You can never have too much starting pitching. When it comes to the St. Louis Cardinals, the 2017 they are set to enter the upcoming MLB season with a slight abundance of starting arms. For a team like the Cardinals, such a luxury will lead to a little extra competition during Spring Training. They actually felt they had enough depth to trade Jamie Garcia to the Atlanta Braves earlier this Winter. Now they march towards Spring Training with six true starters, plus a former reliever trying his hand as a starter, competing for five rotation slots.
So I am going to be a little different in this piece compared to the prior projected rotation pieces I have done. Usually I would just list the five guys who I feel would lock down spots on their respective staffs and simply give a namedrop to anyone else who was competing for the final slot or two. But for the Cards, I am going to give each guy a little spotlight and then make my final decision at the end of the piece. So let’s get started, shall we?
Carlos Martinez – Martinez is going to find himself near the top of this staff for a while as he just inked a new five-year deal, worth 51 million dollars this past week. The 25-year-old has electric stuff and is still learning on the job. Last season he posted an impressive 3.04 ERA, struck out 174 men in just under 200 innings on his way to 16 wins in 31 starts. There is no questioning that Martinez will be anchoring this staff that sees a mix of both younger guys as well as older veterans. He has not fully reached his peak quite yet, but he is also at an age that a few bumps could still pop up along the way. Look for a slight step back in ERA, but an overall step forward for Martinez in 2017.
Adam Wainwright – Wainwright is certainly not the same guy he was a few years back. 2016 was far from his best and he does not really strike me as a number two anymore either. But despite that, he is still a lock for this rotation. His name and experience alone will earn him a spot in the rotation without even having to compete. But with a stat-line that saw him post a 4.62 ERA and a WHIP of 1.40 last season, there is certainly reason for concern given he is going to be 35 this year. Do not expect a return of the old Wainwright, as those days are likely gone.
The Safe Bets
Mike Leake – 2016 was the first season in St. Louis for the man who was once caught stealing shirts from Macy’s. It did not go according to plan for the now 29-year-old right-hander. He posted a 4.69 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, won 9 games while losing 12 and only struck out 125 men in 176 and two-thirds innings. So Leake is going to have to take a step back in the right direction if he wishes to hold onto his rotation spot. Given the contract he signed last Winter, Leake is safe to open the year as a Cardinal starter, but his leash may not be super long.
Lance Lynn – Lynn missed all of the 2016 campaign as he recovered from Tommy John Surgery. He will be turning 30 early in the season and he will look to build off a solid season back in 2015. He appears to be a go for Spring Training and a fully healthy Spring will go a long way in earning his slot on this staff. He is by no means a lock, but given he was one of the team’s more reliable arms before his injury, the club will certainly want to get him back in the rotation if he is healthy.
The Final Contenders
Anthony Reyes – Reyes is arguably the best pitching prospect in all of baseball. The 22-year-old was given a small taste of the Big Leagues last year and the early results were promising. He got to throw 46 innings, accumulating a 1.57 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, four wins and 52 strikeouts. Of his 12 appearances, five of those were of the starting variety. The fact that he could start in the minors or even the bullpen makes him far from a safe bet, but of everyone on this list, he arguably has the nastiest stuff. When he does crack the rotation, the other teams in the NL should be scared. This guy is going to be good.
Michael Wacha – Michael Wacha is a guy I have always been a fan of. He is now 25 and has yet to reach his full potential, but prior to last year, Wacha was still solid. Last year he was plagued by injuries and it certainly had an impact on his performance. Now there is talk that he could be used as a super reliever instead of getting his starting role back. Personally, I think he needs to be given another crack at a starting role as his ceiling is Cy Young high. Probably not this season, but give it another two or three seasons and this guy will be in those discussions if the team would just let him start again. Honestly, he and Reyes should be in this rotation, with Leake on the outside looking in, but thanks to money, that is not going to happen.
Trevor Rosenthal – Now this one is probably an extreme longshot. But the team’s former closer will be transitioned into a new role in 2017, and that includes him getting a shot to be a starter. Given his competition, the chance of him actually cracking the top five is unlikely. This will likely result in him being used as a long man in the bullpen. But you can never say never.
So when all is said and done, the Cardinals rotation will likely end up looking like this:
- Carlos Martinez
- Lance Lynn
- Adam Wainwright
- Mike Leake
- Michael Wacha
How do you see the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting rotation shaking out for the upcoming 2017 MLB season? Tell us in the comments!
For more on the St. Louis Cardinals, be sure to check out their 2017 projected starting lineup as well, which you can check out here.