Unexpected Predictions for Each Member of St. Louis Cardinals' Pitching Staff

Bill Ivie JrContributor IIIDecember 12, 2013

Unexpected Predictions for Each Member of St. Louis Cardinals' Pitching Staff

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    The St. Louis Cardinals were, by most any measurement, highly successful in 2013. The offense contributed significantly throughout the season, producing near historical results with runners in scoring position. The offense relied heavily on a well-rounded and at times dominant pitching staff.

    The youth of the organization arrived in the big leagues in 2013 and sent notice to the rest of the league. It gave the Cardinals flexibility throughout the season and well into the postseason. They were untouchable at times, and found their way through rough outings at others.

    Here is a look at each pitcher who figures to be a part of the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff, along with some unexpected predictions.

     

    Statistics from the following slides can be found on Baseball-Reference.com.

    Contract information can be found at Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Trevor Rosenthal Remains Closer for Entire Season

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    Trevor Rosenthal finished 2013 closing games for the Cardinals. His dominance as a fireball-throwing option late in games allowed manager Mike Matheny to relax knowing that the ninth inning was under control. Where Edward Mujica faltered, Trevor Rosenthal excelled.

    As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out, Rosenthal has consistently expressed his desire to become a starter for the team. A few days after the season came to a close, Goold then reported that the Cardinals had already decided that Rosenthal would remain the team's closer, at least to start the 2014 season.

    Rosenthal may want to be a starter, but he has all the tools to remain the team's closer throughout the upcoming season. The return of Jason Motte will challenge Rosenthal a bit, but until he falters, Matheny will likely stick with the youngster in the ninth inning.

    Rosenthal has shown that expecting him to falter is not the best wager anyone can make.

Michael Wacha Stakes Claim to 2nd Spot in Rotation

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    The end of the 2013 season brought the arrival of a new, dominant arm to St. Louis. Michael Wacha arrived on the big stage and quickly established what the team and their fans hoped he would.  

    Wacha was working through his first professional season in 2013. He worked under the guidance of the team to limit his innings and pitches in order to be available in late September and into October. His second professional season will likely see him pitch from the rotation in St. Louis. It may require some limitations to help him continue to develop.

    Even with limitations, Wacha stands poised to show that he can be a solid part of this rotation for many years to come. The team has Adam Wainwright in place as the ace of the staff, but it is the young arms that will fill out the remainder of the rotation.

    Wacha has the opportunity to establish himself as the second starter in this rotation and position himself immediately behind Wainwright going forward. The Cardinals will look for Wacha to begin staking his claim in 2014, and the youngster might just settle in to the top of the rotation where he belongs.

Joe Kelly Remains the Swing-Starter Yet Again

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    Joe Kelly has done everything the team has asked him to do. He has been a starter when it needed an arm, a piece of the bullpen puzzle when the rotation was full and a consistently uplifting member of the clubhouse.

    Kelly finds himself in a tough position when it comes to the makeup of the 2014 pitching staff. The Cardinals have more than enough arms to fill the rotation but will likely look to limit some of the innings thrown by players like Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia. That leaves Joe Kelly in a familiar spot to start the season. He is the pivotal pitcher on the staff.

    Kelly will open the season in the bullpen and find himself called upon frequently to start throughout the season. A commodity like Joe Kelly gives the team the ability to work him from the bullpen when it needs to but also slide him into the rotation to help give the starting staff a break.

    Kelly has shown the ability to play this role before. He may have to settle into it being his regular role for the foreseeable future.

Carlos Martinez Dominates Late in Ballgames from the Bullpen

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    Carlos Martinez, much like Trevor Rosenthal, was developed in the minor leagues as a starting pitcher. The end of the 2013 season saw him establish himself as the eighth-inning option out of the bullpen. His success there will likely lead to a similar role in 2014.

    Throughout the postseason, the Cardinals relied on Martinez and Rosenthal to shorten games. The powerful duo found success in the late innings. The team has an abundance of young arms that will pitch from the bullpen, but Martinez has shown success in that role already.

    Martinez will be given the chance to earn a spot in the rotation, as reported by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. However, Martinez will likely find his way back into the bullpen by the end of spring training. He will likely continue his dominance in the eighth inning of ballgames and continue to provide the Cardinals with a dominant one-two punch alongside Rosenthal.

Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright Finish Atop Cy Young Voting

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    Adam Wainwright will continue to be the team's ace going forward. Michael Wacha may very well establish himself as the guy right behind Wainwright in the rotation going forward. While Wacha continues to develop and works under assumed limits of innings and pitches, Shelby Miller will get his chance to shine.

    Should Wainwright continue his current trends on the mound, he will also continue to find himself in the Cy Young Award discussions at the end of the season. Shelby Miller's development will continue in 2014 and should allow the young man to find some efficiency and experience going forward. Miller will likely work without limitations in 2014, giving him the chance to climb the rankings of starting pitchers by season's end.

    Wacha may be the better option to stake a claim to the No. 2 spot in the rotation going forward, but in 2014, that spot is Shelby Miller's to utilize. There is little reason to believe that he will not be successful in that role.

Kevin Siegrist Makes Randy Choate Expendable

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    Randy Choate was signed to a three-year contract prior to the 2013 season. Young pitchers like Kevin Siegrist and Tyler Lyons were on their way to St. Louis but still needed some time before being relied on as the left-handed options from the bullpen.

    The 2014 season will allow the Cardinals to begin the process of handing the role over to the younger players. Siegrist figures to be the most likely candidate to start gaining traction as the go-to guy against left-handed hitters late in ballgames.

    By the end of the 2014 season, the Cardinals will have the luxury of two legitimate left-handed options out of the bullpen. As Siegrist gains momentum, Choate will ultimately become expendable. With one year left on his contract by season's end, Choate may become the subject of trade talks as early as the July non-waiver trade deadline.

Seth Maness Continues Success Inducing Ground Balls

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    Seth Maness became a key part of the Cardinals bullpen in the second half of 2013. He did so by inducing ground balls and pitching to contact, yielding numerous double-play results along the way.

    Maness will likely find those same tools useful to securing a future role in the Cardinals bullpen in 2014 and beyond. His approach is one that is encouraged by the Cardinals' coaching staff, and he will be given every opportunity to succeed going forward.

    While Maness will surely find himself working longer innings out of the bullpen in the near future, don't be surprised to see him called upon with a runner on first and one out quite frequently in 2014.

Jaime Garcia Finds Calm Approach in Return to Mound

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    Jaime Garcia spent most of 2013 on the disabled list after having surgery on his shoulder. The lefty will return to the mound in the spring of 2014 and attempt to quiet some critics along the way.

    Garcia has long suffered from the dreaded "big inning" that plagues many pitchers. More accurately, Garcia has struggled at times to remain composed when mishaps happen on the field. A defensive gaffe or a questionable umpiring call has often lead to Garcia losing concentration and the other team taking advantage.

    A season away from the mound and sitting with teammates in the dugout may have been just what the doctor ordered for Garcia. He can now take the mound with a new approach and, hopefully, a greater understanding of how to handle tough situations.

    Garcia has every opportunity to re-establish himself in the rotation and showcase some composure. The Cardinals stand to benefit greatly if he can do that going forward.

Jason Motte Is Center of Trade Talks at July Deadline

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    Jason Motte, much like Garcia, found himself dealing with an injury in 2013 and watching younger pitchers establish themselves in the role he vacated. The problem for Motte may be the level of success the young pitchers found in his absence.

    Rosenthal, as established earlier, will enter the 2014 season as the team's closer. This will allow Motte to pitch his way back to health before being relied upon heavily going forward. Motte will likely be a big part of the bullpen early on, but the late innings will remain with Rosenthal and Martinez.

    By the time the July trade deadline comes around, the Cardinals might find themselves in the position of having three good arms capable of pitching the ninth inning. The future of Martinez and Rosenthal will keep them safe from any serious trade rumors, but Motte may find his name coming up frequently.

    If Motte can bounce back from injury and Rosenthal and Martinez continue to pitch well, the Cardinals could entertain the idea of using Motte to land a prospect or two for the minor leagues.

Tyler Lyons Bounces Between Memphis and St. Louis

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    Joe Kelly figures to be the swing-starter throughout the 2014 season in St. Louis. Tyler Lyons will likely be the same kind of player between St. Louis and its Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds.

    Lyons will likely start the season in Memphis as a member of the rotation. However, should a starter find himself injured or needing a break, Lyons will be the most likely player to be brought up from Memphis to provide an extra option for Mike Matheny.

    Lyons stands to be the player most likely to rack up frequent-flier miles in 2014. The team will use him at Memphis and in St. Louis on a regular basis.

Lance Lynn Regresses to Back of the Rotation

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    Lance Lynn has proven to be one of the most consistent pitchers for the Cardinals over the last two seasons. After posting back-to-back seasons with 15 or more wins and an earned run average below 4.00, Lynn has shown that he deserves to be a starter for this team.

    Lynn does have a tendency, very similar to Jaime Garcia, to suffer from the "big inning" and lose focus when situations outside of his control take over the game. He has shown signs of dominance alongside those moments, however. He has also established the ability to throw more than 200 innings in a big league season.

    He continues to be a pitcher whom most fans and pundits seem to expect less out of going forward. Even if he does continue his current trend of consistent pitching, the arrival of star-caliber pitching from the system tends to overshadow his contributions.

    Lynn is the most likely pitcher on the staff to regress in 2014. His performance will likely suffer a bit in the upcoming season. That being said, a regressed Lance Lynn is still a very capable part of the Cardinals rotation in 2014. Don't be surprised if he is playing the part of fifth starter before the season ends, though.

The Young Will Lead the Way

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    The young pitchers of St. Louis will lead the team in many different ways in the coming season. While Adam Wainwright will provide a veteran leadership to the group, it is the highly talented group of young arms that will form the team's reputation going forward.

    Predicting unexpected things for each pitcher leaves room for a lot of error. However, should a few of those predictions come to fruition, the Cardinals will find themselves the envy of the National League once again in 2014.

     

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