After finishing with their worst record since 1999, the St. Louis Cardinals didn't seem to do much to rectify the situation during the offseason.
They brought in right-handed pitcher Matt Clement, but he didn't pitch at all last season because of shoulder surgery. He was only 5-5 with a 6.61 ERA in 12 starts for the Boston Red Sox in 2006. To make matters worse, Clement hasn't pitched yet in spring training because he's not fully recovered from the surgery.
With starters Mark Mulder and Chris Carpenter already out for a large portion of the season, the Cardinals are going to need Clement to contribute significant innings if they hope to remain competitive in the NL Central this season.
The Cardinals also swapped third basemen with the Toronto Blue Jays, which could be an upgrade because they'll no longer have to deal with the feud between Scott Rolen and manager Tony LaRussa. Troy Glaus is a year younger than Rolen and had 20 home runs and 62 RBIs last season. Those numbers could increase in 2008 since he'll be in the NL.
St. Louis Cardinals
2007 record: 78-84 (3rd in NL Central)
Key additions: 3B Troy Glaus, RHP Matt Clement, SS Cesar Izturis
Key losses: 3B Scott Rolen, SS David Eckstein, CF Jim Edmonds, UTIL Scott Spiezio
Most valuable fantasy performers:
1. Albert Pujols, 1B – Pujols is still the best fantasy player in St. Louis and he'll hit around .330 with 35-40 home runs and 110-120 RBIs. It should be noted that Pujols is dealing with a damaged right elbow, so you should be cautious if you decide to take him with your first selection. Hope that he'll be able to play through the season and draft him regardless of the injury concerns. Even if he only has one healthy arm, Pujols is still one of the most feared hitters in the major leagues.
2. Troy Glaus, 3B – On the surface, the swap of Glaus and Rolen may look like a trade of two similar players. However, Glaus should thrive in St. Louis because he'll no longer be playing on the artificial turf that destroyed his knees in Toronto. If he stays healthy, Glaus could have 30-35 home runs and 100-110 RBIs this season. He's not going to have a high batting average, so don't take him before the later rounds of your draft. Still, Glaus will give you tremendous value with one of your final picks.
3. Adam Wainwright, RHP – After helping the Cardinals win the World Series in 2006 as the temporary closer, Wainwright showed that he's also capable of being a solid starting pitcher. He was 14-12 with a 3.70 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 202 innings pitched last season. With injuries already making an impact in St. Louis, Wainwright will need to improve those numbers in 2008 if the Cardinals hope to return to the playoffs. He'll likely win 13-17 games with 140-150 strikeouts. While he's not a top fantasy starter, Wainwright will be a valuable middle-round pick for your team.
4. Jason Isringhausen, RHP – In seven of the last eight seasons, Isringhausen has picked up at least 30 saves. He'll likely save 30-35 games again this season, so he's worthy of being a second closer on your team. There are other options available, but Isringhausen will give you excellent value for a draft pick in the middle to late rounds.
1. Rick Ankiel, CF – Eight years ago, Ankiel was 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA and 194 strikeouts as a 20-year-old pitcher. It looked like he would be a superstar fantasy pitcher in the prime of his career by 2008. Well, plans change and Ankiel is now trying to establish himself as a legitimate power-hitting outfielder. He hit .285 with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs in 47 games last season. While he's not worth a substantial role until he proves that last season wasn't a fluke, Ankiel should be watched during the first few weeks. Take him with your last pick if you feel like he'll continue to hit home runs.