How Far Can the St. Louis Cardinals Depth Carry Them?

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How Far Can the St. Louis Cardinals Depth Carry Them?
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For the last two years, we’ve heard repeatedly about the ridiculous depth of the St. Louis Cardinals.

There’s been a long line of serious talent working its way through the farm system for the last few years just waiting for holes to open up that would give them an opportunity.

All they want is an opportunity.

Well, in 2013 they’re getting that opportunity.

While depth is a great asset, there’s no doubt the Cardinals would prefer to not be digging quite so deep into it just yet. Some eight weeks into the season and the Cardinals have already promoted six pitchers (if you include Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal.)

So far, the youth has put on quite the show in St. Louis with pitchers Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, John Gast, Tyler Lyons and Seth Maness combining for an 11-3 record.

That group of six has pitched a total of 19 innings—75.1 as starters and 38.2 from the bullpen.

They’ve helped the Cardinals weather various catastrophes this season, including two starting pitcher injuries and a bullpen meltdown that would have been a nightmare without bringing these guys up.

They continue to steady the rocking boat.

Of course, it’s important to keep things in perspective. While it’s been a little rocky on occasion, the Cardinals still have 30 wins with about one-third of May still to go.

It’s funny to see how shaken up people have gotten despite the fact that for quite some time the Cardinals had the best record in baseball. Keep perspective.

There is an interesting question to investigate regarding the Cardinals pitching depth, however.

Do the Cardinals have enough left in the minor leagues to continue to carry them or are they rapidly expending their stockpile of fresh talent?

Let’s take a look at what they have left on the cusp of the major leagues.

Michael Wacha

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

We’re starting with the obvious. Wacha was arguably one of the hidden gems in the 2012 MLB Draft. Wacha is mature beyond his years with a fastball that has been major-league ready since, well, before he was drafted. While he’s made some adjustments and has been refining his off-speed deliveries in Memphis, he is capable of contributing at the major league level right now. Regardless, they’re trying not to rush him because most everyone believes he has top-of-the-rotation talent.

Tyrell Jenkins

Jenkins, 20, is in his fourth season in the Cardinals farm system. That is not a misprint. He’s still pretty raw, but has a gorgeous, fluid-type motion that powers a nasty fastball. He’s still garnering control and had a setback in 2012 when an August shoulder injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

He’s pitching in Single-A Peoria to start the season and is 3-2 with a 4.33 ERA over 35 IP through his first seven starts. He’s not ready, but he’s still just a young pup. He seems healthier and still has some developing to do. I wouldn’t expect to see him before 2015, at which time he will be in his sixth minor league season at age 22. Wow.

Michael Blazek

Blazek has been in the minors for quite some time but is having an impressive season at Double-A Springfield so far. The RH reliever has a 0.92 ERA over 17 games (19.2 IP) and has surrendered only two earned runs, no home runs and two walks. His 7 saves tie him for the team lead. He won’t likely be a long-term call-up, but if someone from the bullpen goes down, he could be a stop-gap candidate.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that if the Cardinals found themselves in need of another starter, Martinez, Rosenthal and Kelly (even though he hasn’t looked good so far) are all candidates.

They wouldn’t have to promote anyone because two of the best arms are right there hanging out in the bullpen.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Then there’s the elephant in the room...

Chris Carpenter

Carpenter is positioning himself for yet another storybook return to the mound. As we’ve learned the past three seasons, Carpenter likes to make an entrance.

If he came back last year, there’s no reason to expect any less from him in 2013.

There are still others within the system who could play fill-in roles, but there’s no one I would recommend over a healthy Carpenter today.

With the 2013 draft just around the corner, the Cardinals will once again be looking for that diamond in the rough—that late-round pick capable of replenishing the stockpile.

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak and owner Bill Dewitt are transforming the way the modern team approaches roster development.

This is the kind of thing they’ll make a movie about in another 20 years if things continue to work for them. So just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Stats obtained from MLB.com and MILB.com on May 24, 2013.

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