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St. Louis Cardinals: 4 Pitchers with a Shot at the 5th Rotation Spot

Jeff SucherContributor IIIDecember 5, 2016

St. Louis Cardinals: 4 Pitchers with a Shot at the 5th Rotation Spot

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    With the memories of 1996 unearthed during this postseason for Cardinal fans, it can be certain Cardinal fans would like a do-over next season. Nothing like blowing a 3-1 series lead to turn your focus to February when pitchers and catchers report.

    The Cardinals will be a in a great position when it comes to pitching next season. A healthy Chris Carpenter, a rejuvenated Adam Wainwright, a healed Jaime Garcia and a so-so Jake Westbrook make up a decent first four.  

    With the Cardinals all but saying they will be letting Kyle Lohse walk during free agency, the fifth spot in the rotation is wide open. 

    The Cardinals have four legit options at the fifth spot: Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal.

    Having four options who all possess fastballs at 95 mph and better is a good problem to have. Manager Mike Matheny is a lucky guy to have such a problem. 

Lance Lynn

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    Lance Lynn came out and set the baseball world on fire to start the 2012 season. He was thrust into some pretty big shoes, having to take Chris Carpenter's spot in the rotation. Lynn came out of the gates at 8-1 with a 2.54 ERA through May.

    Then came June and Lynn couldn't get anyone out.

    He posted a 2-3 record in June with a 5.67 ERA and gave up five home runs in his six starts. The roller coaster continued into July, where Lynn went 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA and found himself on the All-Star team.

    But as fast as success came, it all went away when Lynn lost his rotation spot in August and ended up in the bullpen. To his credit, he did not complain and worked his way back into the rotation for some September and postseason starts.

    Lynn finished the regular season with an 18-7 record. It's hard to believe a guy who won 18 games has to jockey for a spot in the rotation.

    If Lynn is to nail down the fifth spot in the rotation, he will need to find some consistency. If he can replicate his April, May and July, Lynn will be quite an asset to the Cardinals in their attempt to get back to the postseason.

Shelby Miller

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    The Cardinals' No. 1 pitching prospect finally made his major league debut during the September call-up and he did not disappoint. He posted a 1-0 record with a 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings pitched. He also struck out 16 batters for a cool ratio of 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings. 

    His fastball is lively and tops out in the high-90s. He is young and has developed well at each level in the minors until he sputtered a bit this year at AAA Memphis. He finished the season down in Memphis at 11-10 with a 4.74 ERA and gave up 24 home runs in just 136.2 innings. Not exactly a confidence-builder for a guy who is expected to be an ace at the major league level.

    Miller has the talent to pitch at the big-league level and see great success. If he has a good spring training, it will give Mike Matheny something to think about.

Joe Kelly

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    Joe Kelly was the Mr. Fixit of the 2012 Cardinals. Called up to take Jaime Garcia's spot in the rotation when Garcia went down with an injury in June, Kelly came up and seemed to offer quality start after quality start—even if his record didn't show it.

    In his first nine starts, Kelly only posted a 1-4 record. His ERA, however, was 2.96 and Kelly posted six quality starts. Kelly also has a fastball that touches 97 mph and he is another young horse in waiting.

    If Kelly is going to have any shot, he is going to have to be lights out in spring training. He has shown the ability to keep the Cardinals in the games he pitches, but just getting to the sixth inning may not be enough to win a spot. Kelly, like almost every other pitcher, struggles mightily when he gets the ball up. 

    Showing he has better control in March could give him a shot, but it's a long shot with Lynn and Miller ahead of him.

Trevor Rosenthal

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    This last slide may be a stretch, but Trevor Rosenthal showed great promise and potential during his September call-up. 

    On multiple occasions, Rosenthal lit up the radar gun, touching 100-plus mph. Very few things get a crowd pumped up like a heater blown right by the opposing team's hitters. Usually, that type of heat is reserved for the later innings of a ballgame.

    This is what makes Rosenthal an exciting option as a starter. He was a starter his last three seasons in the minors and consistently sat hitters down via the strikeout. 

    The one thing Rosenthal has going against him is he pitched most of the season at the AA level. Who knows what Mike Mathney is thinking, but it would be my guess he would start the season in the bullpen and could fill a spot in the rotation.

    Garcia is fragile, Westbrook is inconsistent, so it's not too far of a stretch to see Rosenthal in the Cardinals' rotation.

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