KFFL answers important fantasy baseball questions about each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the St. Louis Cardinals?
How will three of their big boppers from 2012 perform?
Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina picked up the slack after Albert Pujols' departure and while Matt Holliday played through some injuries, including autumn back woes.
It's almost Miller time at Busch
The recipient of the most fantasy love in early mocks has been Craig, who carries eligibility at first base and outfield. His contact ability and alluring promise of controlling the plate while hitting second or cleanup, more likely the latter, stand out among second- and third-tier first sackers.
Still, he should be kept near the bottom end of the position's top 10 options in mixed leagues. Most assume there will be a direct extrapolation of his numbers in injury-shortened seasons. (Hint: He has frequent flier miles for an exotic destination called "the DL"). Many are paying as if a full season is a lock. Also, since he has yet to display a 30-homer season in the bigs, he must keep crushing southpaws to sustain a .300 clip to augment his dollar returns. There's plenty to like, and sometimes you have to go on guts when it comes to predicting growth, but to ditch options with longer track records for the sake of being a "smart guy" in the first three mixed rounds ... you're missing out on safer investments.
Beltran's back-to-back seasons of 520-plus at-bats have fueled his resurrection. He has become increasingly aggressive late in his career, and it paid off nicely last year. However, as he turns 36 in April, you have to wonder how much longer his bat speed will remain at optimal levels, which means he's unlikely to see a .300 BA again without significant good luck. The harsh correction in last year's second half might be a preview. Plus, how much do you want to spend to push the limit of him staying healthy?
Of this trio, Molina carries the best combination of foundation and value. People forget he was regularly hovering around .300 even when his power was miniscule. The late-blooming masher catcher is a tale as old as time, and Molina, with his beautiful output, has become a beast in his early 30s, increasing his output in the HR column by eight in each of the last two years.
OK, so that trend will halt, simply because his skills distribution won't allow it. Still, even if you knock a handful of taters off his 2012 total, he's one of the most complete offensive profiles among backstops. Unfortunately, more people are finally buying into him as an elite option, which makes him a stale stock for profit unless catchers as a whole get a discount via your draft flow.
Who will sub for Chris Carpenter?
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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