Fantasy Baseball Sleepers at Every Position.

C: Omar Narvaez, Seattle Mariners

Narvaez was a major player for almost every Draftkings lineup I put out last season. Playing in 97 games for the White Sox Narvaez popped 9 homers and added 30 RBI’s.  He also has a solid 12.3 walk rate while striking out 16.9 percent of the time. Among catchers with 200 plate appearances last season, Narvaez led all with a 29 percent line drive rate. He’s someone that has always squared up the ball going back to his minor league days. 

Narvaez was dealt to the Mariners in the offseason which will put him in a tough home ballpark.  But with multiple trips to Houston and Oakland allowing him for some hitter friendly places for the power to continue to develop.

1B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

First Base is not the stacked position that most assume it will be.  Projected as the 18th best first base eligible player Cabrera is the perfect player to fall to the bottom of most draft boards.  An injury last year limited Miggy to just 38 games last year but he is still going to be the focal point of the Detroit offense in 2019 and he can still hit the ball hard. Per Statcast, Cabrera twice exceeded 114 MPH on batted balls last year, a feat which only 52 of 390 hitters with at least 100 plate appearances managed.

This is not the MVP Cabrera of his past but the productions should still be there for a player that no one will be looking at.

2B: Garrett Hampson, Colorado Rockies

The Rockies let DJ LeMahieu moving on to New York a spot opened up at second base for Hampson.  Ryan McMahon will most likely get a few starts at 2nd the job should go primarily to Hampson whose speed will be a great attribute to a loaded Rockies lineup. The 24-year-old hit at least .301 across every minor league level. In 2018, he hit 10 home runs and stole 36 bases across two levels. The kid can hit and he can flat out run.

Let’s never forget that Coors Field can do wonders for any player. Hampson will have huge upside while most likely being overshadowed in most drafts.

SS: Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals have made their lineup one of the deepest in the league by adding potential game changer Paul Goldschmidt.  Whether DeJong is batting in front or behind Goldschmidt shouldn’t matter with the power potential he has.  A healthy DeJong is the only worry anyone should have about his potential. 

Getting a 30HR potential bat at shortstop late in your draft will be huge down the stretch of the long fantasy baseball season.

3B: Josh Donaldson, Atlanta Braves

Donaldson’s injuries put a halt to a career that was seeing him propel himself to the top of the MLB. Donaldson won’t get back to his MVP form but his signing with the Braves puts him in the middle of a diverse lineup.  With guys like Ronald Acuna, Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies around him Donaldson will have huge opportunities to knock in runs.  30 homers makes a lot of sense if he can stay healthy this season. 

OF: Domingo Santana, Seattle Mariners

Another Mariner makes my list, this one with similar traits as Narvaez.  Domingo Santana has the power to make a huge difference in any lineup.  Finally finding consistent at bats this year will be huge for a player that was the odd man out in Milwaukee last year. When given a full season of at bats in 2017 Domingo put together all-star level numbers smashing 30 homers with an .870 OPS.  Santana also surprised many with 15 steals added to those power numbers.

With an ADP of 356 you may be able to pick up Santana after the season has already begun in smaller leagues. At just 26 years old Santana is still progressing as a hitter and could add more tools as the season goes on. 

RP: Trevor May, Minnesota Twins

After missing the 2017 season Trevor May made it back to the mound in 2018 and dazzled in the back end for the Twins. His swing and miss ability was ability was nearly elite level with a `15.4% rate.  Further his K-BB% of 30.1% was top flight.   The Twins have made moves to strengthen their lineup in 2019 and with no clear choice in the back end May stands out as the best possible choice for the Twins.

SP: Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays-

       Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners

       Ross Stripling, Los Angeles Dodgers

      Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros

AL Central Preview

Cleveland Indians:

Key Additions: Jake Bauers, Carlos Santana, Jordan Luplow

The Cleveland Indians made some interesting moves in the offseason.  Unloading the power of Edwin Encarnacion and the often-injured Michael Brantley were moves made to change up the culture of the Indians locker room, while also making sure to free up money to sign franchise cornerstones Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor for the long term.

Their open negotiations on moving starting pitchers was surprising to say the least.  Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber were openly being discussed in the market, ultimately the Indians decided to hold on to their top two rotation pieces. Making them the favorites for the 2019 season. 

The Indians still have the best rotation in the division.  Brad Hand will take over the closing duties for another departing star Cody Allen, overall the bullpen is still solid.  The biggest worry I have for the Indians would be their depth in the outfield.  They have great speed but no real established major league stars.  The projected starters are currently Jake Bauers, Leonys Martin, and Tyler Naquin.  The Indians will be putting a lot of pressure on their stars in a lineup that is does not have the depth is has had in past years.

Minnesota Twins:

Key Additions: Marwin Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, CJ Cron, Jonathon Schoop

The Twins have quietly become the most improved team in this division and its not even close.  A team that ranked 23rd in the league in homers last year added some serious pop to their lineup.  Nelson Cruz and CJ Cron immediately give them two players that can hit over 30 homers backing up Eddie Rosario and hopefully a resurgent Miguel Sano. Fellow additions veterans Jonathon Schoop and super utility man Marwin Gonzalez gives the Twins some serious depth on the infield. 

Offensively there is a lot to like about Minnesota going into 2019.  To overcome the Indians though they will need more production at the very top of the order.  A healthy Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton are the best bets to take over the lead off role.  If Minnesota can put people on base consistently they could be looking at a top ten offensive club.

The biggest questions will be the starting pitching behind stud Jose Berrios.  Minnesota fans will hope to see Michael Pineida take the mound during the season fresh off his Tommy John surgery.  The former Yankee and Mariner has shown glimpses of what could be before his injury, if he is able to step in and help solidify a rotation with a lot of promise this team will not only take of the central but potentially be a contender in the American League.

Detroit Tigers

Key Additions: Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison

Can someone please make a deal for Nicolas Castellanos??? The Detroit Tigers are not ready to contend, and this guy is too good of a hitter to waste his prime years in Detroit in what is a forever rebuild.  The Tigers have some players that are going to be fun to watch, Jeimer Canderlario, Niko Goodrum and Christian Stewart will all get the opportunity to show the organization what they have this season but that shouldn’t make a huge difference in their overall record.

With a core of veterans like Miguel Cabrera, Jordan Zimmerman and the newly signed Josh Harrison the tigers will be competitive early in the season but it’s time for them to fully commit to their rebuild.  They need to move on from all of their older players and help build their farm system that currently ranks in the middle of the pack.  If the Tigers are smart they will also move their lone pitching star Michael Fulmer while he still has solid value.

Kansas City Royals:

Key Additions: Brad Boxberger, Terrance Gore, Billy Hamilton

The 2019 Kansas City Royals are going to be fun to watch.  An adrenaline rush of energy from almost every spot in the lineup.  With the addition of Billy Hamilton to go along with Whit Merrifield, Alberto Mondesi and Terrance Gore the Royals are going to be tough for opposing pitchers and catchers. 

The Royals have begun the rebuild of their farm system bringing themselves from worst in the league to 27th ranked.  While not a huge upgrade moving up four spots in farm system rankings in just one year is very impressive.  The Royals don’t have much pitching depth in the rotation or bullpen but their great defense and unique offense should help them pull out victories in 2019.

Chicago White Sox:

Key Additions: Kelvin Herrara, Yonder Alonso, Jon Jay, Ivan Nova

I want to say I feel bad for the White Sox for losing out on Manny Machado but when you sign players to help you bring in the guy you want to build around you put yourself in a tough situation. The Sox still have a great core of young players Yoan Moncada, Eloys Jimenez, Dylan Case and Michael Kopech.  They are still looking for the player to finalize the rebuild.

The 2019 White Sox will still be bottom dwellers but there is at least excitement in the works for Chicago’s second favorite team. The pickup of proven major league player like a Yonder Alonso, Ivan Nova and Jon Jay will give them potential trade chips when the trade deadline hits.  Chicago has its core but is still a few years away from being a true contender.

Projected standings:

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Cleveland Indians
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Detroit Tigers

I think that the Twins have done enough to improve their offense to take the American League Central.  This is a two team race between the Twins and the Indians.  The battle for third place in the division will also be a battle for the worst record in the American League.

Grading NL Central Offseason- Right Now

Pittsburgh Pirates: D

It was a quiet winter in the steel city adding just outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall whom you would think is just competing for a bench spot. The loss of Josh Harrison will hurt from a clubhouse perspective, while Ivan Nova’s movement will hurt from an innings eating perspective.

The Pirates would have a much higher grade if you considered the work they did at the trade deadline.  Having a full year of Chris Archer will make a difference for a team that was a surprising contender for a large part of 2018. Archer adds to their rotation that also features young stars in the making Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, making as solid top three.   The depth of the rotation takes a little plunge after that.

Cincinnati Reds: B+

The Reds got a B+ mainly for unloading the contract of Homer Bailey.  Getting rid of Bailey seemed like only a dream at the beginning of the offseason but they were able to do it while bringing in a potential steal of talent in Yasiel Puig.  While Puig has not lived up to the original hype he still brings some excitement to a Red’s organization that needed to show their fans that they are still trying to win.

The Reds were able to add some nice pieces to their rotation with former Dodger lefty Alex Wood and former Nationals righty Tanner Roark.  Both add depth to a very thin rotation.  These players both come from winning organizations which can only help the young starters during a season the season.

While trades were the main story the resigning of hard throwing closer Raisel Iglesias is an underappreciated move.  The Reds are not going to be frontrunners for the division next season, but their moves have made them no longer a push over.

Chicago Cubs: D-

Not that there was much expectation in the Chicago offseason with a cash strapped team but making virtually no improvements is never going to grade out well.  The Cubs should be getting back the services of last season’s big acquisition Yu Darvish. They will also have a full season of Cole Hamels.  The Cubs are hoping reclamation project Kendall Graverman still has something in the tank.

The rotation will be stronger to start the season. But the bullpen will still be a problem in the back end.  Uncertainty of the injury to Brandon Morrow and thee losses of Justin Wilson and Jesse Chavez leave the Cubs very vulnerable if there are any further injuries. 

Replacing Tommy La Stella with Daniel Descalso is a nice upgrade but other than that not much to say here.

Milwaukee Brewers: C+

We you have a team with very few holes you would think they would look to fill those holes.  Added another starter was a sensible move for the defending division champs.  Instead the added to the opposite end by adding the best catcher on the market Yasmani Grandal.  An already potent lineup made themselves even more dangerous.  Grandal whose offense has always been the story of his career, but his defense has been an underrated aspect of his career for a long time.  Grandal ranked first in the league pitch framing ahead of defensive juggernauts Yadier Molina and Jeff Mathis

The Brewers chose to nontender their two lefties opening up a spot for former Rangers closer Alex Claudio.  Claudio will have to pick up the slack of a few different lost relievers. He’s held opposing lefties to a .194/.220/.278 line in 315 total plate appearances over his five-year career, thanks in part to a deceptive delivery.

The Brewers getting a C+ is based off of their previous work.  The 2018 offseason and trade deadline were clearly an A+.  I would have liked to see the Brewers bring back a second baseman that is more proven rather than have Cory Spangenberg play hold over for top prospect Keston Huira. 

Bonus points for trading away Domingo Santana, he deserved a shot to play every day.

St. Louis Cardinals- A-

The Cardinals needed a corner infield and a reliver.  They added the best first baseman in the majors for a group of players that were not going to be a part of their plans in the 2019 season. Luke Weaver had fallen out of favor, Carson Kelly was quietly becoming too old to be a prospect and I couldn’t remember the other guy’s name, but he was a 26-year old infielder. 


The Cardinals didn’t stop at Goldschmidt adding long time reliver Andrew Miller to the fold, while he is not considered a closer he gives the Cardinals a lot of options at the backend.

St. Louis gets an A- because they still have a need for a bonifide closer and there is a gap in right field.  Still the Cardinal had a very successful winter.

Who should make Cardinals Hall of Fame?

The Cardinals announced their hall of fame candidates for 2019, Keith Hernandez, John Tudor, Matt Morris, Jason Isringhausen, Edgar Renteria and Scott Rolen. Each player is deserving of the nomination as well as eventual inclusion.  St. Louis fans will have their opinions on each, but I see three of them as the obvious choices.

Matt Morris

The imposing presence of Matt Morris was dominant force in the Cardinals rotation from 1997-2005.  Racking up wins during a time period where the team had great success.  Most notably during the 2001 season where Morris accumulated 22 wins and a 3.16 ERA.  Morris was a top of the rotation starter with a dominant secondary pitch. His curveball was one of the best Cardinals fans had seen until Adam Wainwright showed up on the scene and froze Carlos Beltran taking the mantle of best curve thrower of my generation.

Morris wasn’t just a short-term answer accumulating over 101 wins in his Cardinals career while winning 62% of his games, Tommy John surgery took a year away from the Cardinal hurler right as he was beginning is accent to the top of the rotation. Morris had two All -Star appearances as a Cardinals starter, Morris is by far a deserving inductee to the Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Scott Rolen

Scott Rolen was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2002, making an immediate impact on the organization. Over his six years with the team Rolen was a human highlight reel at third base winning three gold gloves during his tenure with the organization.  Rolen also added depth to the Cardinals lineup that made them trued contenders for world championships.  His protection of Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols was an undervalued asset during his time with the Cardinals. 

Rolen, whom doesn’t get the consideration for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame that he should was a complete player and quiet leader on a very good team.  If he hadn’t played with Albert Pujols he would most likely be given more credit than he already gets during his legacy with the Cardinals.

Jason Isringhausen

Izzy should be the easy choice for all voters.  The Cardinals franchise record holder with 207 saves during his tenure was the definition of stability for the organization.  Those save numbers alone along with pitching in over 400 games for the organization.  From 2002- 2006 Isringhausen established himself in Cardinal greatness. 

Look at the state of Cardinals closer since his departure.  Outside of a few years with Trevor Rosenthal, there has been no consistency in that position.  Izzy is still active in the St. Louis community, that should be taken into account when determining a true Cardinals Hall of Famer.

Under Radar Free Agents

Adam Jones

Adam Jones is coming off the worst season of his professional career.  A 0.2WAR by far the lowest of his career came while his team was putting together a historic season alongside him.  The Orioles finished the season at 47-115 an astounding 61 games behind the first place Red Sox.  Jones will enter the season at 33 years old, his best days offensively and defensively behind him. But is he really not worth a look in spring training by a contending team in need of some outfield help?

Jones hasn’t been the all-star he was from 2012-2015 but he still has brought production to the table over the last three seasons.  Jones has shown power over the last three season combining for a total of 70 homers and never hitting below .265 in those three seasons. Jones also brings in league average OPS at a career mark of .779.  He has been a leader in the Baltimore club house and is respected around baseball.  Never more notably then the leadership he brought to team USA in the world baseball classic.

While he is not the based sabermetric center fielder defensively, Jones still has the ability to play all three positions. 

Teams that should consider:

New York Mets- Lagares can’t hit and Broxton hasn’t shown anything in the majors yet.

Cleveland Indians- after losing so much this off season the Indians could use some more pop and another veteran bat to sell to the fans.  Leonys Martin is not the answer.

Josh Harrison

Josh Harrison is coming off a subpar season that was marred by injuries.  Playing in only 97 games in 2018 Harrison’s productivity was not where the Pirates wanted it to be, leading to a buyout of his contract.  Harrison now sits in the wasteland of free agents.

The 31-year old utility player brings plus defense to two different positions 2b and 3b. The 2017 All-Star can bring a dynamic player off the bench for multiple playoff contenders.  In an age of versatility being a great attribute Harrison would be a perfect fit on multiple teams. 

Teams that should consider:

New York Yankees- having a player whom can come in defensively for Miguel Andujar would be a perfect fit in the late innings. His speed can also be valuable in late inning situations.

Milwaukee Brewers- This one is a bit of a stretch but he would be an upgrade over Hernan Perez because of his experience and great club house demeanor.  He could replace the underrated Eric Sogard in a utility infield role.

Tony Sipp

I have been preaching the effectiveness of Tony Sipp all off season. Sipp had a 1.86 ERA in 38 innings last season with the Houston Astros. This included a home ERA of .90 in the hitter friendly Minute Maid Park.

Sipp was as good as it gets versus lefties in 2018 holding them to a slash line of .191/.263/.294. While Sipp hasn’t had as storied a career as the players a previously spoke of he is coming off of a great season and is currently ranked as the second best reliever still on the market behind Craig Kimbrel. 

Teams that should consider-

Anyone and everyone.  I lefty specialist is not easy to find.  Sipp would fill in that role for any contending team that is worried about the left side of their bullpen.  He is going to be cheap to.

Five MLB Signings that are affecting the market.

The last two off seasons have a been a nightmare for MLB free agents.  In a time of big revenue for top market teams you would think that money would not be an issue and we would see the spending wars of the mid 2000’s.  What was once an arms race has turned into nothing more than a pity party.  Just ask Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland last season. The value of prospects, international money and draft picks has changed the way a lot of team construct their rosters. While there has been a culture change for most front offices, mistakes of others are also a factor in longer term deals.  These are the worst five contracts that have affected the current market.

5. Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers, 5-year $110 Million

Zimmerman was a hot commodity when he hit free agency after the 2015 season. All Star appearances in 2013 and 2014, winning 13 games in 2015, Zimmerman was arguably the biggest free agent starting pitcher name on the market.  The Tigers bit on the hype and signed Zimmerman to a hefty contract. At the time it looked like a great fit for a Tigers team that was looking to contend for a championship going into 2016.  The wheels feel of for Detroit and they feel into the bottom of their own division.  Zimmermann was not much help carrying a 5.13 ERA in three injury-plagued seasons in Detroit, and he’s still owed another $25 million in each of the next two seasons. 

Zimmerman’s poor play and massive contract have may him an impossible trade piece. Luckily for the Tigers Zimmerman should come off the books around the same time that the young pieces they have assembled can take form.

4. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels, 10-year $240 Million

Albert is not higher on this list because he has been able to produce some over his seven seasons with the Angels. Producing two seasons of +4 WAR and one season hitting 40 HR.  Overall though this contract has put the Angels in a tough position.  Currently having the best player in the world on your roster you would hope to add something around him.  The Pujols contract and inability to play a position has hamstrung the organization.

Pujols was able to give the fans some memorable moments hitting his 500th and 600th homeruns as a member of the Halos.  Other than that, he has primarily been a burden. He is also due another $87 million over the next three seasons. Hopefully, it was all worth it for the Angels, who have gone just 576-551 with one playoff appearance since signing him.

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees, 7-year $153 Million

Second place in MVP voting in 2011, 52 steals in 2013.  Speed, power and defense, Ellsbury seemed to have it all going into the offseason of 2013.  The New York Yankees made an offer to the 29-year-old that seemed like a smart move on a great player in his prime.  Fast forward to 2019.  Ellsbury is entering the 5th year of his massive deal, still due another $42 million over the next two seasons not including the buyout of another $5 million in 2022 the Yankees have basically considered him a wash.

Jacoby didn’t play a single game in 2018 and has already been considered an afterthought in the stacked Yankee outfield.  If he is healthy enough to play, would they really even play him? His first season in pinstripes was solid with an OPS of .747 adding 39 steals, that’s basically all they got or their $153 million.

2. Pablo Sandoval, Boston Red Sox, 5-year $90 Million (2014)

In 2015 Pablo Sandoval cashed in on his Giants playoff heroics.  The Red Sox signed Pablo to a 5-year, $90 million-dollar contract.  The most memorable moment in his Red Sox career was when he took a swing and broke his belt in the process.  That belt took a bigger beating then the ball ever did off his bat while in Boston. Three seasons in Boston Sandoval played a total of 161 games.  That’s right a five-year contract got the Red Sox the equivalent of one season. In those games Sandoval hit .237 with 14 homers.  Not much more to say about this one.  His time in Boston effectively ended the legend of the Kung Fu Panda.

1. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles, 7-year $161 Million

Chris Davis was always boom or bust player. When Davis signed his “mega deal” homeruns were not at a premium. From 2013 to 2015 the MLB average for homeruns per game was only .94.  Not realizing that the change in MLB culture was coming the Orioles thought they had a unique and mesmerizing player.  At the time of the deal it made sense, looking at it now makes Orioles fans sick to their stomach. 

Davis hasn’t just been bad, he has been historically awful. Hitting just .168 in 2018 Davis found himself out of the lineup for the last place Orioles.  This team was in last place and still couldn’t find a way to play him!  Oh, and he’s still owed another $94 million over the next four seasons. There are no signs that this is going to get any better for him — or for the team.

Why Dominic Leone should be the Cardinals closer.

The struggles of the St. Louis bullpen were an obvious concern in 2018.  The lone highlight being the emergence of Jordan Hicks as a force in the 8th inning.  The Cardinals went into the offseason looking to add some depth to the bullpen and potentially a closer.  To this point the only impact piece that has been added is the versatile lefty Andrew Miller. Miller and Hicks will create a two way highlight reel of nasty pitches that will undoubtedly be a boost, but neither have performed as a closer in their careers for more than a few weeks. Another writer on this sight suggested John Brebbia, I too saw Brebbia as a potential closer going into 2019 but after digging into the numbers a different player stood out to me.  Someone that most of us have most likely forgot… Dominic Leone.

Let’s first work under the assumption that Miller and Hicks will most likely be middle to late inning relief.  Let’s also work under the assumption that the competition will be between Brebbia and Leone.  Brebbia’s career has taken off the last two seasons in the majors but he was actually drafted in 2011 by the New York Yankees while Leone was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2012.  Both have paid their dues in the minors to establish themselves of as more than effective relievers.  Both have great strikeout potential, Brebbia (10.66 K/9), Leone (9.75 K/9) in 2018.  Both have average fastball velocity of 95 MPH. Both have similar WHIP’s, BB/9 and so on and so on. 

Basically, they have very similar traits.  Leone was hampered by an injury in 2018, ironically his injury is one of the many reasons that Brebbia was recalled from Memphis during the season. A place that he should not have ever been, but that is an argument for a different day. Cardinals fans that will play recency bias will look at Leone’s start to 2018 and not see the real pitcher that Leone can be when healthy. In 2017 Leone excelled for the Toronto Blue Jays in the stacked American League East. In 70.1 innings, Leone held hitters to a .202 average and a skeletal .360 slugging percentage. He inherited the fourth-most runners in baseball, 54, and stranded 42 of them (a mark which put him among the very best in the American League).What stands out the most to me was his exceptional numbers against lefties, holding them to a slash line of .183/.261/.366.  Leone features a premier secondary pitch with his cutter which generates an extremely high number of swings and misses compared to other pitcher’s cutters. It is especially stingy against left handed hitters. His effectiveness against lefties is the reason he has the advantage over Brebbia whose line was not on the same level .250/.330/.455 in 2018.

Leone is not a standout closer with tons of experience but if given the chance in the backend he has shown to be effective against hitters from both sides of the plate. Going into spring training I believe all relievers will have a chance to close, assuming we don’t have another Greg Holland late signing type situation.  Leone has the velocity, secondary pitch and hopefully the opportunity. 

Top five free agents since 2010: St. Louis Cardinals

The MLB offseason has been eventful for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Trading for slugger Paul Goldschmidt and signing bullpen presence Andrew Miller. While the market is still full of impactful players the Cardinals made It well known that they are looking to be players during the 2018 offseason.  It got me thinking about the last time the Cardinals made a big move on the free agent market.  Here are my top five free agent pickups since 2010.

5.Jhonny Peralta, 2013

The Cardinals inked a freshly suspended Peralta in the offseason of 2013 to a 4-year $52 million deal. Peralta was signed to fill a long-time gap in the Cardinals lineup at shortstop and for a small time he was very effective. His first season was successful in St. Louis posting a career best WAR of 5.9 during the 2014 season.

Peralta tailed off in the 2015 season with his WAR dropping to an abysmal 1.9. Whoever Peralta’s raw statistics were credible enough to earn himself an All-Star game bid.  The decline continued in 2015 as injuries and poor play led to his eventual release in 2017.   Peralta’s production over two seasons still puts him on this list.

4. Pat Neshek, 2013

Pat Neshek signed in the 2013 offseason along with Peralta.  Neshek however was not nearly at the same cost.  Neshek signed a 1-year minor league deal with incentives, he paid that off beyond the Cardinals highest beliefs. Looked at as a right-handed specialist Neshek developed into a lights out middle inning pitcher for the National League champs. 

A career high in wins with 7 and a 1.87 earned-run average, a 2.37 fielding-independent ERA, and $13.7 million in surplus value. Neshek earned himself his first ever All-Star game appearance, Neshek was able to turn his 2013 success into a bigger contract with the Astros the next season.  While it was only one year his success over that season at such a low cost was a huge asset.

3. Seunghwan Oh, 2015

The Korean Buddha was a quiet signing in the 2015 offseason.  The former NPB closer signed a one-year deal with a team option for the 2017 season.  Oh had a stellar 2016 season, eventually forcing himself into the closers role.  His 1.92 ERA, 103 strikeouts and 19 saves were amassed over 76 games. 

Oh filled a need for the Cardinals in 2016, the club of course picked up his option for the 2017 season.  Unfortunately, Oh was not able to perform at the same level as the previous season forcing the Cardinals to let him walk after the season.  His slider has regained its effectiveness in 2018 making him a valuable asset for the wildcard winning Colorado Rockies.

2. Carlos Beltran, 2011

Looking for a veteran beat before the 2012 season the Cardinals signed multi-time all-star Carlos Beltran to their World Series roster.  At two-years, $26 million the Cardinals were looking to solidify their lineup after losing superstar Albert Pujols.

Beltran paid off the Cardinals investment, hitting 32 homers with a .842 OPS.  Beltran earned himself another all-star appearance in his storied career. His 3.9 WAR was the highest he had over the last four seasons.

Beltran followed up 2012 with another solid season, but injuries down the stretch of 2013 hurt the final playoff run.  Going into his age 37 season the Cardinals let Beltran walk, signing with the New York Yankees. 

1. Lance Berkman, 2010

Primarily a first baseman his entire career.  Most thought it was a bit of a stretch to sign the 35-year old Berkman.  He had come off the worst season of his career while splitting time with the Yankees and Astros.  Moving Berkman to the outfield the Cardinals got a rejuvenated player that was worth every bit of his 1-year, $8 million he signed for.  He posted a 163 wRC+, his highest mark since 2001, and was among the team’s best hitters in the postseason, where he had one of the most important hits in Cardinals baseball history.

Berkman’s second season with the Cardinals was plagued by injury.  But he had the biggest impact of any player signed over the last ten years.

Thoughts?

St. Louis Cardinals- New Year’s Resolutions

Marcel Ozuna- Get myself paid.

Contract years are always a great way to inspire a player to be his best.  He is not only playing for his team but he is playing for himself and his future. Ozuna wasn’t the player the Cardinals traded for in the winter of 2018. He wasn’t the power hitting impact bat that would make the Cardinals lineup a force to be reckoned with.

Ozuna spent most of the season injured, putting together a respectable season but not one that is going to get him the contract he will be looking for. Fans won’t be excited to see a player that will clearly be inspired by the all mighty dollar, but that will be the story for Ozuna in 2019.  I expect Marcel to return to MVP level performance, 35 homers will be a guarantee.

Paul DeJong- Play 150 games

Paul DeJong will enter the 2019 season as one of the most intriguing candidates for a breakout season. At just 25 years old, DeJong is still developing a major league shortstop.  A broken hand on a wild pitch as well as a few different prolonged slumps caused his stats to take a bit of a dive.  Still finishing with an impressive 3.8 WAR DeJong will now have the luxury of a stronger lineup around him. 

DeJong does not have any logical replacements on the bench outside of the versatile Yairo Munoz, who would be a preferred utility player.  DeJong will not only need to continue his progression as a player but he must also find his way into the lineup on a daily basis.  The more he plays the better the Cardinals will be.

Carlos Martinez- Become the Ace I think I am

The time for development is done for Carlos Martinez.  As he enters 2019 he will be looking to take over the role of rotation leader. Adam Wainwright has signed on for another season but it is time for Carlos to be the best pitcher in the rotation or if needed in the bullpen. 

Martinez is entering his 7th season for the Cardinals, he is still just 27 years old!  The attitude he brings out to the mound is one of dominance.  He believes that he is the best player on the field and now it is time for him to prove it. Two straight season Carlos has been the opening day starter for the Cardinals, it would be safe to assume that he and Miles Mikolas will be dueling for that honor in spring training. 

Martinez’s mediocore season accompanied with him now history of injuries has put him in a place where he has to prove himself.  That will be his goal in 2019, he will prove he is an ace.

Harrison Bader- Win the Gold Glove

Asking a second-year player to go out and win a prestigious award is not like asking your coworker to make sure they up their sales.  Bader showed the ability to take over games defensively.  He will now have the chance to play every day and showed the world that he is that good.

Bader finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year Ballot in 2018 and should have won a Gold Glove. In 2019 Bader will take his next step forcing the baseball world to take notice and give him the award. 

Jordan Hicks- Establish my slider

Since his first pitch in the majors Jordan Hicks has been a force in the league.  Hick’s first pitched was 100.8 MPH sinker that immediately grabbed the attention of players, media and fans.  While Hicks was showing he could throw the hardest fastballs in the league, he was still not getting the strikeout numbers that a player of his caliber should be.

Averaging just an 8.1 so/9 in 2018. Hicks has a rocket for an arm, but has still now established a secondary pitch that is effective enough to make him an elite level reliever. In April, 175 pitchers threw at least 50 sliders, and only four got fewer swings than Hicks’ 28.6 percent. It was worse outside the zone, which is where you really want sliders to induce swings and misses. Only two pitchers got fewer chases then Hicks did.

 Then all of a sudden in June, Hicks began to establish his slider. Hicks was able to go from a 30% swing and miss rate to a 60% swing and miss rate, doubling his strikeouts from the month before in three less innings.  When Hicks has a slider working he is a pitching that can be a potential closer.  Start the season dominating with a slider.

Mike Schildt- Don’t be Mike Matheny

This one is easy.  Don’t be Mike Matheny.  Trust your young players and make changes when you need to. Don’t be like Matheny.

Dexter Fowler- 2019’s Most Important Player?

The saga of Dexter Fowler is sickening to pretty much all Cardinals fans.  His 2018 regression was historically awful, his perceived love of the Chicago Cubs is inexcusable.  Nevertheless, entering into the 2019 season, he may be the most important piece to a team that seems primed to get back to the playoffs. 

Fowler is not what Cardinals fans want, he’s not Bryce Harper. It’s time to accept the fact that most likely the Cardinals will enter the season with Fowler as the projected starting right fielder. He will play the role of either #2 hitter setting up for offseason pickup Paul Goldschmidt or he will be batting in the 6th spot protecting the bigger bats.  .180/.278/.298 are numbers you expect to see from a Starting Pitcher rather than your $16.5 million per year starting outfielder.  But to say that he repeats those numbers is almost unfathomable. In Fowler’s worst season outside of 2018 the lowest OBP he recorded was .364 in 2015, his lowest OPS .757 also in 2015. Whether it was the reported depression, injury or who knows what else, regression of that level is unheard of in major league history. 

While the Cardinals may never have the man to live up the contract that was signed in the offseason of 2016 realistically they don’t need the Fowler that posted an .840 and .851 OPS in 2016 and 2017.  They need a Fowler that can be at his career average at best to be successful. Despite his dreadful 2018 Fowler still has a career OPS of .780 nearly 60 points higher than the MLB average was in 2018.  Looking at the 2018 playoff teams worst OPS player you can see that all the Cardinals would need is a below average season from Fowler to get what they need.

Rockies, Ian Desmond, 160 games, .729 OPS

Brewers, Ryan Braun, 125 games, .782 OPS

Dodgers, Chris Taylor, 155 games, .775 OPS

Braves, Ender Inciarte, 156 games, .705 OPS

Combined average = .747 OPS

Fowler would need to be at just a .747 OPS to be where the Cardinals would need him to be. As previously stated only one time in his career has he posted an OPS below that mark (last season). While they were small, Fowler did show signs of life before his foot injury raising his OPS to .659 when compared to his June .412.  He added three homeruns in 64 at-bats in July compared to the zero he had in 55 at-bats in June.  Signs of life were there but quickly faded after getting hit by a pitch in early August. 

His defense has been the subject of criticism as well last season, but he was never touted as a Gold Glover before being signed.  With the addition of Paul Goldschmidt the Cardinals now have at least four potential Gold Glove winners, Bader, Wong, Yadi, Goldy and a past winner in Marcell Ozuna.  Any issues Fowler has in the field should be covered by the play of those around him.  He isn’t worse than Jose Martinez and the Cardinals were fine with risking their defense for the bigger bat. 

I want Bryce Harper, I want Tyler O’Neil to get more at bats.  But seemingly that is not going to be a guaranteed option unless the Cardinals are willing to eat $41 million over the next two seasons.  The Cardinals are not going to do that, they are going to ride with Fowler until they are forced to realize that he has nothing left.  This team now has its cornerstone bat in the middle of the order, they have the pitching staff that can give them a chance to win every night. All they need is a small piece of the player they believed they had signed to be successful.  It’s there, hopefully we see it.

@italksportsti