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Shelby Miller, RHP (No. 14), Trevor Rosenthal, RHP (No. 57) and Carlos Martinez, RHP (No. 38)
Possessing arguably the top farm system in the game, the Cardinals continue to produce big-league players like it’s going out of style. More specifically, the organization’s ability to groom young pitchers has led to a log jam at Double-A and Triple-A, which is actually an enviable situation.
As a result, the Cardinals had four pitching prospects ranked within Prospect Pipeline’s top 100 prospects. But since this article on features on the best pitching trios in the minor leagues, that leaves right-hander Michael Wacha on the outside looking in—for now.
After a quick ascension through the Cardinals’ system in 2011, Miller, 22, struggled for the first time in his young career over the first half of the 2012 season at Triple-A. Thankfully, the 6’3” right-hander righted the ship and began dominating once again after the All-Star break. As a result, Miller finally made his highly anticipated big-league debut as a September call-up.
With a three-pitch mix that’s highlighted by a deceptively quick, swing-and-miss fastball in the low- to mid-90s, Miller appears to be ready for the challenge of a full season in the major leagues. Following Trevor Rosenthal’s relegation to the bullpen, the right-hander is now competing with Joe Kelly for the final spot in the starting rotation.
Given his background as a former first rounder, not to mention his massive success in the minor leagues (excluding his first-half struggles last season), Miller should ultimately break camp with the Cardinals. If he pitches as he did during the second-half surge in 2012, he could emerge as one of the better rookies in the game this season.
Despite his dominance in the Double-A rotation during the first half of the 2012 season, Rosenthal’s electric plus-plus fastball and swing-and-miss breaking ball led to a big-league promotion as a reliever. After struggling in his initial appearances, everything clicked for the 6’2” right-hander in September. More importantly, it happened just in time for the postseason.
Appearing numerous times in both the NLDS and NLCS, the 22-year-old allowed only four baserunners while notching 15 strikeouts (exactly half of the batters he faced) in 8.2 innings.
I still like him more as a starter and expected him to pitch better than he did in such a role this spring, but, at the same time, I completely understand the Cardinals' desire to move him back to bullpen with two weeks left in the spring.
For now, Rosenthal will likely serve as the team’s seventh- or eighth-inning guy, and likely receive a few save opportunities when Jason Motte needs a day off. But don’t be surprised if he ultimately ends up in the Cardinals’ starting rotation.
Often compared to Pedro Martinez as an undersized right-hander with a lightning-quick arm and easy plus velocity, Martinez excelled as a 20-year-old in Double-A last season. With a fastball that registers in the mid- to high-90s, as well as a sharp-breaking curveball and plus changeup with excellent fade, the right-hander’s pure stuff alone will get him to the major leagues in some capacity.
Once he gets his visa issues straightened out and finally joins the Cardinals’ big-league camp, Martinez will likely head back to Double-A to make up for lost time this spring. As his fastball command and changeup continue to improve, the 21-year-old could start moving quickly. Considering how the organization handled Trevor Rosenthal last season, it would make sense for Martinez to get his first taste of the major leagues as a reliever later in the year.