St. Louis Cardinals

Shutdown Corner: NL Central Closer Roundup

It's another week closer to Opening Day, so that means that it's time for another edition of Shutdown Corner. As you know, I'm grinding out closer roundups for every division in baseball. This week, it's the National League Central that gets the spotlight. And, of course, if you're interested ... here's our previous roundups: AL West, NL East, and AL East

If you haven't been following along at home, here's our closer tiering system for the pre-season:

  • Tier 1: World-class reliever, capable of putting up a season for the ages.
  • Tier 2: Very good closer, both stable and effective.
  • Tier 3: Average closer, may be lacking either stability or effectiveness.
  • Tier 4: Poor closer, either completely ineffective but stable, or very unstable.

Chicago Cubs: Carlos Marmol

I'm not sure any reliever combines high highs and low lows as much as Carlos Marmol does. Marmol, the long-time Cub closer, struck out 29.2% of batters faced last season, but walked a ridiculous 18.2% of batters faced. That's a huge amount of walks, more than just about any prospective closer in baseball. Marmol's dealing with challenges from other pitchers on his team (notably Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa), a likelihood that he could be traded (he was almost traded to the Angels this offseason), and an imminent meltdown that's only a few walks away. Stay away from the guy unless you're brave.

Carlos Marmol is beyond all expectations. Marmol could strike out every batter he faces for three full weeks. Carlos Marmol could walk every batter he faces for two full weeks. Carlos Marmol could throw a pitch that hits his left fielder in the face. Everything is in play.

Projected Tier: Tier 4 (all the strikeouts, ALL the walks, trade or demotion imminent)

Next in line: Kyuji Fujikawa

Cincinnati Reds: Jonathan Broxton

Broxton is a very interesting case, as he's almost definitely no better than the third-best reliever on his team, yet he still got a three-year, $21 million contract in this offseason to close for Cincinnati. And while Brox used to leverage his massive frame to get huge strikeout numbers, since 2011, he's been posting K numbers more like a #4 starter than a high-leverage reliever. In addition, pitching in homer-happy Cincy makes Broxton very risky from a performance standpoint.

Sean Marshall has a much better track record as a reliever than Brox, and as such, is likely to take over when and if Broxton struggles. Regardless, I wouldn't want Broxton as a bullpen option on my fantasy squad unless I was very desperate for a few saves.

Projected Tier: Tier 4 (low strikeout totals, presence of Sean Marshall / Aroldis Chapman)

Next in line: Sean Marshall

Milwaukee Brewers: John Axford

While Broxton is a good example of a pitcher who got good results despite middling peripherals in 2012, Axford might be viewed as an opposite case. Despite being one of the better closers in baseball during 2010 and 2011, Axford fell apart (along with the rest of his bullpen) in 2012, posting a 4.67 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. But the underlying peripherals tell the story of a guy who struggled a little, sure, but could be expected to bounce back in 2013.

Axford and his mustache still struck out a tidy 30% of batters faced. And he certainly had more trouble with walks, walking a worrying 12.6% over the past season. But Axford suffered the most thanks to the long ball, as he gave up a homer on nearly 20% of all of his fly balls. This number is pretty unsustainable, and I wouldn't expect this poor luck to continue. Axford may not be an elite-level closer in 2013, but I wouldn't be surprised if he reverts back to his solid self, with strikeouts and 30-40 saves.

Projected Tier: Tier 2 (huge strikeout rates, no serious competition in the 'pen)

Next in line: Jim Henderson

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jason Grilli

The Pittsburgh Pirates were comfortable dealing Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox this offseason due to the emergence of veteran Jason Grilli as a frightening late-inning option. Grilli, who was out of the bigs in 2010, re-emerged with stronger-than-ever strikeout totals in 2011. His Ks rose even further in 2012, where he struck out an astonishing 36.9% of batters faced.

The main concern with Grilli is his advanced age. At 36, he's not exactly a spring chicken. When you combine that with the fact that he's actually peaking in terms of performance at this point in his career, that's a major red flag. Instead of looking at a new normal, perhaps 2012 was the dramatic outlier before his production drops back off. But even if that is the case, and Grilli's strikeout rate falls off, it's high enough at this point to shoulder a drop back to earth. He could still be effective if he's only striking out 25% of hitters.

Projected Tier: Tier 3 (big strikeouts, not a lot of history + age issue, good competition)

Next in line: Mark Melancon

St. Louis Cardinals: Jason Motte

To me, Jason Motte is one of the more sure things in late-inning relievers this season. A fixture in the Cardinal 'pen since 2009, Motte finally became the team's full-time closer for a full season in 2012, and responded with 42 saves and a 30.8% strikeout rate. Despite the emergence of Trevor Rosenthal and a host of live arms in the St. Louis bullpen, Motte owns the ninth, and should be consistent force in 2013 as well.

While Motte's home run rate jumped up in 2012, it probably sat higher than it will in 2013. Motte has a history of giving up long balls, but the strikeout rate and his uncanny ability to strand runners and limit walks will help him keep things at an even keel.

Projected Tier: Tier 2 (solid strikeout rate, "proven closer")

Next in line: Trevor Rosenthal

As always, check out @CloserNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute closer updates, and find me at@bgrosnick for everything baseball. Shutdown Corner will return next week with a look at the AL Central.

All data from FanGraphs.

The Next Big Thing: Waiting On Top Prospects

The 2012 season was the year of immediate impact. All across the league we saw rookie players come up and contribute more than expected, and it started right in April with reigning Rookies of the Year Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. It extended far beyond those two, of course. Wade Miley was an All-Star for the Diamondbacks, Rob Brantly hit .290 with a .372 OBP in a month's worth of games for the Marlins, Manny Machado hit two homers in his second game with the Orioles, the division-winning Athletics had an all-rookie rotation at one point, the list goes on and on. Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, Will Middlebrooks, Anthony Rizzo ... there were impact rookies everywhere.

Fantasy owners are looking for that next big thing every season, and that search figures to be a little more intense in 2012 after the banner rookie class of a year ago. Top prospects are always a great place to start, but some are blocked or simply two far away from the majors to have real fantasy value. Some are the victims of their own success as clubs will keep them in the minors in April and May to ensure an extra year of team control down the line. Here's a look at some of the game's best up-and-coming big leaguers who could be this season's Trout or Harper.

Arizona Diamondbacks: LHP Tyler Skaggs
The D'Backs have a strong rotation fronted by Miley, Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, and Brandon McCarthy, but that fifth spot is up for grabs. Patrick Corbin handled himself well enough last year (4.54 ERA in 107 IP) and Josh Collmenter is lurking, but the 21-year-old Skaggs will get a chance to make the team out of Spring Training as well. He got hit pretty hard in six late-season starts (5.83 ERA and 1.50 WHIP) but that's not the end of the world. His minor league performance is dynamite (2.87 ERA and 8.5 K/9 in 2012) and his curveball is a true out-pitch. The trade that sent Trevor Bauer to the Indians removed one fifth starter candidate from Arizona's equation, but my guess is Corbin will get the first shot with Skaggs waiting in Triple-A for someone to get hurt or underperform.

Baltimore Orioles: RHP Dylan Bundy
The Orioles made a bold move late last season by calling up baseball's best pitching prospect for the stretch run in September even though he was still a teenager at the time. Bundy, who has since turned 20, made two short relief appearances and is slated for more time in the minors in 2013. He has just 103 2/3 total minor league innings under his belt, only 16 2/3 have come above the Single-A level. Baltimore has already shown a willingness to use Bundy in the big leagues, but I highly doubt using him as a starter right out of Spring Training is in the cards. If anything, the young right-hander is a second half call-up.

Houston Astros: 1B Jonathan Singleton
No team is rebuilding quite like the Astros, though they recently signed Carlos Pena to caddy with Brett Wallace at the first base and DH spots. The first base seat is just being kept warm for the 21-year-old Singleton, who hit .284/.396/.497 with 21 homers in Double-A last season. He followed up the season with an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League. Houston has every reason to play the service time game with Singleton, who they acquired from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade two years ago. After a few hundred Triple-A at-bats to start the season, expect to see he young left-handed hitter in the middle of the big league lineup.

New York Mets: RHP Zack Wheeler & C Travis d'Arnaud
Matt Harvey deserved a mention in my quick list of impact rookies in the intro, and he figures to have some running mates in 2013. Like the Astros and Singleton, the Mets have every reason to manipulate Wheeler's and d'Arnaud's service time next season. Wheeler, 22, is arguably the second best pitching prospect in the game but I do not think the team will want to keep him in Triple-A Las Vegas very long. It might the best hitter's environment in professional baseball and could wreck a pitcher's confidence over the full season. Since he needs a challenge after overwhelming the Double-A level this past season (3.27 ERA with 8.5 K/9), expect to see the right-hander in New York's rotation come June.

D'Arnaud, 23, was the centerpiece of the R.A. Dickey trade. He hit a stout .333/.380/.595 with 16 homers in Last Vegas last season (the Mets and Blue Jays swapped Triple-A affiliates this offseason) but did not play after late-June due to a knee injury. After another few hundred at-bats in Triple-A, expect to see d'Arnaud replace John Buck behind the plate at the big league level. He, Wheeler, and Harvey are the team's high-end battery of the future.

Seattle Mariners: RHP Taijuan Walker, LHP James Paxton & LHP Danny Hultzen
Perhaps no club has as many high-end pitching prospects as Seattle, especially if you want to factor in closeness to the majors. Walker, 20, is the best of the bench despite some hiccups at Double-A in 2012 (4.69 ERA). He did skip right over High-A High Desert to avoid the hitter friendly California League, so we'll cut him some slack. There is true ace potential in the young righty, but he's unlikely to see a meaningful amount of big league innings this coming season.

Paxton, 24, is probably first in line of the big three after pitching to a 3.04 ERA (9.3 K/9) at Triple-A last season. He'll get a long look in Spring Training and at the moment, his main competition for a rotation spot is the right-handed trio of Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez, and Hector Noesi. I would expect to see Paxton sooner rather than later in 2013, perhaps even as a member of the Opening Day rotation. Hultzen, 23, has quite a bit of work ahead of him after walking 43 batters in 48 2/3 Triple-A innings last season, including 14 walks in his final 7 1/3 innings of the year. I wouldn't count on him for fantasy purposes next season.

St. Louis Cardinals: OF Oscar Taveras, RHP Shelby Miller & RHP Trevor Rosenthal
The Cardinals have arguably the best farm system in baseball, and they seem to produce productive players at an extraordinary rate. Jaime Garcia got hurt? Here's Joe Kelly (3.53 ERA in 107 IP). Need a versatile bench player? There's Matt Carpenter (.828 OPS while playing five positions). Rafael Furcal blew out his elbow? Don't worry, Pete Kozma will save the day (.952 OPS late in the season). I wouldn't count on Kozma ever doing that again, but the point stands. The Cardinals are an exceptional player development club.

Taveras, 20, is arguably the best pure hitting prospect in the minors. He managed a .321/.380/.572 line in Double-A a year ago and following up with a dominant winter ball showing. He's slated to open the season back in Triple-A and although St. Louis has a superb big league outfield, Taveras figures to make his debut in the second half either as an injury replacement or by simply forcing his way into the lineup a la Allen Craig. Miller and Rosenthal, both 22, made their MLB debuts late last year and pitched well enough to earn at least a real shot at making the team out of camp. Rosenthal in particular dazzled in relief, especially during the postseason (15 strikeouts and four baserunners in 8 2/3 innings). The Cardinals have rotation depth with Garcia, Kelly, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Lance Lynn, but Garcia and Carpenter are injury concerns at this point. I believe Rosenthal will open the year in the bullpen (and be a force) while Miller bides his time as a starter in Triple-A.

Tampa Bay Rays: OF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi & RHP Chris Archer
The Rays play the service time game as much as anyone, though they didn't play it well enough with David Price. He qualified for Super Two status by approximately two weeks. Desmond Jennings, Matt Moore, and Jeremy Hellickson all had to wait their turn in recent years. The most notable exception is Evan Longoria, who was recalled a handful of days into the 2008 season only to be given a long-term contract extension (giving the team cost certainty) a few days later.

Myers, 22, was the centerpiece of the James Shields trade and could easily be in line for a Longoria-esque quick promotion and extension, but a return trip to the minors to start the season after striking out 140 times in 2012 seems like a safe bet. Tampa has enough outfield depth with Jennings, Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Guyer, and Sam Fuld to cover. The 24-year-old Archer and 22-year-old Odorizzi are at the mercy of the team's rotation depth. Even after moving Shields and Wade Davis, they still boast a starting staff that includes Price, Hellickson, Moore, Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann, and possibly even the recently-signed Roberto Hernandez. Archer made six big league appearances last season (4.60 ERA) and is a) first in line for a promotion, and b) more fantasy useful given his elite strikeout rate (11.0 K/9 in MLB and 9.8 K/9 in the minors).

Texas Rangers: 3B Mike Olt & SS Jurickson Profar
Baseball isn't fair some times. Quality players at shortstop and third base are in short supply these days, yet Texas boasts an elite left side of the infield both at the big league level (Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre) and in the upper minors (Profar and Olt). I'm convinced the 24-year-old Olt will be traded before the season (Justin Upton?), especially since Lance Berkman will take most, if not all of the DH at-bats. Depends on where he ends up, Olt could either open the season in the show or back in Triple-A. That's a situation worth monitoring given all of the current injury-prone and unreliable fantasy third base options.

Profar, 19, is baseball's top prospect, and GM Jon Daniels recently told Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas that he doesn't envision using him as a bench player. "It doesn't necessarily make sense ... I don't see (Olt and Profar) as bench players. It doesn't make sense," said the GM. There had been some rumblings Profar could open the season with the MLB club as a second baseman with Ian Kinsler sliding over to first (or the outfield). Either way, he's the only prospect in the minors with a chance to have a Troutian level of impact, meaning power and speed and run-production. That's impossible and unfair to expect from any prospect however, especially someone so young. Profar will definitely play in the big leagues next season after receiving a September call-up last year, but the "when" part is a total wildcard right now.

Three September Call-Ups To Watch For

The calendar turns over to September this Saturday, meaning clubs will expand their rosters and call-up extra players for the stretch run. Most September call-ups are spare parts - third catchers, extra left-handed relievers, etc. - but every so often a team will bring a top prospect to the big leagues and give him a month's worth of playing time. David Price and Francisco Rodriguez are the two most notable September call-ups in recent memory, as both went on to become key components of a deep playoff run. Impact like that is the exception though, not the rule. Here are three high-end prospects who could make their way to the big leagues next month and actually have some fantasy value...

Jurickson Profar | SS | Texas Rangers

The 19-year-old wunderkind from Curacao has emerged as baseball's top prospect this summer. Profar has hit .280/.367/.452 with 14 homers and 16 steals in Double-A this season, which is insane production given his age relative to the competition. It's worth noting that he's played some games at second base lately and in each of the last two games, he was used off the bench as a pinch-hitter. It's very possible the Rangers are preparing him for a call-up, though Jeff Wilson of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram says it may not happen until the end of the Double-A postseason.

Fantasy owners should keep the plight of Mike Olt in mind when considering Profar's fantasy impact. Texas called up their other elite prospect in early-August and he's gotten just 32 plate appearances so far, including only six starts in 26 team games. Perhaps things will be different later in September after the Rangers clinch a playoff berth, but I would be skeptical right now. Profar is a definite keeper long-term, but his 2012 impact may be severely limited.

Wil Myers | OF | Kansas City Royals

After starring at the Futures Game in Kansas City and for most of the season in Triple-A, the 21-year-old Myers may finally get a chance to crack the outfield in Kauffman Stadium next month. He's hit a whopping .307/.384/.589 with 35 homers in 568 total plate appearances, pretty much confirming that he's ready for the next level. Calling up Myers could require the team to either finally bench Jeff Francoeur or sit Lorenzo Cain, the latter of whom might actually have a future with the team. If he does get the call and does play everyday in some outfield position, Myers could be a nice little late-season boost for fantasy owners, potentially chipping in something like 5-6 homers the rest of the way. That's nothing to sneeze at.

Shelby Miller | SP | St. Louis Cardinals

Earlier this week Joe Strauss of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (on Twitter) that there is a "strong sentiment" within the organization to promote Miller, the 21-year-old flamethrower who's pitched to a 4.89 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 130 2/3 Triple-A innings this year. Those numbers aren't all that impressive overall, but the right-hander has a 57/4 K/BB in his last eight starts and seems to have figured some things out.

If the Cardinals do recall Miller next month, they'll have the option to use him out of the bullpen or instead of Joe Kelly in the rotation. I wouldn't count on him replacing Jason Motte as closer, so he would have the most fantasy value as a starter. The September schedule is loaded with intra-division games as always, meaning a whole lotta games against the lowly Astros and Cubs. St. Louis also has a West Coast swing through San Diego and Los Angeles on their slate, adding two top pitcher's parks into the mix. Miller definitely offers some impact potential going forward, assuming the club actually decides to call him up and insert him into the rotation down the stretch.

Sleepers & Busts: Kyle Farnsworth, Adam Wainwright

Two pitchers. Each has four letters in his first name and 10 letters in his surname. Coincidence? Probably so ... or is it? OK, enough nonsense. Let's get on with the column. As always, I issue the standard disclaimer: The terms "sleeper" and "bust" are relative to average draft position (courtesy of

Kyle Farnsworth, CL, Rays
ADP: 224

In the words of Biggie Smalls, things done changed for Kyle Farnsworth. Once a guy who seemed incapable of effectively harnessing his immense raw potential, the right-hander has refined his craft as he's settled into his mid-30s, culminating in last season's unforeseen and surprisingly successful run as the Rays' primary closer.

Considering that Farnsworth owns a long track record of disappointments and late-inning meltdowns, you can hardly hold it against mockers for casting a jaundiced eye (18th round) toward his 25 saves and 2.18 ERA in 2011. But a look beyond the surface stats indicates that K-Farns could in fact again be a late-round bargain on Draft Day as he was a year ago, when Tampa broke camp with a short-lived three-headed closing monster of Farnsworth, Joel Peralta and Jake McGee.

It's all there, clear as crystal: You stole Fizzy Lifting Drink Farnsworth is a different pitcher than he was during his frustrating youth. The right-hander has added an extra pitch, a cutter, to his arsenal over the past three years, which has furnished him with the dual benefits of inducing more grounders and preventing hitters from sitting on his old fastball/slider two-pitch mix. He's also significantly reduced his walk rate, down to a solid 2.64 BB/9 in 2010 and then a minuscule 1.87 last season.

Now, there are a couple of concerns that are worth mentioning. First, don't count on a repeat of last year's ridiculously strong ERA, as Farnsworth was exceedingly fortunate in strand rate, at 85%, and BABIP, at .250 (vs. .294 for his career). SIERA liked him for a 2.77 figure last year, which is still excellent, but again: bank on a figure closer to 3.00 than 2.00.

Next, Farnsworth missed time in September due to a tweaked elbow, which is always something worth taking into consideration. He didn't undergo offseason surgery, which is encouraging in that it's safe to assume he mended with simple rest, and the notoriously frugal Rays exercised their club option on him, suggesting they weren't overly concerned. If the club's not worried, I'm not going to get all in a tizzy, either.

Farnsworth is currently the 27th reliever being drafted, even behind the underwhelming Chris Perez and two setup men in Sergio Romo and Francisco Rodriguez. The closer's job is Farnsy's in Tampa, and he's got the stuff to once again provide surplus value relative to what you'll pay for him on Draft Day.

Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals
ADP: 104.5 

I hemmed and hawed on listing Adam Wainwright as a "bust" here, because I don't want to root against a guy who's coming off Tommy John surgery. In truth, though, I won't be pulling against Waino; I just happen to think too many mockers are taking an unnecessary risk.

Wainwright, 31 in August, missed the entirety of 2011 after undergoing Tommy John in Spring Training. He'll be a full year removed from the surgery by Opening Day, and though I'm not a doctor, we all know that there's a long list of pitchers who have returned from TJ and regained their old form or something close to it -- some sooner than others.

But what exactly does that mean for Waino in 2012? Will he pick up and be the awesome pitcher that he was in 2009 and 2010? Maybe he'll be effective but not quite as effective. It's not far fetched to think his strikeout rate might dip from 8-plus K/9.  As well, much of his value was tied to his 230-inning workloads in 2009-10, but it's hard to imagine him doing that again coming off major surgery and a year-long layoff. I think the Cards will limit him to something like 160-180 innings. And finally, there could be other kinks to work out. Perhaps there will be a minor setback -- the tearing of scar tissue or some such -- at some point.

You get the idea.

Currently the 29th starter being drafted in mocks (mid-8th round), that places Wainwright right in the middle of the No. 3 starters, which is hardly a throwaway roster spot. Consider some of the starters being drafted after Waino: Brandon Beachy, Yu Darvish, Anibal Sanchez, Shaun Marcum, Max Scherzer and Brandon Morrow, to name a few. These guys bring different skills to the table, and I like them to varying degrees, but depending on who you take as your first and second starters, any of them could be very nice complements.

With pitching as deep as it is, I'd rather focus on filling out my lineup in the eighth round than taking a flier on a guy with health concerns. The long odds of the potential upside being realized just doesn't seem to justify the risk.

How About Chris Carpenter?

I'm liking the idea of taking a late-round flier on Chris Carpenter this year.  Carp's going at 302.35 (26th round).  We all know what he's capable of, but he hardly pitched in 2007 or 2008.

Carpenter's first outing of the year was strong, and he's bounced back from injury before.  This pick is pure upside despite the tricky nerve condition.

Closer Changes In Milwaukee, St. Louis

Two closer situations came to a head this weekend - the Cardinals and Brewers.  Both Jason Isringhausen and Eric Gagne actually requested to be replaced, at least temporarily.  In fierce leagues you probably already missed out as backups were picked up a week ago or earlier.

The Cardinals' situation is clearer.  Ryan Franklin picked up the save Saturday night with a scoreless inning; he's the one to snag.  He was also the choice on May 6th when Izzy had gone two consecutive days.  With just eight strikeouts in 19 innings, Franklin is not your typical stopper.  This year, he's not even getting groundballs.  Kyle McClellan could get in the mix if Franklin fails.  Despite poor control, Ron Villone could get a few save opps if the ninth inning is lefty-heavy.

Coming into the season, David Riske was "second in line" in Milwaukee.  He had a rough April but has turned it around in recent weeks.  He's my top pick for saves.  Salomon Torres probably comes next; he closed as recently as last year and has a decent strikeout rate.  Guillermo Mota is not much of a factor for me; despite a strong K rate 11 walks in 16 innings is not going to work.  Brian Shouse and Mitch Stetter, the requisite lefty options, are both pitching well.  Stetter has superior numbers, though.

San Diego Padres to Upset Cardinals

Yeah, that's right.  The Cardinals are going down in the first round.  I finally have something in common with Buster Olney, who also picked the Padres to defeat St. Louis.  (OK, we have two things in common - my first name is also Buster.)

Buster and me aren't the only ones picking against the winningest team in baseball.  David  Pinto of Baseball Musings won't come right out and say it, but he does hint at a possible upset.  Pinto mentions that the Padres have "five pitchers that can blow batters away."  Which brings me to my first reason for Padre victory:

Deep Bullpen That Misses Bats

In a five game series, this goes a long way.  Having four dominant relievers lessens the load on a team's weaker starters, and the Padres have plenty of those.  The Hoffman-Seanez-Otsuka-Linebrink beast can turn a game into a four inning affair.  I call it Hofbrinksukanez.  If Adam Eaton puts all of his energy into throwing four or five solid innings, that may be enough for a victory.  The Cards have a nice bullpen, although they just lost top strikeout artist Al Reyes

Jake Freakin' Peavy

Peavy was awesome this year.  His 9.58 K/9 was second only to Mark Prior among starters.  Plus, Peavy should have some gas left in the tank after throwing forty innings less than Chris Carpenter.  He's coming off a dominant mean streak for the last two months.  Remember why the Marlins won in 2003?  Josh Beckett.  Peavy can be this year's Beckett.  I think the 24 year-old can carry the team and win two games in the NLDS.

Chris Carpenter Looks Shaky

Admit it, Cardinals fans - you're worried about Carpenter now.  No doubt he had an incredible season, but the 5.73 September ERA is no small concern.  He's never pitched so many innings in his life.  If Carpenter reverts back to his good but not great 2004 form, the Cards will lack the ace that every playoff team needs.  Much like the White Sox, their rotation is built for the long haul, not a five game series.

Overrated Cardinals Hitters

Pujols is a superstar, and Edmonds is very good.  Edmonds is fighting a strained shoulder at the moment however.  Larry Walker is on life support, relying on cortisone shots.  Some combination of the three will be formidable, but this isn't Manny/Papi by any stretch.  The Cardinal lineup is fully capable of being subdued by Jake Peavy.


That's right, good ole' Lady Luck makes a Padre win plenty possible even if their team were blatantly inferior.  Check out some of the streaks this Mystery Team conjured up:

  • Won 2 of 3 from Angels in April
  • Swept 3 from Yankees in late May/early June
  • Took 2 of 3 from White Sox in July
  • Won 2 of 3 from Oakland in August
  • Won another 2 of 3 from Boston in August
  • Beat the White Sox 2 of 3 again in September

Of course, I'm talking about the Kansas City Royals.  Absolutely anything can happen during a short series.  That's why you should get some money down on the Padres to win the NLDS.  You'll get 3 to 1 odds on that.  As World Series Champs?  30 to 1.  You could turn $20 into $600.  If Peavy's on his game, it could happen. 

Today's pick: (1-2, -$70)
Jake Peavy (+160) over Chris Carpenter (-200)

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