Hello again, my friends. Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.
I had another fun-but-also-terribly-painful experiment for you guys. For some of you this will be euphoric. But as a Cardinals fan myself, well, this just sucks.
My experiment is rather simple, and it’s similar to my last piece on Waiver Wire All-Stars. I’m certainly not alone in this, but I’ve noticed a whole lotta ex-STL players having really, really, really good things happen after leaving town. I got to thinking, and I wondered if it were possible to field a full fantasy squad of 100% ex-STL players and still have a good team. The answer is YUP. Oh, joy.
I had to take some liberties, and I had to do a lot of digging through past draft classes and minor league affiliate rosters, but I’ve built a Yahoo standard lineup of players who at one point in time were in the Cardinals system (with some liberties sprinkled in). It’s not a perfect team, but it’s a damn fine one if you ask me. It just hurts all the more knowing this didn’t have to be fantasy for the Cardinals. IT COULD HAVE BEEN REALITY! MAYBE! *crying baby GIF*
Another thing about this experiment is we gotta assume these players reach or maintain their fantasy ceilings. Some guys weren’t so great in 2020 but have been good recently, or vice versa. Some of them I don’t exactly miss, if I’m being honest, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t help this fantasy fantasy squad win.
Cardinals fans, get your tissues ready. Have Freese’s heroics from Game 6 of the 2011 World Series playing on a loop in the background as you read. Go to your happy place and try to stay there as you see name after name break your heart over and over again. This is supposed to be therapeutic, right?
Ex-Cardinals Fantasy All-Star Team
C: Carson Kelly
- Hard to pick a catcher kinda cuz they’ve only had one for the last like 45 years. Yadier Molina has played in almost every game since the dawn of time. Carson Kelly was supposed to be the next big thing, but Yadi still does Yadi things, so the Cards traded Kelly in a package for Paul Goldschmidt. Worked out okay. Kelly did pop off an .826 OPS in 2019, which ain’t bad for a catcher in fantasy. 2020 was bad, but he’s a pretty solid dynasty piece, right? It’s not like the catcher position is thriving or anything. There’s still some upside. Much more so from a fantasy standpoint than Molina, unless your league counts neck tats and Gold Glove snubs. Johnny Bench might be able to hold seventeen burgers at once, but he can’t hold sh*t to Molina!
1B: Luke Voit
- *EVERY SAD GIF EVER ON REPEAT FOREVER* Ugh. Sure, Luke Voit isn’t the perfect hitter. In a full season, I don’t think his .277 AVG even holds up, even if xBA says it should’ve been .285. There is zero denying that power, though. That man can S-M-A-S-H dingers. I had a very hard time believing anyone could realistically hit 20 HR in a 60-game season, and he goes and leads the league with 22 (no one else had 20, so I was almost right). His 2020 ADP will likely be a little juicy for my liking, but in a healthy Yankees lineup, Voit will have ample opportunity to build on his success this year. Could end up being worth it. He doesn’t strike out a ton for a slugger. This year, he was #10 on the Player Rater. Neat.
2B: Donovan Solano
- Donovan Solano was signed by the Cards way back in 2005, only to ultimately leave the program in 2011 via free agency. He’s since bounced around between the majors and minors in a few other franchises before finally landing with San Francisco, where things are going quite well, all things considered. After a strong BA in limited work in 2019, Solano picked up where he left off, finishing 2020 with a .326/.365/.463 slash line. Little Donny even chipped in 29 RBI in just 54 games.
3B: Yairo Munoz
- Yairo Munoz is easily the weakest pick of the entire lineup, but I couldn’t for the life of me find a better 3B option. And if you’ll suspend disbelief for a minute, you can pretend Munoz’s 2020 slash line is legit! Who knows, maybe it is! Munoz slashed .333/.333/.511 in 45 PAs. It’s never encouraging to see identical BAs and OBPs…but just keep on suspending that there disbelief. In 12 games, Munoz homered once and stole two bases! That’s a 162-game pace of double-digit HR and 27 SB!!! If that’s his absolute ceiling, I’ll still take it. He’s actually a career .278 hitter in the bigs, so that’s pretty okay. Could’ve picked Albert Pujols here, I guess, but in the time it took him to round the bases, I changed my mind.
SS: Fernando Tatis Jr.
- Taking a rather liberal liberty here, since he was never officially in the system, but I’m going to include Fernando Tatis Jr. for a couple reasons: 1) His daddy hit two grand slams in one inning for the Cards, and 2) It’s been reported that the Cardinals scouted Tatis Jr. 19 times, and opted instead to sign a player who never eclipsed Rookie Ball. #1 has zero bearing outside of sentimentality, but #2 is pretty legit in my mind. I don’t really need to go over the numbers here. Everyone, even non-baseball fans probably, knows who Tatis Jr. is. They know he has cool hair, wears cool shades, is an Unwritten Rules Bad Boy, hits for power, and has speed. Junior is the perfect baseball package and the Cards decided he wasn’t worth much of a shot, even if he had two-grand-slams-in-one-inning DNA in his blood. He only turned into the #2 overall dude on Player Rater. No biggie.
OF: Randy Arozarena
- Another man who needs no introduction at this point: Randy Arozarena. When you look at the current Cardinals’ outfield (minus Dylan Carlson), then look at the three outfielders listed here, you’ll feel one of two things: 1) “LOLOLOLOLOL” or 2) A raw, deep, dark, existential void creeping into your very heart. I’m in camp #2. I know Matthew Liberatore has potential, but Arozarena has catapulted into a smiling, bat-flipping, home-run-hitting, base-stealing, barrel-rolling hero. He hit .300 with an .891 OPS in 19 games last season for STL. He hit .281 with a 1.022 OPS in 23 games this season for the Rays. And now he went and broke postseason records left and right, doing literally almost everything to keep his otherwise offensively-inept teammates alive in the World Series. All while St. Louis pays Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader to post -0.1 WAR and 0.8 WAR, respectively.
OF: Marcell Ozuna
- Oh hey, look, it’s almost-Triple Crown winner Marcell Ozuna! The former Cardinal who wanted to stay! The guy who hit .338, mashed 18 HR, and drove in 56 runs in 60 games! COOL! Statcast was off the charts, needless to say. While Fowler’s and Bader’s have been off the charts for the wrong reasons. I see no reason to think Ozuna can’t replicate what he did in 2020 being surrounded by that kind of talent in Atlanta. And I see no reason to think Fowler and Bader can’t replicate their respective seasons, either. Cuz they suck.
OF: Tommy Pham
- If we assume Tommy Pham is healthy, then we have a fantasy stud. Another one in the outfield whom the Cards let go. 2020 didn’t look so hot, but 2017-2019 sure did. Pham hit at least 21 HR and stole 15 bases in each of those three seasons, twice breaking the 20/20 threshold. That’s fantasy GOLD right there. His 2017 season was #105 overall from all seasons from all hitters from 2015-2019 combined. The Cards traded him in 2018 to Tampa for a package that included Genesis Cabrera, so it wasn’t a total bust, I guess. But, like, gimme Pham back please.
UT: Randal Grichuk
- Good ole Randal Grichuk. I was definitely bummed when he got moved at first, then he plateaued a little and I felt fine. But now 2019 (31 HR) and 2020 (35-HR pace) have happened and I’m bummed again, especially considering the return package (Dominic Leone and Connor Greene). Randy Grich really did a little of everything this year: solid average, 12 HR, 35 RBI, scored runs, and even stole a base. Cut his K-rate to a career-best 21.2%. Things are pointing in the right direction. Won’t lie, didn’t foresee a top-50 season (#48) on our Player Rater from him.
UT: Oscar Mercado
- I was really high on Oscar Mercado coming into the year, and a lot of other folks were as well. He plain sucked, and he saw his K-rate spike to 29% when it was just 17.4% as a rookie last year. Still, I think there’s a lot to like in the fantasy world from Mercado. In 115 games in 2019, he hit 15 HR and had 15 SB. That’s a 21/21 pace. Me likey. He got hurt in preseason and obviously didn’t find his groove in 2020. I’ll take “2021 Sleeper” for $100, Alex. In case you’re curious, Mercado was traded for a home plate brush and a stack of Gatorade cups in the forms of Conner Capel and Jhon Torres. Juuust kidding, there’s some upside with both of these guys, especially Torres. An older piece from Prospector Ralph features Capel, and an older piece from The Itch features Torres.
SP: Zac Gallen
- Time for pitchers! Don’t worry, it’s almost every bit as depressing. Zac Gallen was awesome in 2019, and he was even awesomer in 2020. He just plays for a poop team. Didn’t stop him from being an almost-top-1oo Player Rater gem. It’s kinda funny, because he was involved in a trade that included two others on this list. Gallen and Sandy Alcantara (and a couple others) were shipped to the Marlins for Marcell Ozuna. Maybe that’s a good price if 2020 Ozuna showed up in STL, but I dunno. All I know is neither of these three are Cardinals anymore and they’re all very, very good. Gallen improved on his first-year ERA of 2.81 with an ERA of 2.75 in 2020, striking out 10.3 per nine innings. Control is still an issue, but we’re looking at a fringe elite ace as it is. If the control improves, we’ll have ourselves a real badass.
SP: Max Scherzer
- Speaking of real badasses! It’s Max Scherzer! Three-time Cy Young winner, seven-time All-Star, and 2019 World Series winner! Among the best of the best in fantasy for the past like seven years. Scherzer was born in St. Louis and drafted out of high school way down in the 43rd round in 2003 by St. Louis. He didn’t sign. Then he was scooped up in 2006 as the #11 overall pick by the Diamondbacks. So I guess technically Scherzer never really spent a day in the actual Cardinals’ system, but I’m still counting it. No further explanation needed. Scherzer took a step back in 2020, but he’s still got it. Health is the biggest issue.
RP: Trevor Rosenthal
- I wasn’t sad to see Trevor Rosenthal get released back in 2017. Looked like his career was shot to hell. Injuries and awful peformance, blah blah blah. But he rebounded in a huge way in 2020. I don’t have anything else to say that I haven’t already when I featured him as a 2020 Waiver Wire All-Star, so you can check that out here.
RP: Adam Ottavino
- In the right kind of league, I love me some Adam Ottavino. You ain’t getting any saves from the guy, but he’s a ratio and K stud, and he’s been a holds maestro in the past. Ottavino was a 1st round pick by the Cards in 2006, but mostly bounced around the minors for a few years before getting a real shot with the Rockies in 2012. It’s been a good career ever since he left the Lou. Go figure.
P: Lance Lynn
- Lance Lynn had some good seasons as a member of the Cardinals, most notably his 18-win 2012 campaign and his 2.74 ERA 2014 campaign. Maybe things didn’t progress to the front office’s liking after that, but ultimately he tested the free agency market. He signed with Minnesota only to get traded four months later to the Yankees. Things didn’t work out there, but since signing with Texas in 2018, he’s been fantasy gold.
- Since leaving the Cards via the Ozuna trade, Sandy Alcantara has a 3.69 ERA and has been named an All-Star. Alcantara only started seven games in 2020, but they were dandies (3-2, 3.00 ERA, 7.5 H/9), and he looked pretty good in the playoffs. Kid’s got a bright future ahead, but it won’t be in a Cardinals uniform.
- It was very on brand for 2020 to make Marco Gonzales a fantasy stud this year. For his career, dude had 4.25 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 9.7 H/9, and 7.2 K/9 heading into the season. So logically, he finished as the #49 overall player (technically tied with Grichuk) on the Player Rater. Also was a Waiver Wire All-Star, so see more about his season here.
P: Luke Weaver
- Lastly, we have Luke Weaver, who was part of the Goldschmidt trade. In 12 starts in 2019, he was superb for the Diamondbacks: 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 69 K in 64.1 IP. In 12 starts in 2020, he sucked: 6.58 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, but still 55 K in 52 IP. He looked better in his last few starts, and 2020 was weird for pitchers, what with ramp-up time and all that. So if we pretend 2019 Weaver shows up again, that’s a real nice addition to this fantasy fantasy pitching staff.
Was that as fun for you as it was gut-wrenching for me? Hope yinz enjoyed. Weather’s getting colder; people are gonna be hanging indoors more. Be careful out there. Wash your hands and don’t pick your boogers.
Find me on Twitter (@jkj0787) or on Reddit (u/UsidoreElAzul).