The Cardinals seem to have their roster all but set for opening day. That includes their starting rotation. It looks solid, too, despite not including a single left-hander. A big reason for that is Jack Flaherty. As long as Miles Mikolas can repeat what he did last year, and if Carlos Martinez can stay healthy, Flaherty could be the arm the Cardinals need to push them back into contention.
This upcoming season will be Flaherty’s third in the big leagues. He pitched limited innings in 2017 before bursting onto the scene last season, where his production undoubtedly landed him a spot in the 2019 rotation.
Back in 2017, Flaherty got his first taste of the big leagues as a September call up. It didn’t necessarily go as planned at first, though. In his first outing, he went four innings and allowed five runs. He improved over his next few starts, but still ended the year with less than desirable numbers.
Over six appearances, five starts, Jack pitched 21.1 innings, allowed 15 earned runs and struck out 20 batters. His 0-2 record, 6.33 ERA and 5.27 FIP weren’t what the Cardinals were hoping for, but nonetheless, it was good for him to get a taste of the majors. At that point, he had nothing left to prove in Triple-A, though he didn’t really have a place on the MLB club, either. That changed this past season.
Flaherty started 2018 back in Memphis, after one start in Milwaukee on April third. It was obvious after just five starts, though, that he needed to be back in the big leagues. He made his second MLB start of the season on April 28th and never returned to Triple-A.
Over the next five months, Flaherty started 28 games. He struck out 182 batters over 151 innings, posted a 1.106 WHIP, 3.34 ERA and a 3.86 FIP. Jack also became the first Cardinal pitcher since Bob Gibson to have two 13-strikeout games in the same season. When it was all said and done, he placed fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year race.
In a year full of injuries and under-performances from St. Louis’s starters, Flaherty proved invaluable to the team. His performance also slotted him in the 2019 rotation, right behind Mikolas and Martinez, if not in front of one of them.
The upcoming season will be a big one for Flaherty. He’s positioned to set career highs in starts, innings pitched and hopefully strikeouts. With his first full season under his belt – with the exception of one month – he’ll be coming into 2019 with even more confidence than he had in 2018.
Combine that newfound confidence with both a full offseason of training for the workload of 30-plus big league starts and an excellent pitching repertoire, and we could be in for something special in 2019. Not only could this prove to be the best year of Flaherty’s young career, but it’s also possible he could make his first All-Star appearance. It’s still a little early to put him in contention for a Cy Young award, especially with Scherzer and DeGrom still in the league, but he certainly has that kind of potential.
All in all, expectations are high for Jack Flaherty, as they should be. The Cards need him to have a good year in order to compete with the Brewers and Cubs. Fortunately for them, all signs are pointing in favor of that happening.
Featured Image by Keith Srakocic of the Associated Press