Last week, I covered a rival of my beloved Cubs from the same city. No, they neither play in the same league nor division, but it creates a Civil War-feeling dividing the city in half. Looking directly at the NL Central, there is a bigger rival of the Cubs: The St. Louis Cardinals. While many people love to bash their team’s rival, I look at it with a clearer head. I have nothing but respect for the Cardinals organization. As I stated last season, the Cardinals stand for what is right in professional sports. From fan loyalty to management decisions they are always contending for their division and ultimately a World Series championship.
It’s an interesting fact that the founder of the Chicago White Sox, Charles Comiskey, was a player and manager for the first professional baseball team in St. Louis before founding the American League team. An organization that had such Hall of Famers as Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Ozzie Smith has a history of producing talent. Proving this organization has great depth throughout the minor leagues, some rookies don’t make their Major League appearance until between the ages of 23-26. I’m not one to crown division or MLB champions before a season starts, and if you’ve paid attention to the media, Vegas, as well as many others have crowned the Chicago Cubs the 2016 champions. Any season that the St. Louis Cardinals play, they can never be counted out. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s an absolute race to the finish for the National League Central.
Notable Off-Season Moves:
November 30 – Signed free agent C Brayan Pena.
December 8 – Traded for 2B Jedd Gyorko.
December 22 – Signed free agent RHP Mike Leake.
January 11 – Signed free agent RHP Seung Hwan Oh.
March 19 – Signed free agent SS Ruben Tejada.
Projected Batting Order:
|3B – Matt Carpenter||.280/22/83|
|RF – Stephen Piscotty||.271/14/65|
|LF – Matt Holliday||.275/17/77|
|1B – Matt Adams||.271/11/56|
|CF – Randal Grichuk||.263/21/78|
|C – Yadier Molina||.274/6/55|
|2B – Kolten Wong||.261/12/65 25 SB|
|SS – Ruben Tejada||.254/2/23|
Projected Pitching Rotation:
|Adam Wainwright (RHP)||15-6/3.08/188K|
|Michael Wacha (RHP)||15-9/3.41/173K|
|Mike Leake (RHP)||11-10/3.41/122K|
|Jaime Garcia (LHP)||10-6/3.19/109K|
|Carlos Martinez (RHP)||13-7/3.16/192K|
|Kevin Siegrist (LHP) [Setup]||2.80/27 Holds/90K|
|Trevor Rosenthal (RHP) [Closer]||2.51/45 Saves/87K|
Minor League Maestro Spotlight:
Marco Gonzales, LHP
Gonzales was heading for a call-up during the 2015 season before he dealt with a left pectoral injury. He’s a crafty lefty that won’t blow hitters away with his fastball, but he has a great changeup and a mediocre curveball that he throws for strikes. While he throws strikes, he has had trouble keeping the ball low during his time with the Cardinals’ Major League club. The signing of Mike Leake hurts his chances out of Spring Training, but the rotation is an injury away from Gonzales being called back to the Cardinals.
Alex Reyes, RHP
It wouldn’t be a top prospects ranking without a St. Louis Cardinal. Reyes is looking like the next hard thrower to land on the Cardinals’ roster within the 2016 season. If injuries occur, Reyes could see his call sooner rather than later. However, the call will have to come after Reyes serves his 50-game suspension, due to a failed drug test while pitching in the Arizona Fall League. 2015 saw Reyes throw 101.1 innings while collecting a 5-7 record with a 2.49 ERA and amazing WHIP of 1.17. His 96 strikeouts in FSL A (Advanced) saw him around the top 10 in 2015. As with many young flame throwers, command is a minor issue. Once he figures this out, he will strikeout mass amounts of hitters. He’s another arm that needs to be on fantasy radars going into 2016.
Aledmys Diaz, SS
With Jhonny Peralta slated to miss an extended period of time following surgery to fix a torn ligament in his thumb, all signs pointed to Jedd Gyorko or Diaz getting the first shot at shortstop. However, the Cardinals signed free agent shortstop Ruben Tejada to shore up the shortstop position. This is no knock to Gyorko or Diaz, but Tejada has a track record in the Major Leagues and brings a veteran presence. In 2015, Diaz had a successful season at two stops (AA Springfield & AAA Memphis) in the minor leagues. He hit a combined .278 with 13 HR and 52 RBI. He was able to stay under 100 strikeouts (67) in nearly 425 at-bats. I’d like to see him up his walks (35), but his ability to be more selective will come with more experience playing in the United States. It remains to be seen where Diaz starts the 2016 season, but once he’s on the Major League roster he could be a steal off the waiver wire.
Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and Mike Leake are locks to be drafted in nearly 100% of fantasy leagues. Wacha is an up-and-coming ace while Wainwright looks to build on a successful career after missing a majority of the 2015 season following surgery to fix a torn Achilles tendon. His injury refreshed the idea of bringing the designated hitter to the National League. After aforementioned pitchers, Jaime Garcia and Carlos Martinez seem primed to anchor the back-end of the starting rotation. Leake is an innings eater that won’t walk a lot of hitters, but he won’t strikeout a lot either. He’s a ground ball machine that should get plenty of run support playing for the Cardinals. He will be draftable, at a value, in the last few rounds of fantasy drafts. Garcia has a similar history of keeping batters off bases, and keeps the ball in the ballpark. However, injury concerns always appear, and 2015 saw him throw 130 innings. These were the most in the past four seasons. Carlos Martinez was having a fantastic season before a shoulder injury cut his season short. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing to see him shut down, and he needs to be drafted in 2016. He’s a strikeout machine that should push 180+ K while sporting an ERA of 3.10 of better. Only 24, Martinez can do wonders for owners looking for power starting pitchers. Yadier Molina is a phenomenal defensive catcher and put it together offensively after a few seasons. He underwent left thumb surgery twice this off-season, and faced live pitchers for the first time last week. He’ll be a solid option as soon as the top few catchers come off the board. Back and elbow issues slowed Matt Holliday in 2015. Once slated for 15-20 HR a season, it looks like Holliday is seeing age as a factor. He’s still a solid option as a third outfielder, but at age 36 the days are long gone of 20+ HR and 90+ RBI. Matt Carpenter brought the power in 2015 hitting 28 HR and driving in 84 runs. He does enough from the third base position to solidify owners over drafting him. In the middle-to-late rounds Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk need to be on fantasy radars. Both look to start in right field and centerfield respectively, and there’s no questioning the 15+ HR potential of both. Neither will steal many bases, but 70+ RBI are reachable. Last on the outlook is closer Trevor Rosenthal. He was two saves short of 50 in 2015. Expect Rosenthal to push 50 saves, and while striking out better than 80 batters. He’ll be one of the first few closers to come off the board. I don’t recommend reaching for closers, but Rosenthal is as safe as it gets from the closer role.
Season Projection: 99-63 (1st in NL Central)
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 17th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #4 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. We will discuss player positions and help prepare you for the coming draft season. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss everything fantasy and MLB related in the N.L. East.
Come join a lively debate!
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday March 20th, 2016 from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. We are a live call in radio show so we encourage callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will break down everything fantasy and MLB relevant for the N.L. Central division.
Our guests this week are Andy Macuga and Phil Weiss. Andy is the head baseball coach at Borrego Springs H.S. in Southern California, and a veteran owner in MLFS leagues. Phil Weiss’s resume includes working as a CPA with a large public accounting firm as well as private industry (Fortune 500), specializing in international corporate tax planning. Also earned the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Chief Financial Analyst for Independent RIA, responsible for individual securities held in client accounts.
Frequent guest on CNBC and Bloomberg television. Multiple appearances on Bloomberg radio, local and national radio.
Regularly quoted in Wall Street Journal, Reuters, New York Times, AP, thestreet.com, local news, Financial Times
Fantasy Baseball Experience:
Seasoned fantasy player since college and also a Major League Fantasy Baseball team owner for 3 years.