July Update: The Cardinals were a team that found a silver lining from the prolonged layoff, as it allowed an early elbow injury to Paul Goldschmidt to heal. After suffering ailments in early March, Goldy has said that his elbow feels near 100 percent, lining up for him to take the field on Opening Day. Despite losing Marcell Ozuna and Jose Martinez in the offseason, the Cardinals will boast a good mix of young, upcoming talent with solidified veterans. Players like Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader will look to take on full-time roles and hopefully fill the gap left by those who departed. The biggest question comes with the rotation and who can build off the stellar season that was just had by Jack Flaherty. Carlos Martinez could be one of those guys, as his boom-or-bust career finds him back in the Cardinals’ rotation. How long that’ll last is certainly up for debate but the team hopes his newfound confidence from his bullpen work last year will lead to a successful run in his new role.
The Cardinals’ offseason was filled more with players moving on rather than players coming in. They lost their biggest free agent in Marcell Ozuna, who would go on to sign a deal with the Braves. They traded away Jose Martinez, which got them two prospects that we could see down the road. The Cardinals are hoping a pair of young outfielders will not only help them save salary but bring some big-time production in lieu of making a splash in free agency.
— Division Winner: +250
— League Winner: +900
— World Series: +2000
Marcell Ozuna, OF; Michael Wacha, SP; Jose Martinez 1B
Brad Miller, 2B
2020 Fantasy MVP
Jack Flaherty, SP
If the Cy Young award was given out in half season increments, Flaherty made his case over the second half of the season last year. After a mediocre first half, Flaherty went on to throw 99 1/3 innings during the second half with a 0.91 ERA, a 0.71 WHIP and a K% of 34. Going deeper into those numbers, Flaherty had a .189 wOBA, a 2.22 FIP while allowing a 33% hard-hit rate. It’s truly remarkable to think that through 99 1/3 innings, Flaherty allowed just 11 runs, 10 of which were earned. Starting on July 7, Flaherty allowed one one or less in 13 of his 16 starts.
Building off that dominant stretch, I think Flaherty finally found his niche as a starter and his slider is one of the best in the majors. With that in mind, I would be downright shocked if he wasn’t able to replicate his dominance to end the season in 2019 and do that over the full season in 2020. He’s only 24 years old, keeps the ball in the park and has lowed his BB% in all three seasons in the majors. I think the best is yet to come for Flaherty, which is quite the endorsement considering what he’s coming off of.
2020 Fantasy LVP
Harrison Bader, OF
This one pains me. I’m a fan of Bader overall, but I have to be realistic as well. Bader is tabbed to be the starting center fielder, which will be the first time he’ll take on a full-time role. In the three years he’s spent time in the majors, he’s been a great bat against lefties but does not produce consistently enough against righties. Looking at his career numbers, overall against righties specifically he’s slashing .228/.318/.355 with 16 of his 27 home runs. This spans over 575 at-bats, so it’s a healthy sample. Pitting him in a full-time role, barring a major change in his approach, I fear will really put a damper on his production. He’ll post some steals, as he’s posted double-digit steals in numerous levels in the minors and majors, but his other numbers will struggle.
2020 Breakout Player
Make sure if you’re going to say something about O’Neill, you use two L’s in his last name. O’Neill is not going to post a lot of sexy numbers overall, but he possesses some huge power potential. In 2018 while playing in Triple-A, O’Neill blasted 26 home runs through 64 games to go along with 63 RBI. He’s been used sparingly in the majors, but his role is expected to be much larger this season and looks as if he’ll open the year as their left fielder. He’s shown some speed at time in the minors as well, topping out at 16 steals in 2015. However, we haven’t seen that translate to the majors, stealing just three total bases. Nonetheless, I think for someone who can hit 20-plus home runs and knock in a healthy dose of runs is someone to consider in the upcoming season.
The Cardinals lost some power during the offseason, as Ozuna left in free agency and Martinez was traded away. They didn’t really address those losses and instead have decided to go with their internal options. For a team that struggled to hit last season — they ranked 19th in runs scored, 23rd in SLG% and 21st in OPS — I don’t see how they make much of an improvement in 2020. They have some names on offense like Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong and Matt Carpenter, but I think this could end up being a disappointing year overall, as I see them finishing behind the Reds and Brewers in the NL Central.
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