2020 Fantasy Baseball: St. Louis Cardinals Team Preview

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St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have been one of the better franchises over the last 20 seasons. They have 13 postseasons appearances over this span with a pair of World Series titles (2006 and 2011). They ended their three-year absence from the playoffs in 2019 with a loss in the National League Championship Series. St. Louis has a winning record over each of the last 12 years. Over the 138 years of baseball, the Cardinals have nine other World Series titles (1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, and 1982) with 33 total trips to the postseason.

St. Louis didn’t make any changes to their major league offensive roster in the offseason. They traded OF Jose Martinez to Tampa for P Matt Liberatore. The Cardinals signed SP Kwang-Hyun Kim, who played last year in Korea.

They finished fourth in ERA (3.80) with 52 saves. St. Louis ranked 21st in runs (764), 24th in home runs (210), and 21st in RBI (714).

The structure of their offense has more question marks that impact bats. At best, St. Louis is league average in runs with weakness in his power compared to the rest of baseball. The bullpen improved last year thanks to a couple of developing arms. The closer role looks to be in flux. The Cardinals have one real ace in Jack Flaherty while no other arm stands out.

A postseason trip would be a lot to ask, but somehow St. Louis will be in the hunt for the division title in September.

Starting Lineup

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1. OF 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 AVH (1.646) and CTBA (.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 146 in early February. 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 is .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.

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2. 2B Kolten Wong

Wong had a resurgence in his game last year after playing himself into a part-time option over the previous three seasons. His average hit rate (1.485) remained flat even with a rebound in home runs (11). Over the past four years, he’s beat his career average (7.5) in his walk rate (8.6). Wong saw a slight regression in his strikeout rate (15.1) for the third season in a row while continuing to be favorable. His best value came in April (.272 with four HRs, 15 RBI, and five SBs over 92 at-bats). After the All-Star break, he hit .342 with 27 runs, four home runs, 24 RBI, and ten steals over 199 at-bats while failing to get every day playing time in any month. 

Just like Tommy Edman, his hard-hit rate (25.1) suggests no follow-through or upside in power. He did have a bump in his fly-ball rate (35.6 – 31.2 in 2018) with a fading HR/FB rate (8.1). Wong finished 72nd batter in SIscore (0.55) while being drafted as the 134th hitter in 2020 with an ADP of 225. With a higher slot in the batting order and 550 at-bats, Wong should be more attractive. The problem here is that Edman looks to be the better option at second base, and the Cardinals may find a stronger outfield option at some point in 2020. 

A chance at a 10/30 season with a negative value in runs and RBI. I'm trending to the under on his overall projections.

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3. 1B Paul Goldschmidt

The juice in Goldschmidt’s game left the building in 2017. Over the past two years, he hit .275 with 192 runs, 67 home runs, 180 RBI, and ten stolen bases over 1,190 at-bats while underperforming his draft slot. His walk rate (11.4) is losing steam after peaking at 17 percent in 2015 while also seeing a rise in his strikeout rate (24.3). Goldschmidt has over 30 home runs in each of his previous three seasons, with a slight regression in his AVH (1.832). He had a significant drop in his CTBA (.360) after being .400 in each of the past four years. His failure in production came in May and June (.238 with 24 runs, five HRs, and 12 RBI), which led to a correction in July (.308 with 20 runs, 11 HRs, and 27 RBI over 91 at-bats) and September (.269 with 15 runs, five HRs, and 24 RBI over 93 at-bats). 

Goldschmidt had plenty of production against lefties (.269 with 24 runs, nine HRs, and 24 RBI over 104 at-bats). His hard-hit rate (42.4) slipped to 101st after ranking 43rd in 2018 (44.0) and 10th in 2017 (47.3). He had the second straight season of regression in his HR/FB rate (19.9) while setting a career-high in his fly-ball rate (39.4 – 34.8 in his career). Goldschmidt has the look of a player trading batting average for power while falling to be helped with livelier baseball. 

This season his ADP (71) pushes him to a third or fourth hitter on a fantasy roster depending on team structure. Not that far off except for the lost speed. Buy the 100/30/100 foundation bat with the hopes of a rebound in batting average.

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4. 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 make 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 clean up type bat, but his power may work better behind Paul Goldschmidt. 

Viable cheat at third base with an ADP of 408. His AVH (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.

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5. 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 CTBA (.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 in 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). 

An interesting player with a favorable ADP (206). 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.

To view the full starting lineup, which also includes player analysis for Yadier Molina, Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader, Yairo Munoz, Dexter Fowler, Lane Thomas, Matt Wieters, Rangel Ravelo and Dylan Carlson, subscribe now to FullTime Fantasy.

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 St. Louis Cardinals Team Outlook

Pitching Staff

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SP1 Jack Flaherty

The new pitching stud on the block goes by the name Jack Flaherty. Last year his season started with an underachieving 17 starts (4.90 ERA, 1.289 WHIP, and 101 Ks 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 Ks 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 (94.7) was a career-best. Both his four-seamer (.201 BAA), slider (.187 BAA), and sinker (.184 BAA) had winning success while his curveball (.240 BAA) and show-me changeup (.235 BAA) also played well. Each one of his pitches was phenomenal after his hot stretch over the second half of 2019 (four-seam – .169 BAA, sinker – .172 BAA, slider – .123 BAA, and curveball – .148 BAA). 

This season he needs to clean up his mistakes in home runs allowed. Foundation ace with an ADP of 24. His next step: 15-plus wins, with a 2.50 ERA, and a push to 250+ strikeouts.

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SP2 Miles Mikolas

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 high ERA. Last year 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 Ks 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-seamer (.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). He has midlevel ADP (230). 

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 Ks.

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SP3 Dakota Hudson

Hudson had success in ERA (3.35) and wins (16) in his first full season in the majors, but he killed fantasy teams with his WHIP (1.408) with weakness in strikeouts (136). His year started slowly in April (5.63 ERA and 1.917 WHIP) due to eight home runs allowed and 13 walks over 24 innings. He allowed three runs or fewer in 25 of his final 27 games (2.99 ERA, 1.261 WHIP, .230 BAA, and 117 Ks over 150.2 innings). Hudson struggled against lefties (.260 with 11 HRs over 312 at-bats). His walk rate (4.4) was a mess with better than expected AFB (94.3). 

Batters had success against his sinker (.298 BAA) and slider (.296 BAA) while his four-seamer (.196 BAA) and cutter (.189 BAA). He induces a high number of ground balls (56.9 percent), but he had a massive HR/FB rate (19.8). Over three seasons in the minors, Hudson went 25-9 with a 2.69 ERA and 292 strikeouts over 277.2 innings. 

The lack of a swing and miss pitch does invite regression while already having built-in risk in his WHIP. With an ADP of 307, fantasy owners don’t trust his overall package in 2020. Viable 3.50 ERA with growth in WHIP and strikeouts.

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CL/RP Carlos Martinez

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 when down with a right elbow injury. Martinez looked good over his first 11 games as the closer (1.23 ERA and 17 Ks 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 Ks over 15.2 innings. Martinez had right shoulder surgery after the season. His AFB (96.8) remains an edge. Both his slider (.140 BAA) and changeup (.128 BAA) had success while losing the feel for his four-seam (.286 BAA) and sinker (.381 BAA). Martinez finished with the highest strikeout rate (9.9) of his career while still having a below-par walk rate (3.4). 

In 2020, he should be healthier while being a coin flip to start or close. His ADP (180) put him in an attractive area, but his role does make a difference when building your fantasy team. Possible 40-plus saves, or 15 wins with a sub 3.50 ERA and 175-plus strikeouts.

To view the full pitching staff, which also includes player analysis for Adam Wainwright, Kwang-hyun Kim, Alex Reyes, Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos and Andrew Miller, subscribe now to FullTime Fantasy.

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 St. Louis Cardinals Team Outlook