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4 Cardinals

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CONTENDERS

SCOUT'S TAKE

KEY QUESTION

The back end of the bullpen has a lot of upside—but a lot of questions, too. Jordan Hicks was lights-out last year, but can he handle the pressure of the ninth? Andrew Miller's spring velocity has been good, but he's thrown a lot of stressful innings over the last few years and tailed off in 2018. They need him healthy.

OVERRATED

Miles Mikolas went to Japan, and now he's a strike-throwing machine. That's great, but he doesn't strike anyone out and doesn't deserve the $68 million they gave him for a good year.

MOST OUT OF TALENT

You look at Matt Carpenter, and you think nothing of the guy—you turn around, and he's got another 30 home runs. Two strikes, he fouls the ball off all day long. You worried about the shift with him, but he cut down on his ground balls to become an MVP candidate.

LAST LICKS

Paul Goldschmidt slots perfectly into this lineup. Busch Stadium is tough on righthanders, but there isn't a ballpark that can contain this guy.... They remind you of past Cardinals teams in that they do the little things right, but they don't quite have the starting pitching to match up with the NL elite.

THE PAYOFF PITCH

THE KEY to the Cardinals' failure to make the playoffs the last two years has been the health of righthander Alex Reyes. A top 10 prospect heading into 2017, Reyes underwent Tommy John surgery that February. Then, returning in 2018, he threw just four innings in the majors before tearing his right lat, ending his season. Reyes would have been a huge boon to a bullpen that struggled down the stretch and as the club missed the postseason for a third straight year. While St. Louis has improved its relief corps by adding lefty Andrew Miller, a healthy Reyes has the potential that few pitchers on this staff can match. Reyes, 24, has a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider, and he could be a dominant reliever for three months, then become the Cards' best starter. His health is the biggest factor in the Cardinals' attempt to chase down the Cubs and Brewers.

OVER UNDER

85.5

With Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller in the fold, this should be an improved club from the one that limped through last year's first half before sprinting to 88 wins.

LINEUP

3B Matt Carpenter

.257/36 HR/.523 SLG

SS Paul DeJong

.241/19 HR/.433 SLG

1B Paul Goldschmidt

.290/33 HR/.533 SLG

LF Marcell Ozuna

.280/23 HR/88 RBI

RF Dexter Fowler

.180/8 HR/.298 SLG

C Yadier Molina

.261/20 HR/74 RBI

2B Kolten Wong

.249/9 HR/38 RBI

CF Harrison Bader

.264/ 12 HR/15 SB

BENCH

IF José Martínez

.305/17 HR/83 RBI

IF Jedd Gyorko

.262/11 HR/.346 OBP

FANTASY BREAKOUT

With an elite slider and a near 30% strikeout rate in his age-22 season, JACK FLAHERTY looks like the Cards' next ace.

ROTATION

RH Miles Mikolas

18 W/2.83 ERA/1.07 WHP

RH Jack Flaherty

8 W/3.34 ERA/10.8 K9

RH Adam Wainwright

2 W/4.46 ERA/1.46 WHP

RH Michael Wacha

8 W/3.20 ERA/7.6 K9

BULLPEN

CL Jordan Hicks

6 SV/3.59 ERA/8.1 K9

LH Andrew Miller

4.24 ERA/1.38 WHP/11.9 K9

RH Alex Reyes

0.00 ERA/0.61 WHP/17.2 K9*

MANAGER

Mike Shildt

*Minor league stats