Who to Watch: Cubs, Cardinals

The Cubs and Cardinals have long been one of baseball’s best rivalries, but who has the better fantasy players? Brett Greenfield and I continue our seriesby finishing out the NL Central. Today we look at some Cubs and Cards players you want on draft day and others that you should avoid.

The Cubs player that I want in 2010 is Geovany Soto. Soto’s disastrous 2009 was a product of a few factors all leading to a .218 AVG and only 11 home runs. First off there was the World Baseball Classic. A couple of things there: 1) Soto was coming off of the highest innings caught total of his career and had to start his offseason preparation early.2) This can only lead to excessive snacking. While we still can’t draw definite conclusions on how the WBC affects every player, I think we can assume that certain players have been affected by it. Case and point: Soto only appeared in 16 games in April, hitting a mere .109 with no home runs. May wasn’t much better as Soto hit .278, but with only one home run. June seemed to be the month where Soto finally got his swing going. He hit six home runs in June only to get injured in early July. From August on Soto would only appear in 37 more games. On top of his WBC altered, injury plagued season, Soto’s BABIP was a very low .251. There is no doubt that he can be had for a big discount on draft day.

The Cub I don’t want is Alfono Soriano and I have stayed well clear in mock drafts. For two seasons in a row Soriano has yet to top 500 at bats. In every season he has been with the Cubs he has missed time due to a leg injury. He ended 2009 needing knee surgery. Say goodbye to those nice stolen base totals. Soriano is also 34 years old, which in non-steroid terms means a decline is coming or already here. For Soriano it may be a combination of both. Always a free swinging/low contact hitter, there were visible signs of his slowing bat speed last season as he was consistently beat inside by fastballs. His current ADP puts him in late round five/early round six. No thanks, I’ll draft Garrett Jones much later and hope for the same 20-25 home runs and 15 steals I expect to be Soriano’s ceiling.

The Cardinals will keep the middle of the order combo of Albert Pujols and Matt Holiday together heading into 2010, but it is a former top prospect that I am more excited about. Colby Rasmus is the Cardinal I want to target on draft day. As what happens with most non-Ryan Braun/Evan Longoria rookies, Rasmus struggled in his first big league season hitting only .251/.307/.407. There were a lot of parts of Rasmus’s game that failed to show up in 2009; like only three steals in four attempts. The season before at AAA he stole 15 bags in 18 attempts in only 387 plate appearances. Power was another part of his game that showed flashes, but never truly materialized. Rasmus hit as many as 29 homers in a minor league season. His plate discipline was yet another trait that did not transfer to the big leagues. Improving in that category, as well as improving against left-handed pitching should show in his 2010 numbers. Rasmus is too talented to not make the adjustment. Add him later in the draft and you may just find a .275/20/15 treasure.

In 2010 I am staying clear of Ryan Franklin. Franklin posted a superb 1.92 ERA last season to go along with 38 saves, but look past the counting stats and you’ll find essentially a middle reliever who is sure to regress. A 6.5 K/9 is nothing to write home about if you are a relief pitcher especially along side a mediocre walk rate of 3.5 per nine innings. With a strand rate of 85.7% and a BABIP against of .269 and line drive percentage of 20%, Franklin got away with a lot in 2009. To count on that happening again is ill advised. Look for his ERA to jump into the 3.50 and higher range and for the strikeouts to remain low, if not lower.

Brett Greenfield: Fantasy Phenoms

The Cubs player you want in 2010 is Aramis Ramirez.Aramis had given owner s 450+ AB in eight consecutive seasons until last year.Seven of those eight seasons Ramirez had over 500 AB.Despite constantly being banged up, Aramis still produces quality numbers.His average is always high and he bats in a run-producing spot in his lineup.Third base is very top heavy and Aramis may be the best value pick after the top few are off the board.

The Cubs player to avoid in 2010 is Marlon Byrd.Byrd had a career year batting cleanup or fifth for the Texas Rangers.That career year featured only 20 HR and 89 RBI, but for Byrd it was the best we’ve seen from him.The Cubs signed Milton Bradley, the cleanup hitter from Texas two years ago and obviously thought buying high was the right mistake to make twice. Don’t join the Cubs is poor decision making.

The Cardinals are a very top-heavy team. Featuring Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, the Cards offer little else in terms of fantasy. Ryan Ludwick, however, might be the next best thing. He is being drafted in the late teens, which is giving him some value. While his homers dropped from 37 to 22 last year, his RBI remained a strong 97. Even if Ludwick could give 20 HR and 85 RBI, batting behind Holliday and Pujols gives him potential for more. He’s not a bad #4 OF.

The Cardinals players not to get in 2010 is the entire infield not named Albert Pujols.Skip Schumaker will be playing second base, David Freese is set to play third and Brendan Ryan might be the starting SS. None of these guys present much value. It’s possible that two of the three bat first and second, but at best, they are two-category players. NL-Only leaguers might find some of them to be deep sleepers, but that’s a best case scenario.