Perks of being a homer

Most fantasy managers playing the game are baseball fans, and everyone has a favorite team. If you read my bio, you know I’ve been a St. Louis Cardinals fan since 1964. Most of the time, I’m careful to separate my love/hate relationship with the Cardinals from my preferences in fantasy. The reason is because it is difficult to keep my emotions out of my player analysis.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t draft Cardinals players, or add some from the waiver wire. It only means that I try to look at the players objectively in comparing them to players on other teams. Recently, however, I had an epiphany. Since I follow the Cardinals more closely, I will have some insights other fantasy managers might not have. Why not use this to my advantage?

The recent catalyst to put this epiphany into practice occurred this month when the Cardinals management did something uncharacteristic. They started calling up young players, and the callups came early and often. Four players in four weeks. Excitement stirred in Cardinal Nation, and it reached a fever pitch when top prospect Nolan Gorman was promoted last Friday.

Gorman, one of the best pure power hitters to be called up all season, was no secret to the fantasy community. He went for $278 in my TGFBI League. My bid of $111 wasn’t even close. I did manage to grab Gorman off of the waiver wire in one of my public leagues, and he’s off to a fantastic start. He’s gone 5-for-10, with a .500/.583/.700 slash line. He’s only struck out once.

The first thing you should do is open up a new tab and go to each league you play in and see if he’s available. Gorman’s rostership is currently 63 percent in Yahoo leagues and only 26.4 percent in ESPN leagues. Add him immediately because he has massive upside based on how he has hit at Triple-A in 2022. Gorman had a sparkling .308 batting average with 15 homers.  

It’s a very small sample size, but I’m encouraged that Gorman has only struck out once in 12 plate appearances. He was striking out at close to a 35% clip in the minors. I expect him to hit 25-30 home runs and drive in 80-85 runs batting in the middle of a Cardinals lineup that includes table-setter Tommy Edman, and All Stars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. 

But Gorman is not the only Cardinals rookie that could improve your fantasy fortunes. If you can’t get Gorman, consider the case for adding infielder Juan Yepez, who joined the Cardinals on May 4th. He didn’t come to the majors with the same pedigree as Gorman, but he his plate discipline in the minors was better and leads me to believe he’ll hit for a higher average.

Yepez is also off to a great start in his first taste in The Bigs. In 17 games with the Cardinals and 73 plate appearances, he’s slashing .308/.384/.492, with three home runs, 12 runs scored and six RBI. I expect him to hit 20 home runs and score 65-70 runs, while hitting around .275. Yepez’s rostership is currently 50 percent in Yahoo leagues and only 22.2 percent in ESPN leagues.  

I have Yepez on two teams, but I missed out on him two weeks ago when he went for $57 in my TGFBI League. My bid of $52 fell just short, and I’m really kicking myself for underestimating his appeal. I was sure Yepez would slip under the radar – even though he hit 22 long balls and hit.289 with a .589 slugging percentage in 92 games at the Triple-A level in 2021. My bad.

While I couldn’t get Gorman or Yepez, I did finally add a dynamic Cardinals rookie for my TGFBI team on Sunday. And this is where I think my knowledge of the Cardinals paid off. Brendan Donovan, who was called up before anyone, was a seventh-round pick in the 2018 draft and really came out of nowhere. Most people don’t think he’ll stay up, but I disagree.

Donovan, a third baseman, didn’t appear to have a road to playing time unless Arenado was injured. But I think he’ll become a super utility player. He had his first start in the outfield over the weekend. He’s already slashed .319/.467/.489, with one home run, 10 runs and seven RBI, in 47 at bats. If you play in an on-base league, note that he has 11 walks in 60 plate appearances. 

One Cardinals rookie that I’m passing on – at least for now – is pitcher Matthew Liberatore. He was called up and started Saturday night’s game in Pittsburgh, allowing four earned runs on seven hits, while walking two batters and striking out three in 4 2/3 innings of work. If he had stuck around to retire one more batter, he could have gotten a win in his first major league start.

Liberatore, who was called up because of a doubleheader being scheduled last week, was sent back down after the game but then recalled Monday from Triple-A Memphis after Steven Matz landed on the IL. Frankly, it wouldn’t take much for Liberatore to be better than Matz, who signed a four-year, 44 million deal with the Cardinals a week before the MLB lockout.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

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