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What’s better than being a Cardinals fan? A team-by-team analysis

The Cardinals have a good team and a good farm system. How many fans have it better? Some!

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Last Saturday, I was listening to the Effectively Wild podcast episode previewing the season of the St. Louis Cardinals (featuring Viva El Birdos alum Craig Edwards!) and the Atlanta Braves and about ten minutes into the Braves portion, I started to ask myself, “Would I rather be a Braves fan right now than a Cardinals fan?”

To be clear, the St. Louis Cardinals are presently a better team than the Atlanta Braves, and they’re probably a substantially better team. The preview podcasts themselves reflect this: the Cardinals appeared on the eighth podcast’s first segment because they are projected as baseball’s eighth-best team, while the Braves project as baseball’s eighth-worst team. But the Braves also have baseball’s best farm system, baseball’s best offensive prospect (Ronald Acuna), and a second baseman born in 1997, Ozzie Albies, who was worth 1.9 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement in 244 plate appearances last season.

Ultimately, I think I’d rather be a Cardinals fan—the excitement of the future is great, but it’s also nice having a present worth being excited about. I can see the argument for the Braves, but it’s not as though the Cardinals’ farm system or supply of youngsters are barren, either. But how many teams would be a more desirable rooting experience than the Cardinals? Here’s a look at each team and how they compare.

Arizona Diamondbacks—Their farm system is pretty weak (Baseball America has them at #25). Their current MLB team is pretty good, and while their signing of My Perennial Favorite Prospective Cardinals Target Jarrod Dyson makes me want to root for them more, they face a more difficult division than the Cardinals—the Los Angeles Dodgers are an even more daunting threat than the Chicago Cubs, the San Francisco Giants appear to be gearing up for a last gasp from their current core, the Colorado Rockies made the 2017 postseason, and even the San Diego Padres have exciting prospects. Advantage: Cardinals

Baltimore OriolesRooting for Manny Machado? Fun! Rooting for a team whose upside is probably fourth in the AL East that refuses to deal the soon-to-be free agent Machado in order to help replenish a middle-of-the-road at best farm system? Less fun! Advantage: Cardinals

Boston Red SoxTheir farm system has taken a bit of a dip (24th per Baseball America) but this is mostly a side effect of graduating young talent to the big leagues. The rise of the Yankees is scary, but a top-five MLB pitcher in Chris Sale and outstanding youngsters like Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi, on top of the more established but still only 25 years old Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, make this team too fun to pass up. Advantage: Red Sox

Chicago Cubs—In three years, their farm system fell from the envy of Major League Baseball to one of the sport’s worst, but this is partly graduating players like Kris Bryant to the big leagues and partly trading prospects like Eloy Jimenez to acquire high-end talent like Jose Quintana. The 2016 Cubs were probably the peak of this run, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be really good. Advantage: Cubs

Chicago White Sox—They’re a horrible team and they’re going to be positively steamrolled by the Cleveland Indians in 2018. But they have a top-five farm system and play in what is perhaps the weakest division in the sport. If the White Sox were as good now as, say, the Minnesota Twins, I’d probably pick them here, but a lot can happen in prospect development and prospects are too big of a risk for voluntarily rooting for a team this terrible. Advantage: Cardinals

Cincinnati Reds—Nick Senzel is probably going to be really good. Joey Votto is really good, on top of being one of baseball’s most dryly hilarious interviews. These are the good things. Advantage: Cardinals

Cleveland Indians—Eventually, their mid-market status is going to come back and haunt them, and their farm system is nothing special. But in the meantime, which would you say is more likely: that Cleveland doesn’t win its division in 2018 or that Cleveland wins its division by more than 20 games? I’m taking the latter. Advantage: Indians

Colorado Rockies—Rockies fun fact: Dante Bichette, whose son Bo is a top-ten prospect in baseball as a shortstop, was such a dreadful fielder (and 1999 Coors Field was such a hitter’s park) that he was once worth -2.3 WAR in a season where he had a .895 OPS. Also, the Rockies don’t have a prospect nearly as good as Bo Bichette. Advantage: Cardinals

Detroit Tigers—A cautionary tale against actually going all-in as a team, the Tigers haven’t had a great farm system for years (including this one) and were the worst team in baseball by win total last year. Their best projected position player for 2018, Nick Castellanos, has never had a single-season fWAR higher than 1.8. Advantage: Cardinals

Houston Astros—The entire Astros farm system could be populated with clones of me and I’d consider taking them because of the strength of their Major League roster, which won 101 games and the World Series in 2017 and managed to improve even more with the addition of Gerrit Cole. Instead, the system is in the top ten of MLB according to Baseball America. Advantage: Astros

Kansas City Royals—The number of Royals fans I’ve seen directly say they knew Eric Hosmer would be a bad signing this off-season but that they wanted to do it so they could at least be reminded of the 2015 World Series team is plural. They were a mediocre team last year, they lost their two best players (Lorenzo Cain and Hosmer) in addition to Mike Moustakas, and their farm system is the second-worst in baseball. It’s going to get really, really bad. Advantage: Cardinals

Los Angeles Angels—There may not be two more fun players to root for in baseball right now than Mike Trout, the sport’s best player, and Shohei Ohtani, the sport’s most unique player. And that’s not even to mention Andrelton Simmons, the best defensive shortstop since (come at me, Cleveland) Ozzie Smith. The farm system is average (a huge improvement from past seasons) and the MLB team has to compete with the Astros, but this team is going to be an absolute delight aesthetically. Advantage: Angels

Los Angeles Dodgers—They won 104 games last season and nearly won the World Series, they arguably have baseball’s best starting and relief pitchers (Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen), they have outstanding young hitters like Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager, they have a top-ten farm system, and they print money. Don’t lie to yourselves on this one. Advantage: Dodgers

Miami Marlins—I’m so, so, so, so sorry. Advantage: Cardinals

Milwaukee Brewers—They finished ahead of the Cardinals last season, they added Christian Yelich, and they have a higher ranked farm system. That said, I’m siding with the Cardinals because the Brewers still lag far behind in terms of starting pitching and the Cardinals have more payroll flexibility going forward. Advantage: Cardinals

Minnesota Twins—A handful of under-25 stars (Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Jose Berrios) obscure the fact that the 2017 team which made the postseason was carried in large part by old guys—the non-Buxton members of their top five players by WAR were all 30 or older (Brian Dozier and Jason Castro were 30; Ervin Santana and Joe Mauer were 34). Advantage: Cardinals

New York Mets—The wheels seemed to fall off last season, and with the Nationals poised for another year or two atop the division while the Braves and Phillies gear up to promising futures, the Mets are stuck in baseball purgatory. Advantage: Cardinals

New York Yankees—Their peripherals suggested they deserved to win the 2017 AL East anyway, but adding Giancarlo Stanton, another year of seasoning for their young guns, baseball’s #2 farm system, and exorbitant wealth put the Yankees, with the possible exception of the Dodgers and only the Dodgers, in the best position of any team in baseball. Advantage: Yankees

Oakland Athletics—I really like Stephen Piscotty. But I don’t like Stephen Piscotty that much. Advantage: Cardinals

Philadelphia Phillies—While Rhys Hoskins probably isn’t as good as he was in 2017, he’s probably still pretty good. The Phillies flexed their payroll muscle by signing Carlos Santana this off-season, and they were rumored to be pursuing Manny Machado with the intention of trying to re-sign him. They’re basically the Braves with a slightly weaker farm system and slightly higher potential to spend big. It’s not an easy pick, though when in doubt I tend to side with the comfort of knowing my pick will be reasonably assured of contention at some point. Advantage: Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates—They won 75 games last season and they traded away their best pitcher (Gerrit Cole) and their most beloved player in (at least) a generation (Andrew McCutchen). They still have enough young-ish pitchers that their future isn’t absolutely desolate but there is no question that being a Pirates fan isn’t going to be as fun as it was a few years ago. Advantage: Cardinals

San Diego Padres—The Eric Hosmer signing was their attempt at the Jayson Werth signing by the Nationals—a warning shot that the team intends to be good in a couple years and that this veteran with a “winning pedigree” will help out the youngsters who will lead them there. The Padres are, however, absolutely dreadful, and even if the prospects work out, they still face an uphill battle against the Dodgers. Advantage: Cardinals

San Francisco Giants—Who do you think is better now: the Giants or the Cardinals? I think it’s probably the latter, but given the lack of dynamic young players on the Giants roster or in the Giants farm system, it would take confidence that the Giants were considerably better right now to consider taking them long-term. Advantage: Cardinals

Seattle Mariners—They have the worst farm system in baseball and they’re an average-ish team now. Their Wild Card odds are no better than those of the Cardinals, and their division odds are probably worse. Advantage: Cardinals

Tampa Bay Rays—The execution can be questioned but given the strength of the Yankees and Red Sox, it probably makes sense for the Rays to re-tool. However, once that happens, they’re still going to be up against the Yankees and Red Sox, and despite a good farm system, this is not going to be enough to save them. Advantage: Cardinals

Texas Rangers—A few years ago, the Rangers may have been the team to want to be going forward. They had a loaded farm system and a great Major League roster. And now, neither is especially intriguing. Advantage: Cardinals

Toronto Blue Jays—Would I like the Cardinals to trade for Josh Donaldsdon? Sure. But I get why the Blue Jays are loading up for a run (probably) at a Wild Card in 2018—they have enough upside that they have a chance to contend for it, a rather old nucleus, and prospects (the aforementioned Bo Bichette as well as another second-generation player, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) who are probably a few years away from being able to carry a contender. Advantage: Cardinals

Washington Nationals—They’re going to likely win the NL East this season, but they’re also likely to lose Bryce Harper in free agency. They still may be good enough to win the NL East even without Harper in 2019, but much of the roster is a bit on the old side—besides Harper and Trea Turner, the bulk of the Nationals roster is at or past its prime. This is a tough pick for the opposite reason the Braves and Phillies are a tough pick out of the NL East. Advantage: Cardinals

By my measure, the Cardinals rank eighth in terms of desirability to root for the team. I’m probably wrong, though I’m not sure in which direction. What are your thoughts?