2021 Fantasy Baseball: St. Louis Cardinals Team Outlook - Offensive Firepower Needs Help From Questionable Pitching Staff

Get the inside scoop! 2021 fantasy baseball player profiles, team analysis and stat projections for St. Louis Cardinals hitters and pitchers
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2021 St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have been one of the better franchises in the National League over the last 21 seasons. They’ve made the postseason in back-to-back years, with 14 trips to the playoffs and two World Series wins since 2000. St. Louis has 12 championships (1886, 1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006, and 2011) over the team’s 139-year history.

St. Louis pushed all in the offseason to acquire 3B Nolan Arenado from the Rockies for SP Austin Gomber, IF Mateo Gil, IF Elehuris Montero, RP Tony Locey, and RP Jake Sommers. Colorado will also pay over $50 million of Arenado’s contract.

They lost 2B Kolten Wong, 3B Brad Miller, and C Matt Wieters to free-agency. The Cardinals re-signed C Yadier Molina and SP Adam Wainwright.

The only other minor deal was OF Dexter Fowler traded to the Angels for a minor league player. The Cardinals picked over $12 million of Fowler’s contract.

Their starting rotation has one ace in Jake Flaherty, supported by three veteran arms. SP Kwang Hyun Kim has a short resume of success starting for the Cardinals, but he showed the ability to offer good winning innings in 2020. St. Louis would be significantly helped if SP Carlos Martinez can regain his early-career form.

Offensively, the Cardinals have strength at the top half of the lineup. To push higher in runs and home runs, they need their young outfielders (Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill, and Harrison Bader) to become more consistent and productive.

The bullpen should be in good hands with RP Jordan Hicks back from TJ surgery while also having two other arms (Alex Reyes and Giovanny Gallegos) with closing potential. RP John Gant and Ryan Helsley will also help shorten games.

St. Louis Cardinals Paul Goldschmidt

Starting Lineup

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1. 2B Tommy Edman

Edman fell short of expectations in 2020 after receiving a full time starting job for the first time. St. Louis used him as a super-utility player, setting him up to quality at four positions (2B, 3B, SS, and OF) in 2021.

His stats projected over 162 games would have come to 78 runs, 14 home runs, 70 RBI, and five steals over 551 at-bats. The shortfall in stolen bases hurt fantasy owners the most last year in the fantasy market.

His average hit rate (1.471) drifted backward compared to his 2019 success in the minor (1.683) and majors (1.646), which paints him more of a 15 home run guy than a player ready to pop over 20 bombs. Edman also regressed in his contact batting average (.327 – over .360 in 2018 and 2019).

He doesn’t take enough walks (5.6 percent in the majors) to be a true leadoff hitter, but Edman did walk 9.0 percent of the time in the minors. His strikeout rate (21.2) fell to the league average after showing promise in 2019 (17.5) with St. Louis.

Edman has a weaker swing path in 2020, leading to a jump in his groundball rate (51.0 – 40.7 in 2019). He did repeat his HR/FB rate (12.2). His hard-hit rate (33.5) offers the same weakness as 2019 (33.6).

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.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Based on his production and path in 2020, Edman should have lost value in drafts this year. His ADP (129) is up from 146 in 2019, despite offering more questions about his upside in three categories (batting average, home runs, and stolen bases).

The batters hitting behind him the lineup will hit home runs, which sets the tone for a bump in runs, especially if his batting average finishes in line with his previous resume. I’m going to lower the bar to .280 with 90 runs, 12 home runs, 65 RBI, and a chance at 25 steals.

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2. 1B Paul Goldschmidt

In his two seasons with the Cardinals, Goldschmidt lost the fantasy bounce in his step. He is no longer a threat to steal bases while falling short of expectations in batting average (.260) in 2019 and home runs (6) in 2020. Twice over the past three years, his RBI rate (14 and 12) has ranked well below a cleanup type bat.

After last season, he did have surgery to resolve bone spurs from his right elbow. Goldschmidt had almost the same hard-hit rate in 2019 (41.7) and 2020 (40.7), but his average hit rate (1.534) fell well short of his success in this area in his 30+ home run seasons.

Goldschmidt did regain some of his lost value in his contact batting average (.392 – .360) while still being below his string of four seasons with a contact batting average over .400 with the Diamondbacks.

His approach last year was the best of his career. He finished his lowest strikeout rate (18.6) and second-best walk rate (16.0).

Goldschmidt hit the most line drives (27.5 percent) of his career in 2020, but he did post a fly-ball rate (37.6) above his career average (35.0) for the third straight season. His HR/FB rate (10.7) was well below his lowest total (19.0 in 2016) over the previous seven seasons.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: The drop in home runs by Goldschmidt has created a buying opportunity in drafts. His ADP (97) is well below his heydays of being a five-category player. At age 33, he looks past his prime with questions with his impact value. The addition of Nolan Arenado should help his floor in runs. I trust his floor in power, and his approach remains intact. I’m buying with the idea of a .290/100/30/90 type season while also hoping I hit on a handful of steals.

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3. 3B Nolan Arenado

If I were a Rockies fan, I’d be pissed that my home team traded a future Hall of Fame bat. Arenado had a great five-year run from 2015 to 2019, where he averaged 104 runs, 40 home runs, and 124 RBI while hitting .300.

In 2020, he looked out of sorts while also finishing the year on the injured list with a left shoulder.

His stats over 48 games projected over 600 at-bats would have come to 76 runs, 26 home runs, and 87 RBI. His RBI rate (12) was the lowest of his career, along with his contact batting average (.284).

This season, fantasy owners will focus on his road stats (.263 with 99 home runs and 299 RBI over 2,038 at-bats) when trying to determine his value in St. Louis.

For comparison, Arenado has played 102 games in St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati, leading to a .292 batting average over 397 at-bats with 65 runs, 22 home runs, and 68 RBI.

At the same time, he’ll be losing 686 at-bats in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. In his career at those cities, Arenado hit .270 with 93 runs, 39 home runs, and 106 RBI.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Arenado is a great hitter, and yes, he loses the impact of playing in one of the highest-scoring ballparks in the majors. Even with a floor of .280 with 90 runs, 30 home runs, and 90 RBI, Arenado will provide an edge. His ADP in 12-team leagues over the first 10 days in February dropped to 40. In his career, he hit .313 with runners on base and .323 with runners in scoring position. I have no fear here, and I’m buying him at a discount.

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4. SS Paul DeJong

Covid cost DeJong 24 days on the injured list, but he ended up missing only six games because of it due to all Cardinals’ games canceled for two weeks.

DeJong was out of rhythm at the plate, which led to a career-high strikeout rate (28.7) a year after setting a career-low (22.4). His walk rate (9.8) improved for the third straight season, which may give him a chance to bat second instead of behind the Cardinals’ top two bats.

Last year I was banking on a bounce in his contact batting average, which ended up coming true (.373 – .313 in 2019 and .335 in 2018). His other negative came from his fade in his average hit rate (1.395), which had a 30 home runs floor over his previous three seasons (1.866, 1.800, and 1.904) if given 550+ at-bats.

Over his four seasons with St. Louis, DeJong hit .251 with 237 runs, 77 home runs, 236 RBI, and 12 steals over 1,588 at-bats.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: DeJong is a sneaky middle infield bat due to his ability to hit over 30 home runs. I expect a correction in his strikeout rate, and he has possible underlying value in steals on his minor league resume (16 over 942 at-bats). His ADP (241) works perfectly for a fantasy owner that is fading batting average. I still see a .270 hitter with plus power. His runs and RBI are subject to where he hits in the batting order. DeJong looks poised to have the best season of his career.

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5. C Yadier Molina

After two good seasons at age 35 and 36, Molina lost his power swing in 2019 (10 home runs over 419 at-bats) and 2020 (four home runs over 145 at-bats).

He was on the retirement fence over the winter. The addition of Nolan Arenado was enough for the Cardinals to bring Molina for one season.

His average hit rate (1.368) slipped to a four-year low. Molina struggled with runners on base (RBI rate – 12) for the first time since 2014. His RBI rate was 17.4 percent from 2015 to 2019.

He has a fading walk rate (3.9) while still being tough to strikeout (13.5 percent).

In 2020, he missed a couple of games in September with a wrist issue plus six games with the St. Louis Covid battle.

His HR/FB rate (8.7) remains low while showing more life in 2017 (11.0) and 2018 (13.6).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Molina is a veteran bat who has a history of performing well with runners on base. His ADP (267) places him in the backend of the C2 inventory in 12-team leagues. He is more of a 55/12/55 player at this point of his career with a neutral batting average.

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6. OF Dylan Carlson

Carlson played well at AA in 2019 (.281 with 81 runs, 21 home runs, 59 RBI, and 18 stolen bases over 417 at-bats). The Cardinals pushed him to AAA (.361 with five home runs, nine RBI, and two steals over 72 at-bats), leading to more success.

He struggled to make contact in his first experience in the majors (strikeout rate – 29.4) while posting a short walk rate (6.7). His contact batting average (.293) was well below his minor league career (.348). Carlson played better over his final 11 games (.286 with two home runs and 11 RBI).

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.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Fantasy owners have him priced as a starting player in 2021 based on his ADP (157) in the early draft season. His drawing card comes from his success in the minors in 2019 (.292 over 489 at-bats with 26 home runs, 68 RBI, and 20 stolen bases).

If his bat comes quickly this year, Carlson could push his way to the first or second slot in the batting order. His father is an excellent high school coach, which points to him improving quickly. Bet on the come while expecting a 20/80/20 skill set early in his major league career. His batting average may trail out of the gate until he controls the strike zone better.

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7. OF Tyler O’Neill

O’Neill hit .271 in his 2,138 at-bats in the minors with 140 home runs, 430 RBI, and 55 steals over seven seasons.

He hit 24 home runs or more over four different seasons at High A, AA, and AAA. His strikeout rate (28.1) in the minors does invite batting average risk while owning an above average walk rate (9.1).

With three seasons under his belt at AAA (.267 with 68 home runs, 184 RBI, and 20 stolen bases), O’Neill had his best chance to start with the Cardinals in 2020. Despite hitting seven home runs with 19 RBI over 139 at-bats, his contact batting average (.250) came in well below his last two seasons (.435 with St. Louis and .414 in the minors).

O’Neill still had a high strikeout rate (27.4) with the Cardinals, but it improved from 2018 (40.1) and 2019 (35.1).

Over three seasons with St. Louis, he hit .229 with 67 runs, 21 home runs, 58 RBI, and six stolen bases over 410 at-bats.

His HR/FB rate (18.9) projects well while offering a fly-ball swing (42.7 percent).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: O’Neill is making strides at the major league level to improve his approach, but his minor league resume set a low bar. For now, he is a streaky power bat with batting average risk and some speed. His ADP (521) puts him in the free-agent pool in all redraft leagues.

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8. OF Harrison Bader

Over four seasons with the Cardinals, Bader hit .234 with 146 runs, 31 home runs, 97 RBI, and 31 stolen bases over 917 at-bats.

He finished with risk in his strikeout rate (32.0 – career-high) each year in the majors, with growth in his walk rate (11.1) over the last two seasons.

His average hit rate (1.958) is trending up, and Bader did add more life into his contact batting average (.364).

Bader hit .284 with 207 runs, 57 home runs, 160 RBI, and 48 stolen bases over 1,194 at-bats in his four seasons in the minors with a lower strikeout rate (23.4).

His hard-hit rate (37.3) remains low. Bader tried to add more loft to his swing in 2019 (fly-ball rate – 44.2) and 2020 (43.9) with a steady HR/FB rate (13.1) in his career.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: If given an everyday job with 550 at-bats, Bader would make a run at a 25/20 season with neutral value in runs and RBI. His high whiff rate leads to many days off and slumps with a waiver wire ADP (610)—over 656 at-bats against righties, Bader only .223 with 18 home runs and 65 RBI.

Bench Options

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C Andrew Knizner

Over four seasons in the minors, Knizner hit .303 with 37 home runs, 172 RBI, and three steals over 1,127 at-bats. He played well in his two years at AAA (.283 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI over 300 at-bats).

His walk rate (7.5) is just below league average, with strength in his strikeout rate (12.1).

In limited at-bats (69) over two seasons with St. Louis, he hit .232 with two home runs, 11 RBI, and two steals.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Knizner will see low playing time again this year. He can hit for average with mid-teen upside in power.

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3B Matt Carpenter

Carpenter lost his approach in 2019 and 2020, along with his confidence and power. His strikeout rate (28.4) was a career-high for the third straight season. He still had a high walk rate (13.6), which was much higher in 2017 (17.5) and 2018 (15.1).

Over the past two seasons, Carpenter hit .216 with 19 home runs, 70 RBI, and six steals over 556 at-bats.

His hard-hit rate (35.9) is trending in the wrong direction, along with a sharp decline in his contact batting average (.283 BAA). Carpenter continues to have a low HR/FB rate (11.1), and his fly-ball swing path moved closer to balanced in 2020.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: The only hope for at-bats for Carpenter is the DH returning to the National League or moving to a corner outfield position. Pretty much roadkill as far as ADP (703), but he has done it before in the majors.

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SS Edmundo Sosa

Sosa hit .283 with 44 home runs, 237 RBI, and 37 steals over 2,090 at-bats in his seven seasons in the minors. His best success came at AAA in 2019 (.291 with 17 home runs, 62 RBI, and two stolen bases over 453 at-bats).

His walk rate (5.6) is low, with a respectable strikeout rate (16.9).

The Cardinals only gave him 10 at-bats over the past two seasons, which led to two hits and one steal.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Sosa will compete for a bench role in 2021. His bat is improving, but he has a minimal path to at-bats without an injury.

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OF Lane Thomas

Thomas saw 74 at-bats over the last two seasons with the Cardinals, leading to 11 runs, five home runs, 14 RBI, and one steal.

His bat had growth in 2018 and 2019 between AA (.260 with 21 home runs, 67 RBI, and 13 stolen bases over 384 at-bats) and AAA (.270 with 16 home runs, 65 RBI, and 15 steals over 396 at-bats).

Over six seasons in the minors, he hit .252 with 55 home runs, 258 RBI, and 72 stolen bases over 1,972 at-bats.

His strikeout rate (25.4) remains high in the minors, with a favorable walk rate (9.7).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Thomas doesn’t make enough contact to land a full-time job in the majors. His skill set isn’t far off from Harrison Bader, so he should compete for at-bats in 2021 in centerfield while adding depth in the outfield.

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Pitching Staff

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1. SP Jack Flaherty

The Covid trouble in St. Louis crushed Flaherty in 2020. His season started with an excellent start (two runs over seven innings with a win and six strikeouts).

Coming off a 25-day layoff, he struggled to pitch in deep in games and find his rhythm. Over his next six starts, Flaherty allowed 16 runs, 31 baserunners, and five home runs over 22.1 innings with 27 strikeouts, with most of the damage coming in one game (nine runs and 10 baserunners over three innings).

His season ended with four runs and 12 baserunners over 11 innings with 16 strikeouts.

In 2019, Flaherty underachieved over his first 17 starts (4.90 ERA, 1.289 WHIP, and 101 strikeouts over 90 innings), with a significant part of the damage coming from home runs allowed (19).

His arm was brilliant over his final 16 starts (0.93 ERA, 0.6959 WHIP, and 130 strikeouts over 106.1 innings). Over three starts in the playoffs, Flaherty allowed eight runs and 21 baserunners over 17 innings with 22 strikeouts.

He dominated both righties (.182) and lefties (.202) with growth in walk rate (2.5). Even with more strikes thrown, his strikeout rate (10.6) didn’t beat his success in 2018 (10.8).

His AFB (94.3) fell just below 2019 (94.7). His four-seam fastball (.230 BAA) and slider (.155 BAA) held form in 2020, but he lost the feel of his curveball (.263 BAA) and sinker (.333 BAA).

Each of his pitches was phenomenal in 2019 over his hot stretch over the second half of 2019 (four-seam – .169 BAA, sinker – .172 BAA, slider – .123 BAA, and curveball – .148 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: I’m tossing out last season, but I can’t dismiss his struggles with home runs (1.2 per nine in his career), and Flaherty’s elite status came from a half year of success. His ADP (31) is reasonable when considering his ceiling. I expect 15+ wins with an edge in ERA and WHIP while trending toward 250 strikeouts.

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2. SP Kwang Hyun Kim

Over 12 seasons in Korea, Kim went 136-77 with a 3.27 ERA and 1,456 strikeouts over 1,673.2 innings. He pitched at a high level in 2018 and 2019 (28-14 with 2.70 ERA and 310 strikeouts over 326.1 innings).

His walk rate (1.8) was the best of his career in 2019 in Korea while showing weakness in his career (3.5). Kim pushed his way to a higher total in strikeouts over his last two seasons overseas (8.6 and 8.5).

He missed 2017 with TJ surgery.

Kim went from possibly closing to frontline starter in 2020 in one easy game. Over his final six starts, he went 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA, .185 BAA, and 23 strikeouts over 34.1 innings. His strikeout rate (5.5) came in surprisingly low.

His AFB (90.2) is well below the league average. Batters struggled to hit his slider (.222 BAA), four-seam fastball (.194 BAA), and his low-volume changeup (.154 BAA). Kim only lost the feel of his curveball (.300 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Kim is the second Cardinals’ starter off the board in 2021 with an ADP (258). His sample size is small, along with his ability to make batters swing and miss. Closer to a 3.75 ERA over a long season than posting a sub 3.00 ERA. I’ll let him beat me, but I won’t overlook Kim if he is discounted in a draft.

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3. SP Adam Wainwright

Last year fantasy owners rostered Wainwright for the opening weekend to fill some innings and take a chance on a possible win instead of taking a zero from a pitcher that wasn’t scheduled to pitch. He responded with one run allowed over six innings with five strikeouts and a win.

His next start didn’t come until three weeks later due to the Covin break in St. Louis. Over his final nine starts, Wainwright ended up being a buy and hold, leading to four wins with a 3.32 ERA and 49 strikeouts over 59.2 innings. He pitched a minimum of six innings in eight of his 10 starts.

He regained his lost command (2.1 walks per nine), but his strikeout rate (7.4) fell short of his best seasons.

His AFB (89.5) was the lowest of his career. Wainwright regained his elite curveball (.200 BAA) while also having success with his sinker (.225 BAA), four-seam fastball (.238), and show-me changeup (.167 BAA). He did lose the feel for his cutter (.295 BAA).

From 2016 to 2019, Wainwright went 41-28 with a 4.58 ERA, 1.438 WHIP, and 450 strikeouts over 534 innings.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Despite his improvement in 2020, Wainwright still has a waiver wire ADP (469) with plenty of questions about him repeating his short term success. Even with a declining skill set, he continues to win games while bringing disaster downside when his command is off. Only an inning eater who requires a short leash if he isn’t throwing strikes.

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4. SP Miles Mikolas

Mikolas suffered a forearm injury last February that required a platelet-rich injection. After looking healthy in July while getting ready for the late start to the season, he has a setback that ended up needing surgery. The Cardinals expect him to be ready for opening day.

In his first year back in the majors in 2018, after three seasons in Japan, Mikolas outperformed his expected value with an 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA and 146 strikeouts over 200.2 innings. His WHIP (1.071) suggested a higher ERA.

In 2019, his overall game regressed (4.16 ERA, .272 BAA, and 1.223 WHIP). Mikolas had a tick down in his elite walk rate (1.6 – 1.3 in 2018) with a minor rise in his strikeout rate (7.0 – 6.5 in 2018).

He allowed two runs or fewer in 14 of his 32 starts, with failure in April (5.29 ERA) and August (5.72 ERA). His arm held value at home (3.01 ERA and 65 strikeouts over 95.2 innings) with plenty of damage on the road (5.40 ERA and 1.415 WHIP).

His AFB (94.0) was a step back from 2018 (94.7). Mikolas lost the feel of his four-seam fastball (.283 BAA) and slider (.296 BAA), while his curveball (.222 BAA) still offered an edge.

His HR/FB rate (16.1) was much higher than in 2018 (9.2) while continuing to get a low number of ground balls (29.6 percent).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Mikolas is better than a soft tosser, but he needs to regain his lost value in two pitches. A chance at a 3.50 ERA and only 150 strikeouts with a free look ADP (428). His spring training reports should drive his draft value in 2021.

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5. SP Carlos Martinez

Martinez was a mess in all five of his starts last year while missing time due to Covid and an oblique issue. He allowed 22 runs, 42 baserunners, and six home runs over 20 innings.

He lost about three MPH off his four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, and slider.

Martinez started 2019 with a bum right shoulder that led to seven weeks on the injured list. When he returned, the Cardinals moved him to the bullpen.

After seven games (4.50 ERA), St. Louis handed him the 9th inning after Jordan Hicks went down with a right elbow injury. Martinez looked good over his first 11 games as the closer (1.23 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 14.2 innings).

Over the next month, he battled with inconsistency (6.75 ERA and .340 ERA) while converting nine of ten save chances. His year ended with a 1.72 ERA and 20 strikeouts over 15.2 innings.

Martinez had right shoulder surgery after the season. He finished with the highest strikeout rate (9.9) of his career while still having a below-par walk rate (3.4).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: From 2015 to 2019, Martinez went 54-35 with a 3.22 ERA and 745 strikeouts over 747 innings. His lost velocity was a significant problem that may not be corrected. This spring, he has to fight for a starting job. His ADP (467) will move up if Martinez regains some life on his fastball. Player to watch due to his previous success in the majors.

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SP Daniel Ponce de Leon

Despite a winning resume over six seasons in the minors (42-21 with a 2.70 ERA and 482 strikeouts over 524 innings), Ponce de Leon has struggled to earn a starting job in the majors. He pitched at a high level over three seasons at AAA (19-8 with a 2.49 EA and 221 strikeouts over 209.2 innings).

His downfall has been a high walk rate (3.5 per nine – 4.6 at AAA).

With St. Louis, he made 20 starts with 13 relief appearances over three seasons, leading to a 3.78 ERA and 128 strikeouts over 114.1 innings. Ponce de Leon still walked too many batters (4.6 per nine) with a high HR/FB rate (1.3).

Even with a 4.96 ERA in 2020, his arm flashed over his final three starts (1-0 with a 2.65 ERA, .136 BAA, and 24 strikeouts over 17 innings).

His AFB (93.6) is about league average while relying on his four-seam fastball (.210 BAA), curveball (.167 BAA), and cutter (.143 BAA). Ponce de Leon has also had success with his changeup (.237 BAA) in the majors.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: There’s a lot to like here if Ponce de Leon could ever throw more strikes. He could easily end up in the starting rotation for the Cardinals, but wins tend to be a problem due to his high pitch counts.

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SP Matthew Liberatore

Over his first two seasons in the minors, Liberatore went 8-4 with 2.59 ERA and 113 strikeouts over 111 innings. His walk rate (3.6) needs work while offering strength in his strikeout rate (9.2).

In 2019, he made 16 appearances at single-A (6-2 with a 3.10 ERA and 76 strikeouts over 78.1 innings), which should have put him on a path for AA, and possibly AAA in 2020. His season was cut short due to a minor back issue.

His fastball has mid-90s upside. Liberatore offers plus curveball while still needing to work on his slider and changeup.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: The Cardinals may start him at AA in 2021 with a quick push to AAA. If he has success, St. Louis may need him in the majors over the summer based on the risk at the backend of their rotation. Liberatore has a high upside arm when he develops better command.

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CL Jordan Hicks

Over two seasons in the minors, Hicks pitched almost exclusively as a starter. He went 14-5 with a 2.82 ERA and 137 strikeouts over 165.2 innings while never pitching over High A. His failure was tied to poor command (4.0 walks per nine).

He made the jump to the majors in 2018, where he pitched in relief. Over two seasons in the Cardinals bullpen, Hicks went 5-6 with a 3.47 ERA, 101 strikeouts, and 20 saves over 106.1 innings. In 2019, his walk rate (3.5) was still high but improved over 2018 (5.2), leading to a bump in his strikeout rate (9.7). He converted 14 of his 15 save chances.

Hicks missed a season and a half due to TJ surgery on his right elbow.

He needs to improve against left-handed batters (.261 BAA with 30 walks and 38 strikeouts over 180 at-bats).

Hicks has one of the best fastballs (102.6 in 2019) in the game. His sinker (.223 BAA) and slider (.105 BAA) have electric upside when he develops better command.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: The ninth inning for St. Louis has multiple quality options, but Hicks stands tall in velocity and ceiling. The cloudiness of their bullpen does create a buying opportunity and favorable ADP (247) for him. Hicks is on the verge of becoming a dominating late-inning arm. Now, let’s see him throw more strikes in spring training to put a stamp on his top-tier closing status.

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RP Alex Reyes

Reyes has been a frustrating player for St. Louis. Over 32 career appearances in the majors, he went 6-3 with a 2.48 ERA, .202 BAA, 82 strikeouts, and two saves over 72.2 innings. His walk rate (5.6) is maddening, along with his battles with injuries.

Over six years in the minors, Reyes had a 3.53 ERA with 542 strikeouts over 394.2 innings. He walked 4.7 batters per nine in his career with elite strikeouts (12.4 per nine).

In 2017, Reyes blew out his right elbow in mid-February, which led to TJ surgery and a lost season.

His AFB (97.9) ranks highly in velocity. Reyes has four-pitches that are tough to hit (four-seam fastball – .179 BAA, changeup - .191 BAA, slider – .156 BAA, and curveball – .238 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Reyes has the talent to become an elite arm. He looks more suited for the bullpen, but he did look starter-worthy in 2016 in September (3-1 with a 1.97 ERA and 35 strikeouts over 32 innings) with the Cardinals. Reyes hasn’t pitched over 38 innings since 2016, and his peak innings came in 2014 (109.1) and 2015 (101.1). Wild card arm that could explode onto the scene in late innings or shift back to a starter. I don’t trust his command enough to believe Reyes can jump Jordan Hicks for saves.

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RP Giovanny Gallegos

Gallegos pitched his way to the bullpen early in his minor league career. Over eight seasons on the farm, he went 23-20 with a 2.78 ERA, 453 strikeouts, and 18 saves. His command was exceptional (1.9 walks per nine), with more growth in his strikeout rate (12.1) in his five seasons at AAA.

His major league career started with a 4.55 ERA and 34 strikeouts over 31.2 innings in 2017 and 2018. Over the last two seasons, Gallegos made a significant step forward with the Cardinals (2.53 ERA, 114 strikeouts, and five saves over 89 innings). Batters hit .170 against him with repeated success in his command (strikeout rate – 11.5 and walk rate – 2.0).

His AFB (94.1) is just above the league average. His slider (.117 BBA) and four-seam fastball (.219 BAA) have closing value.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Gallegos has the command and tools to save games. He developed late in the majors (age 29). In 2021, St. Louis will use him as one of their top relief arms while offering the talent to steal saves if Jordan Hicks and Alex Reyes battle their mechanics. Gallegos has a backend closing ADP (270) in the early draft season, which means he has support in the high-stakes market to beat Hicks for the ninth-inning job.

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RP Ryan Helsley

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

In 2019, 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.

Last year some fantasy owners had him penciled in as a dark horse for saves for St. Louis. Helsley started the season with 2.2 no-hit, shutout innings before going on the injured list for a month with Covid.

Over his first five games in September, he allowed seven runs, 12 base runners, and three home runs over 4.2 innings.

His AFB (97.2) came in with elite velocity. He showcased a plus slider (.147 BAA) while still not allowing a hit off his curveball (88 pitches thrown in the majors).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: His failure last year had to be related to his struggles with Covid. Helsley moves down a notch or two in the Cardinals’ bullpen ranking, but it isn’t due to him not offering upside. St. Louis may even consider him as a starting option again if the backend of their rotation has some injuries.


2021 Fantasy Baseball Team Outlooks

American League

East: BAL / BOS / NYY / TAM / TOR
Central: CWS / CLE / DET / KC / MIN
West: HOU / LAA / OAK / SEA / TEX

National League

East: ATL / MIA / NYM / PHI / WAS
Central: CHC / CIN / MIL / PIT / STL
West: ARI / COL / LAD / SD / SF