The St. Louis Cardinals’ stash of young pitching talent over the past two seasons is not only impressive, but borders on ridiculous.
With names like Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly—just to hit the highlights—now in the mix, the Cardinals have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.
But could they soon be better?
The bullpen was strong in 2013, but in 2014 the story could be the rotation.
In all likelihood, young RHP Carlos Martinez will find himself leaving his post in the eighth inning in favor of a position in the starting rotation. That move has potential to make this rotation the best in baseball for the coming season.
With Adam Wainwright at the helm, most know what to expect. He may not win a Cy Young Award, but he always puts together solid “ace” numbers.
He’s a legitimate ace, not just a pitcher stuck in the No. 1 slot. Wainwright led the league in innings pitched (241.2), complete games (5) and batters faced (956).
There’s no reason at this point to expect any less from him in 2014.
After his postseason performance, there’s a good chance that Michael Wacha finds himself in the No. 2 slot for the coming season—and deservedly so.
The Texas native finished his first season in the major leagues with a 2.78 ERA and 65 K in 64.2 IP. Were it not for a rough June, his numbers would likely be much better than they were.
His numbers translated well into the postseason, where he found himself on more than one occasion carrying a team on his back that couldn’t seem to get a hit. He rose to the occasion, and outside of the final game of the World Series, Wacha surrendered only three runs, 11 hits and 28 K over 27 IP.
You can’t argue with numbers like that—and besides, why would you?
The No. 3 slot will most likely go to Jaime Garcia, whom it is reported the Cardinals believed is near a return toward the end of the season. He should be good to go for the start of spring training if all is on schedule.
Prior to his shutdown, the Cardinals' only LHP was actually off to a solid start in 2013. He was 5-2 through nine starts and in five of those starts surrendered one run or less.
His return should be interesting. If he’s on top of his game, he’ll likely have a major impact on 2014.
Depending on the remainder of the offseason, the No. 4 slot will go to either Lance Lynn or Shelby Miller. If one of them is traded, it’s likely the other remains in the rotation.
Miller had a fantastic rookie season, but at this point I expect him to be more effective lower in the rotation. He could handle the 2- or 3-slot, but this rotation simply doesn’t need him that high.
Lynn also had a respectable year, finishing off with a 3.97 ERA. It seems odd to call 15-10 “respectable,” but his struggles through July and August again became an issue for the Cardinals.
He went 3-7 over the stretch. Frankly, if he had stayed steady through those two months, he could have rather easily crossed the 20-win threshold.
While many fans have expressed frustration with Lynn, don’t be too quick to send him away. This is still only his second full season in the majors.
The fifth slot in the rotation could be interesting. If Miller or Lynn find themselves playing baseball in another city, in all likelihood, that spot will likely go to Carlos Martinez.
There’s an off-chance Joe Kelly could land there, but in the end I think he will find himself back in the long-relief role.
Martinez, however, could drastically change the dynamics of this rotation. With him at the bottom, it would mean the Cardinals have little quality variance between their two through five pitchers.
No team in baseball can say that.
One could easily conclude that if they pitched all season, any starter on the team is capable of 15 or more wins.
No other team in baseball can say that, either.
In the bottom slot, Martinez would find himself, in many cases, paired up against other teams’ low-end starters. That would, in an ideal world, mean he should see decent run support as a general rule over the season.
He’s been very successful out of the bullpen, but throughout his career he has been a starting pitcher. If he can carry some of that dominance over to the rotation, the Cardinals should arguably have the best rotation in all of MLB in 2014.
All stats from Baseball-Reference and are current through Nov. 21, 2013.