St. Louis Cardinals: Assessing fantasy auction hitter values

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 10: Matt Carpenter
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 10: Matt Carpenter /

My colleague Josh McDonald wrote about the fantasy draft opportunities for members of the St. Louis Cardinals. But what if you’re playing in a NL auction league in which you have to determine values for the players? We’ll take a look at that here.

So often in the recent past, the St. Louis Cardinals haven’t been a team stocked with superstar talent.  With the departure of Albert Pujols and the decline of Matt Holliday, and with Carlos Martinez teasing but not quite getting to the highest ace level, Cards in auction leagues have been mostly relegated to the middle- to upper-middle of the pack.

As a result, few pitchers or hitters have had values that are competitive with those of the highest-priced NL talent. Safer bets were placed on the likes of Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, or Clayton Kershaw than on St. Louis Cardinals mainstays.

But that may have started to change by virtue of last year’s performances and this year’s projections. While no one may ascend to the level of the names mentioned above, there are some guys on the home team worth bidding aggressively for, and if your league has multi-year keepers, maybe even more so.

This column will deal with hitters. I’m going to reference CBS Sportsline rankings, as they are some of the commonly used, but by all means feel free to compare to your favorite resources. And I’ll use NL-only values, but again, tweak as you see fit.

Tommy Pham shows up on the CBS Sportsline rankings at $27, just under Washington Nationals budding superstar third baseman, Anthony Rendon, and just above Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich and Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte. Just below that set lies new Cardinals left fielder Marcell Ozuna, at $26.

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There are some interesting quirks about these ratings for the Cards’ stars, different for each. For Pham, either two years of proven performance at the 2017 level or a lack of concern about his eye issues would propel him higher in the rankings, I’m sure.

His combination of speed, power, and average last season was unmatched by all but a handful.

If you’re in a keeper league, in which you’re buying multiyear deals, no doubt you’re going to be hesitant about an overpay for Pham, not knowing about his ability to repeat and stay healthy.

But at his stated value on most auction boards, the risks are built in and he’s a solid pick, in my opinion.

And he has strong hitters around him as he occupies the two hole in the lineup. I’d even go up to $30, especially if you’re lacking in the top echelon.

Ozuna, also with a mammoth 2017, appears a very safe pickup at the $26 level, even a few bucks higher. While Baseball Prospectus shows about a 3 WAR regression, as they did with Pham, I find this ridiculously conservative. BP looks at a multi-year history, and last season was a career best, but Ozuna’s in his prime years and I expect something in the order of a 28 HR/100 RBI/90 R year.

(It should be noted that looking across the board of different projection sites and methods, Pham seems to have, at least on the ones I studied, much more fluctuation and risk than Ozuna. So be sure to bop around the various sites if you want multiple perspectives.)

If you’re in a league that utilizes OBP rather than average, as I am, I’d be more comfortable with an overpay for Pham than Ozuna.  If you want a greater track record, then I think Ozuna provides more comfort.

Which brings us to Paul DeJong and Matt Carpenter.

DeJong is an interesting case. As far as shortstops go, he packs a better wallop than most, for sure. But the fantasy world isn’t so sure about him. Sportsline has him far down the chart, below teammate Yadier Molina, whose $15 value on that site seems reasonable.

DeJong’s ranking may derive from the fact that his babip — batting average for balls in play — was quite high last year, and that, combined with his strikeouts, could spell bit trouble both in batting average and OBP.

But here’s the thing: There is almost zero chance his power will be lacking, so if you need a bargain on homers or SLG, and can risk the average/OBP hit, then DeJong will be a strong candidate for you.

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His $13 value is too low, I believe, and falls a few bucks below Trevor Story, who assessors are having a tough time assessing at this point. A multi-year contract at this value would be especially noteworthy.

And if you can grab Matt Carpenter at the $19 value, I’d grab him in some leagues. His challenges are of course staying healthy and that he gets zero credit for speed. But if you’re in an OBP league and you have an otherwise stable lineup with few injury risks, with Carp you can push your OBP up quite a bit, get some decent if not spectacular SLG or HRs, and he serves as a fine complementary guy.

Dexter Fowler again really, truly depends on what kind of league you’re in.  Is his high-teens HR pop legit? I think it is, whether at leadoff or otherwise. His OBP has always been strong, whether in Colorado, Chicago or St. Louis. And he should be a double-digit SB threat as well. At $11, he can easily serve as a second or third outfielder for your team, depending on your other parts.

Kolten Wong is undervalued. Really. I’m not going to waste time here. Unless you have a bunch of homers in your league, he will be affordable and gettable. He may not be the main piece, but an edge at 2B is not something to be sneezed at. And if you have your SS/2B filled and can grab him at utility, do so. You won’t be sorry.

I’m not going to spend much time on either Jose Martinez or Jedd Gyorko because as of Opening Day, the split on the two is in serious question. Suffice it to say that Martinez can likely bring you more average and OBP, but don’t discount Gyorko’s 50 HRs over the last two years if you think Martinez is still unproven.

Next: Cards sign Holland

That’s the hitters for the Cards. I’ll handle the pitchers in a separate article. Good luck drafting and bidding, all!