2/3 innings in his age-35 campaign, making his ninth National League All-Star team. He was presented with the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award this week for his ongoing hurricane relief work in Puerto Rico.



What Went Wrong


The Cardinals missed the playoffs for a third straight season, finishing 2 1/2 games back of the second National League Wild Card spot and 7 1/2 games behind the National League Central-champion Brewers. They fired a manager for the first time since letting go of Joe Torre in 1995. Marcell Ozuna, acquired from the Marlins in December for a package of four prospects, posted an underwhelming .758 OPS with 23 home runs in 148 games, after putting up a .924 OPS with 37 home runs in his final season in Miami. Carlos Martinez hit the disabled list three different times with upper-arm injuries and finished the year as a reliever. Dexter Fowler batted just .180/.278/.298 over 334 plate appearances in the second year of a five-year, $82.5 million deal. Greg Holland, inked to a one-year, $14 million contract on Opening Day, allowed 28 runs -- 28 earned -- in 25 innings before getting released on August 1. Tommy Pham was traded to the Rays in July and went on to slash .343/.448/.622 in 39 games with Tampa Bay. Adam Wainwright made only eight starts due to elbow issues. Michael Wacha missed the entire second half with a severe left oblique strain.



Fantasy Slants


** Miles Mikolas was a great value for St. Louis and perhaps an even better value in fantasy leagues. His average draft position in the standard Yahoo format was 351, and he finished as the 10th overall fantasy starter -- behind only Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Blake Snell, Aaron Nola, Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Gerrit Cole, and Trevor Bauer. That’s despite a strikeout rate (6.5 K/9) that was closer to league average than elite. Mikolas has tremendous control of his five-pitch arsenal and is probably capable of missing more bats in his second year back in MLB. He tallied 187 strikeouts over 188 innings in his final season in the contact-heavy Japan Central League.


** Jack Flaherty didn’t officially lock down a rotation spot until mid-May. It’s fun to imagine what his numbers might look like over a 200-inning slate. 220-plus strikeouts with a sub-3.50 ERA would appear doable. Busch Stadium is a very pitcher-friendly park and the Cardinals seem to groom young arms better than any organization. Carlos Martinez will be back in the rotation in 2019 and could be a sneaky mid-round value if his health cooperates. The same goes for Michael Wacha, who was sporting a 3.20 ERA in 84 1/3 innings before the oblique strain. Luke Weaver was a huge letdown in fantasy leagues, but he just turned 25 years old. John Gant, Dakota Hudson, Daniel Poncedeleon, and Austin Gomber should be on the radar too. We’ll get to Alex Reyes in a bit.


** It’s in everyone’s best interest for Marcell Ozuna to bounce back in a big way next season. He’ll be a free agent leading into the 2020 campaign and the Cardinals have been in desperate need of middle-of-the order thump for going on several years. Ozuna did battle a lingering shoulder problem throughout 2018 -- it was most evident on his throws from the outfield -- and there could be better things in store after a full offseason of rest. Jose Martinez was a nice find, but his defense is a real issue and it would come as no surprise to see him traded to an American League team this winter.


** Matt Carpenter had a sluggish April and seemed to run out of gas in September, but he was among the most productive hitters in baseball from May to August and there was talk of him possibly claiming National League MVP honors at one point -- before Christian Yelich put that to rest. Carpenter figures to get more love in fantasy drafts next spring after his power outburst in 2018. Even if there’s some regression in the home run department, he should be a great source of runs scored as the Cardinals’ locked-in leadoff man.


** Barring a free agent signing or trade, the Cardinals seem likely to install Jordan Hicks as their new closer in 2019. The walks are a concern -- he issued 45 free passes in 77 2/3 innings this year as the primary setup man to Bud Norris -- but the flamethrowing right-hander has absolutely electric stuff and he just turned 22 years old in September.


** We should have a better idea of Alex Reyes’ status closer to spring training. He returned from Tommy John surgery in May but suffered a season-ending lat tear in his first start back. The 24-year-old former top prospect holds a 1.44 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 50 career major league innings. Talent is certainly not the issue.



Key Free Agents: Bud Norris, Matt Adams, Tyson Ross


Team Needs: A big bat. Will the Cardinals get in on the Bryce Harper or Manny Machado sweepstakes? They’ve long been rumored as a possible landing spot for Josh Donaldson.





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



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