2018 Cardinals: Returnees, New Pieces Seek Another Step Forward

Mark Lathrop

Sunday, March 11, 2018 7:52 PM UTC

Sunday, Mar. 11, 2018 7:52 PM UTC

The St. Louis Cardinals had a bad season in 2017 and still finished above .500. Our MLB handicapper, Mark Lathrop, looks to 2018 and sees more of the same from this well-run franchise.

We will be breaking down each division team-by-team as we approach the 2018 MLB season to identify futures value and upcoming betting trends. Today we will take a look at the St. Louis Cardinals out of the NL Central. The Cardinals were projected to win 84.5 games last year, and my model in 2017 correctly picked that they would fall short of that total – coming in at 83 wins. The Cardinals have made some positive changes and the futures markets tends to agree, setting their 2018 win total at 85.5 games.

Pitching Staff

The staff is anchored by 26-year-old Carlos Martinez, who has four-plus pitches in his arsenal and is coming off his first 200+ inning season. He had a blip in his HR/FB percentage in 2017, yet still put up a 3.91 FIP. He is expected to regress positively in 2018 while putting up a 3.68 FIP. Where Martinez shines, Adam Wainwright’s career appears to be riding off into the sunset. He’ll be shooting for average in his age 36 season in 2018, which could be his last. In the bullpen the Cardinals have a few options for high-leverage innings with Luke Gregerson coming over from the Astros, and Brett Cecil coming off a season in which he held righties to a .205 AVG.

Lineup

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Join us in wishing a Happy 30th Birthday to #STLCards outfielder, @TphamLV! pic.twitter.com/xMZbburMit

— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) March 8, 2018
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One of the hitters with the most amount of intrigue entering the season is Tommy Pham, who put up a monster 5.9 WAR season in 2017 seemingly out of nowhere. A true five-tool star, Pham will be fighting a degenerative eye disease as he tries to recreate his 2017 success. The Cardinals also added Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins for basically nothing. Ozuna is slated to bat cleanup and looks to build on an awesome 4.8 WAR campaign in 2017 when he put up 37 bombs. Rounding out the outfield is Dexter Fowler, who has not shown signs of slowing down at age 31. The Cardinals' outfield is stacked. In the infield, Jedd Gyorko looks for a full season of at-bats where he has the talent to put up 30+ home runs given the chance.

Wild Cards and Betting Trends

The middle infield is where I think the Cardinals will boom or bust, with high-variance players Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong manning shortstop and second base, respectively. The other player with significant upside is right-hander Luke Weaver, who put up a 3.17 FIP in just 60.1 innings in 2017. If Weaver’s performance in 2017 wasn’t a fluke, the Cardinals look like a lock to exceed their 85.5-win futures total for 2018.

Current Win Total: 85.5Best Line Offered: Bovada
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