Five Cardinals to pick up in last-minute fantasy baseball drafts

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One year ago today, Opening Day festivities took place for the St. Louis Cardinals, who traveled to Cincinnati and defeated the Reds by a score of 1-0. This year’s first regular season action takes place on Sunday, April 5 at 7:05 p.m., when the Cardinals open the 2015 Major League Baseball season at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.

With a later start in April, fantasy baseball managers have more time than usual to organize priorities for the upcoming season. When strategizing for fantasy baseball, the best players often boast statistical finesse in one attribute or a statistical balance in several attributes.

More from Adam Wainwright

Between a pitching staff that consistently surprises and an offense that features timely hitting, five Cardinals make for great picks in last-minute fantasy baseball drafts. Current rankings from ESPN and Yahoo Sports are based upon today, provided with statistical breakdowns of each player.

1. Adam Wainwright

ESPN/Yahoo Sports ranks: 67/61

Statistical Strength: Wainwright is consistently a double-digit winner, posting 53 victories in the last three seasons to complement strong career ERA and WHIP marks.

Statistical Weakness: The 33 year-old may not be the best pitcher in leagues that highly consider innings pitched, as the Cardinals will most likely reduce his workload to avoid injuries or physical setbacks.

Advice: Having Wainwright as a first starter would be ideal, but drafting him as a second starter could shape up an elite pitching staff. In a 10 or 12-team format, look for him around the fourth or fifth round.

2. Matt Holliday

ESPN/Yahoo Sports ranks: 83/64

Statistical Strength: Generally batting third in the Cardinals lineup, Holliday sees plenty of opportunity to drive in runs, as he has averaged 95 RBIs per season since 2012.

Statistical Weakness: Holliday’s speed has regressed over the years, partly due to the fact that the Cardinals don’t factor stolen bases in games quite as much as other teams.

Advice: If outfielders are chosen off the board quickly, Holliday could may a subpar first outfielder. Aim to draft the 35 year-old in the fifth or sixth round and ideally as a second outfielder.

3. Jason Heyward

ESPN/Yahoo fantasy baseball ranks: 78/66

Statistical Strength: Heyward adapted to qualities of a lead-off hitter in Atlanta, so an improvement in batting average and runs scored is expected if he remains in the top-third of St. Louis’s batting order.

Statistical Weakness: Heyward’s home run totals are slightly concerning, given that the Braves tried to develop him into a power hitter early into his career. The right fielder slashed a career-low 11 home runs last year.

Advice: The first-year Cardinal provided a great plethora of offensive qualities for a lackluster Braves’ offense last year. A change of scenery should help Heyward flourish and prove worthy as a sixth or seventh round selection.

4. Kolten Wong

ESPN/Yahoo fantasy baseball ranks: 87/104

Statistical Strength: Wong collected double-digit totals in steals and home runs last year, making him the only full-time National League second baseman to reach the accomplishment in 2014 besides Chase Utley.

Statistical Weakness: Despite late-season offensive improvements, Wong’s batting average and on-base percentage aren’t eyeballing and may not drastically improve if he bats seventh or eighth in the Cardinals’ lineup.

Advice: It’s difficult to predict how Wong will fare in his second full season, but he will provide more pop and speed than typical second basemen. Draft him between the eighth or tenth round depending on the demand of middle infielders.

5. Trevor Rosenthal

ESPN/Yahoo fantasy baseball ranks: 93/103

Statistical Strength: While having the closer title inevitably gives Rosenthal saves, he also averaged more than 97 strikeouts in his first two full seasons with St. Louis.

Statistical Weakness: Rosenthal’s efficiency in the ninth inning was not tremendous last year, causing six blown saves and an alarming 1.41 WHIP.

Advice: People oftentimes pass up closers in draft since most of their statistical significance revolve around saves. But Rosenthal has shown the ability to chip in with multiple statistical departments, making him worthy for a team’s first closer if he is still available around the tenth round.

While the five Cardinals above will likely be difference makers in successful fantasy baseball teams this year, St. Louis has plenty of other players to consider. Current ranks are based on ESPN and Yahoo Sports, while categories based on personal analysis after looking at ESPN’s statistical projections for 2015.

Sleeper picks: Matt Adams (117/116), Lance Lynn (120/154), Jhonny Peralta (191/193)

Don’t jump too early on: Matt Carpenter (89/114), Yadier Molina (147/132), Michael Wacha (109/168)

Late-round selections: John Lackey (225/227), Carlos Martinez (289/879), Jon Jay (392/325)

As the regular season approaches, several baseball fans will jump on their laptops and hope to compile a championship-worthy team. For a franchise that has made the playoffs seven times in the last decade, the Cardinals carry a strong suite of fantasy options in the batters box and on the mound.

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