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St. Louis Cardinals: Rookie Starting 5 That Could Influence 2013

Joseph CatalliniContributor INovember 7, 2012

St. Louis Cardinals: Rookie Starting 5 That Could Influence 2013

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    Kyle Lohse is expected to decline the one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer made to him by the St. Louis Cardinals and pursue free agency, via Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.

    Even without Lohse, who was the Cardinals' best pitcher in 2012, St. Louis will be able to start the 2013 season with a rotation that is pretty familiar to fans.

    All indications point to the Opening Day starting five looking like this: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn, all of whom have pitched at least one full season with the Cardinals.

    St. Louis also has Joe Kelly, who posted a 3.53 ERA in 16 starts and eight relief appearances in 2012.  I expect Kelly to compete with Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook for a spot at the back of the rotation or to be a long-relief option.

    This group provides a mix of veterans and youngsters: Carpenter will be 38 a month into next season, Wainwright is 31, Westbrook 35, Garcia 26, Lynn 25 and Kelly 24.  It also provides some injury questions: Garcia, Westbrook and Carpenter all missed time in 2012 due to injury.

    So here are five more Cardinals pitchers, all of whom have not yet exhausted their rookie status and are under 24 years of age, who could influence the big league club in some way.

Shelby Miller

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    Age: 22

    Miller was long touted the Cardinals' top prospect, but was leapfrogged this year by outfielder Oscar Taveras and is now rated No. 2 in the organization (h/t MLB.com).  Shelby is a hard-throwing right-hander (that will be a common theme in these slides) whose fastball sits at about 95 to 96 mph.  He also has a sharp curveball and a good changeup and has shown pitching ability at every level since his first pro season.

    The Cardinals' first-round draft pick out of high school in 2009 was good in A-level Quad Cities in 2010 going 7-5 with a 3.62 ERA and 12.1 K/9. 

    In 2011, Miller started in High-A Palm Beach and was dominant despite a 2-3 record in his first nine starts.  He pitched well enough in those starts (2.89 ERA, 13.8 K/9 in 53 IP with a 1.13 WHIP) to be promoted to Double-A Springfield.  There he pitched to a 9-3 record, a 2.70 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, although his strikeout rate dipped a bit to 9.2 K/9 in a hitter-friendly Texas League.

    In 2012, Shelby finally faced some adversity in the pros.  In Triple-A Memphis, Miller struggled with his command started off very slow: 4-8, 6.17 ERA, 1.72 WHIP through 17 starts.  His strikeout rate was high at 10.5 K/9; however, he averaged five walks allowed per nine innings and gave up 90 hits in 77.1 IP over those starts.

    After these 17 starts, the Redbirds were at their All-Star break and Miller made some kind of adjustment.  In his final 10 starts in Triple-A, Miller went 7-2 with a 2.88 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP.  His strikeout rate stayed up at 10.6 K/9, but his walk rate lowered all the way to 1.1 BB/9, and he surrendered only 48 hits in 59.1 IP.

    That was enough for St. Louis to call up Miller to the big leagues for September.  Miller had five relief appearances where he went 1-0 in 7.2 IP with nine strikeouts, surrendering eight hits, two walks and two earned runs.

    Miller was also selected to start game 162 for the Cardinals, replacing Wainwright after St. Louis had already clinched a playoff spot. He took a no-hitter through 5.2 innings against the division rival Cincinnati Reds, and finished his first big league start with six innings, no runs, one hit, two walks and seven strikeouts in only 72 pitches.

    Miller will definitely be competing for a spot in the rotation this spring with Kelly, Lynn and Westbrook, and don't be surprised if he wins that battle.

Trevor Rosenthal

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    Age: 22

    Like Miller, Trevor Rosenthal was drafted by the Cardinals in the 2009 MLB amateur draft.  Only he was drafted 20 rounds later. 

    The Cardinals found the Missouri native pitching at Cowley County Community College in Kansas, and he is truly a flame-thrower.  He features a fastball that can reach 100 mph and a very good curveball.  He also has a changeup that he has been working on as a starter.

    Rosenthal didn't become a full-time starter until 2011 in the Cardinals' system when he started 22 games for Quad Cities, where he did all right.  He finished with a 7-7 record, a 4.11 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.

    In 2012 Rosenthal really started to make his ascent in the system.  He started in Double-A Springfield, made 17 starts and pitched to a 8-6 record, a 2.78 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP, earning a promotion to Triple-A Memphis.  

    There Rosenthal only made three starts, pitching five innings in each.  His ERA in Triple-A was lifted to 4.20 because of one bad start, giving up six earned on six hits.  In the other two combined, Trevor only allowed one earned run and struck out 16.

    St. Louis, needing bullpen help, found Rosenthal's power arm irresistible and called him up to the big leagues in July.  

    In 19 relief appearances, Trevor posted a 2.78 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 22.2 innings.

    Rosenthal really burst onto the scene in the postseason.  In seven appearances and 8.2 innings in the NLDS and NLCS, he only gave up one hit, two walks and no runs, striking out 15.

    Rosenthal gave the Cardinals a lot of value in the bullpen in 2011 and that may be where he ends up in 2013, but I think St. Louis will give him a shot at cracking the rotation this spring. Also, if Garcia's shoulder continues to give him problems, or other injuries occur, Rosenthal could be called on to fill a spot.

    Either way, I expect the young right-hander to play in the big leagues most, if not all, of this season. 

Carlos Martinez

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    Age: 21

    As a teenager, Carlos Martinez was signed by the Cardinals out of the Dominican Republic and is yet another power right-handed arm.  Carlos is a bit undersized at 6', 165 pounds, and because of this and his outstanding stuff, he has drawn comparisons to a fellow Dominican Martinez, Pedro.

    Carlos features an upper 90s fastball, a good breaking ball that is improving and, like Pedro, a fantastic changeup. 

    After signing, Martinez pitched as an 18-year-old in the Dominican Summer League, and he was absolutely dominant.  In 12 starts and 59 innings, Martinez struck out 11.9 batters per nine innings, pitching to a 0.76 ERA and a .142 opponents' average.

    Carlos continued to be great in the U.S. in 2011, when he started in A-level Quad Cities.  In 38.2 innings over eight starts, Martinez had a 2.33 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.  He struck out 11.6 per nine and walked only 3.3 per nine.

    However, after promotion to High-A Palm Beach, his strikeouts per nine fell to 9.4, and some command issues were exposed as he walked 5.9 batters per nine.  This added up to a 5.28 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP in 10 starts over 46 innings. 

    He came back to Palm Beach to start 2012 and, after missing about a month with a shoulder injury, was promoted to Double-A Springfield. His numbers were very similar at both levels, and he finished with a combined 104.1 innings in 22 appearances (21 starts), a 2.93 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.  He struck out less batters than in the past with 7.9 K/9, but he only walked 2.8 per nine, showing a lot of improvement in his command.

    With all of the starting pitching depth currently ahead of him in the system, don't expect to see Carlos in the rotation in 2013.  However, he could be very valuable as a power arm in the bullpen, playing a role that Rosenthal provided for the 2012 team.

Michael Wacha

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    Age: 21

    Michael Wacha was the Cardinals' first-round draft pick in 2012 out of Texas A&M, and was very quick to move up the organizational ranks.  

    Wacha is big, 6'6", 195 pounds, and like all his predecessors on this list, is a hard-throwing right-hander.  His fastball comes in around 94, and he has a curveball and a changeup, though he doesn't throw it much. 

    With a very long, lanky frame, I think that Wacha's stuff and velocity will improve, but he has shown an ability to pitch in college and the pros. 

    In 2012, he went 9-1 over 16 starts and 113.1 innings with Texas A&M, striking out 116 with a 2.06 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. 

    Probably because of a decent college workload, the Cardinals limited his innings a bit in the pros, but Wacha was impressive enough to go straight to High-A Palm Beach from the rookie Gulf Coast League. He ended the season in Double-A.  

    Over just five innings in two starts and a relief appearance in the GCL, Wacha gave up one run on four hits and no walks, striking out seven.

    In four relief appearances at Palm Beach, he pitched eight innings, gave up one hit, one walk and no runs, striking out 16.

    Making four more relief appearances in Springfield, Wacha pitched another eight innings, gave up one run on three hits and three walks, and struck out 17.

    Progressing that well and that quickly likely earned him an invite to spring training in 2013, but the chances that he pitches in the majors in 2013 are probably remote.

    That being said, if Wacha continues his rapid improvement and the need is presented, he could be used in the bullpen this year.

John Gast

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    Age: 23

    Finally, a crafty lefty.  

    John Gast, 6'1", 195 pounds, was the Cardinals' sixth-round draft pick in 2010 out of Florida State University.

    Unlike the others on this list, Gast has a fastball that tops out at about 90. He also throws a curveball and a changeup.  All of his pitches have some movement, and he gets a lot of ground balls.

    At FSU, Gast was used as a starter and a reliever, but the Cardinals have shown they project him to be a starter.  

    In his first full pro season in 2011, Gast split 26 appearances (25 starts) between Palm Beach and Springfield.  His stats were pretty similar at both levels and he combined for a 9-8 record, a 4.02 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP, while allowing 3.4 BB/9 and 9.2 H/9.

    In 2012, Gast started in Springfield and was great. In eight starts he went 4-2 with a 1.93 ERA and a sub-one WHIP.  His walks were down to 2.3 per nine, and he only surrendered 6.7 hits per nine.

    However, once promoted to Triple-A Memphis, some of Gast's problems were back.  Despite going 9-5 in 20 starts and 109.1 innings, his ERA was 5.10.  His walks were back up at 3.5 BB/9, and he surrendered 10.2 hits every nine innings.

    When a ground-ball pitcher starts giving up a lot of hits and walks, it shows his fastball is up and his command is lacking.

    With his stuff, Gast projects to be back-of-the-rotation starter, but until his command improves he won't crack the big league rotation.

    However, the Cardinals have a need for left-handed relief.  I expect them to pursue a solution through free agency or trade.  But should that not pan out, or if Marc Rzepczynski struggles in 2013 as he did in 2012, then, given Gast's experience as a reliever in college, he may find a spot in the St. Louis bullpen.

Honorable Mention: Tyrell Jenkins

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    Age: 20

    Tyrell Jenkins didn't make my five-man rookie rotation, because, while some of the previous entries in this slideshow are long shots to make the big leagues in 2013, Jenkins almost definitely will not see any big league action this season.

    Jenkins is a terrific athlete who was set to play quarterback at Baylor before St. Louis drafted him in the compensatory round in 2010.  He is 6'4", lanky, with a mid-90s fastball, a promising curveball and a developing changeup.

    In 2011, his first full pro season, Jenkins started 11 games, pitched 56 innings, with 55 strikeouts and a 3.86 ERA.

    In 2012, Jenkins threw 82.1 innings for Quad Cities in 19 starts.  He struck out 80 and posted a 5.14 ERA.

    His walks per nine almost doubled from 2011 to 2012, going from 2.1 to 3.9.  

    Jenkins is extremely talented but raw.  With great athleticism, Jenkins could start progressing really rapidly, but he is probably a couple years away from the majors, at best.

    However, should the Cardinals decide that their depth of hard-throwing, right-handed pitchers makes Jenkins expendable, a pitcher of his ability would command a lot of value on the trade market, especially from a non-contender looking to build for the future.

    The Cardinals may look for a marquee middle infielder to bolster the roster in 2013, and Jenkins could be a key piece in a potential trade.

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