St. Louis Cardinals Fantasy Superlatives: Paul DeJong Breakout Alert! Plus Sleepers, Value and Comeback Picks

Breakout alert! SI Fantasy high-stakes expert Shawn Childs foresees big things for St. Louis SS Paul DeJong and provides more analysis for sleepers, values and comebacks on the Cardinals.
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Breakout: SS Paul DeJong

With the most at-bats (583) of his career, DeJong set career-highs in runs (97), home runs (30), RBI (78), and steals (9).

His average hit rate (1.904) continues to support 30-plus home run power, but his contact batting average (.313) fell well below his minor league resume (.384).

Both his strikeout rate (22.4) and walk rate (9.3) were the best of his career with improvement each year in the league.

DeJong hit 27 of his 30 home runs off right-handed pitching.

His season started with success in April (.342 with 26 runs, five HRs, and 13 RBI over 117 at-bats). Over the final five months, he hit .206 with 71 runs, 25 home runs, and 65 RBI.

His RBI rate (13) doesn’t project as a middle of the order bat at this point in his career. DeJong finished 86th in hard-hit rate (40.3) while still offering a fly-ball swing (44.3 percent). He has an improving HR/FB rate (15.4).

DeJong is an interesting player with a favorable ADP (189). Most will view him as a low average power hitter, but I expect a significant rebound in this area in 2020. I’m going to set the bar at .270 with 80/30/85 while his speed isn’t a fluke.

Sleeper: OF Dylan Carlson

Carlson looks to be a nine-iron away from the majors after a step forward in his game in 2019 at AA (.281 with 81 runs, 21 HRs, 59 RBI, and 18 SBs over 417 at-bats). The Cardinals pushed him to AAA (.361 with five HRs, nine RBI, and two SBs over 72 at-bats) with more success.

St. Louis drafted him in the first round in 2016.

Over four seasons in the minors, Carlson hit .260 with 47 home runs, 194 RBI, and 38 stolen bases over 1,478 at-bats.

His approach (strikeout rate – 21.7 and walk rate – 11.0) came in about the league average. This season he’ll start the year at AAA while being a dark horse to make the major league club out of spring training. Fantasy owners respect him enough to draft him 290th.

Sleeper: RP Ryan Helsley

After going 21-5 in 2016 and 2017 with a 2.25 ERA and 246 strikeouts over 227.1 innings, Helsley lost value at AAA over parts of three seasons (4.17 ERA and 80 Ks over 69 innings).

Last year he split time between starting and relieving in the minors.

St. Louis called him up for good in late July. Over his final 17 games out of the bullpen, Helsley posted a 2.73 ERA and 20 strikeouts over 26.1 innings, but batters hit .279 against him.

His AFB (98.0) came in with elite velocity. He showcased a plus slider (.131 BAA) and curveball (.000). If his changeup doesn’t develop, Helsley has closer upside once he improves his command.

In March, he drew some attention as closer-in-waiting for the Cardinals in the high-stakes market.

Value: 2B Tommy Edman

Edman showed growth in his game at AAA in 2019 (.305 over 197 at-bats with seven HRs, 29 RBI, and nine SBs). His success led to a call up to the majors where his bat had further follow-through (.304 with 11 HRs, 36 RBI, and 15 SBs over 326 at-bats).

On the year, he finished with 88 runs, 18 home runs, 65 RBI, and 24 stolen bases over 523 at-bats.

His walk rate (4.6) came in short with St. Louis with more success in the minors (9.0). Edman has a favorable strikeout rate (17.5) with more strength in the minors (13.8).

His average hit rate (1.646) and contact batting average (.374) were the highest of his career with St. Louis. Even with a bump in power in 2019, Edman did have a low hard-hard hit rate (32.8 – 322nd). His HR/FB rate (12.1) was well above his minor league career before 2019.

He has an ADP of 134 in all drafts in the high-stakes market since March 1st.

Tempting bet on his 2019 combined stats. I trust his value in speed more than power while fully expecting a push toward the top of the batting order.

My starting point for a full-season was .285 with 100 runs, 15 home runs, 60 RBI, and 20 steals with 550 at-bats. Over his four seasons in the minors, Edman hit .286 with 235 runs, 23 home runs, 158 RBI, and 71 steals over 1,414 at-bats.

Comeback: 3B Matt Carpenter

Carpenter lost his approach in 2019, along with his confidence and power. His strikeout rate (26.2) was a career-high with fade in each of the previous three seasons. He still had a high walk rate (12.8), which was much higher in 2017 (17.5) and 2018 (15.1).

Carpenter had two stints on the injured list in July for back and foot injuries.

After a slow start in April (.202 with 18 runs, three HRs, and three RBI over 104 at-bats), he appeared to progress in May (.237 with 16 runs, five HRs, and 14 RBI over 97 at-bats). The Cardinals lost faith in him over his final 215 at-bats (.233 with seven HRs and 27 RBI) while striking out 28.2 percent of the time.

Carpenter struggled to drive the ball against lefties (.217 with two HRs and seven RBI over 83 at-bats).

His hard-hit rate (37.0) fell to 209th place compared to 36th in 2018 (44.7). He continues to have a fly-ball swing (43.1 percent) while his HR/FB rate (12.1) fell to his range in 2017 (13.3) and 2018 (12.2).

His back was also an issue coming out of spring training. I don’t view him as a clean-up bat, but his power may work better behind Paul Goldschmidt. Viable cheat at third base with an ADP of 413.

His average hit rate (1.734) should give him a floor of 25 home runs with a full season of at-bats. The Cardinals own him $55.5 million over the next three seasons, which means he’ll have every chance to regain his form in 2020. Think .260 with an 80/25/75/5 skill set.

READ MORE: 2020 St. Louis Cardinals Fantasy Team Preview