Last season the St. Louis Cardinals surprised many and were able to win the NL Central. The surprise came due to the fact that the team got extremely hot during the last half of the season and were able to be out two extremely strong teams in the Brewers and Cubs. While they did not proceed very far into the playoffs, they still were able to ride a very strong pitching performance from both the rotation and bullpen.
The question will be whether or not they can do the same. This team did not add much during the offseason and while most of their rotation will remain intact, they will have to hope for another strong showing from their pitching staff. They only lost Michael Wacha and added an interesting piece to their strong rotation.
Here is a look at what their rotation may be if the 2020 season is not fully canceled due to COVID-19.
1.) Jack Flaherty
In case anyone was wondering, this guy is the real deal. Not only did he have one of the lowest ERAs in the MLB but he also gave up less than one hit and walk per inning. In this day or baseball, especially with the balls being juiced, this is exceptional. He may only be heading into year three and his 24 year-old season, but Jack Flaherty is already an ace and one of the best starting pitchers in baseball.
While one can always gush over Flaherty, he does still have some things to work on before he can consistently be in the Cy Young discussion every year. He still gave up 25 homers last season and walked nearly three batters per nine innings.
Should he iron out those things, which considering how young Flaherty is this shouldn’t be much of an issue, then he will be an anchor for St. Louis for a long time.
2.) Dakota Hudson
Another young up and comer, Dakota Hudson may be heading down a similar path to becoming an ace like Jack Flaherty. In his first full season he managed to win 16 games while only losing seven, have a 3.35 ERA and tie with Adam Wainwright for giving up the least homers on the team with 22. Similar to Flaherty, he does come with flaws, but some that are more pronounced.
For starters, he may have had a great ERA but he also walked more players than any other pitcher in the league with 86. Normally one would see high strikeout numbers for a pitcher this erratic instead, he struckout only 136 over 174.2 innings. This means he was only striking out seven per nine innings. These are some worrying trends.
Hudson has the chance to become a top tier pitcher in the MLB. But, he also has the chance to have a much worse season than 2019 should he not get his walks under control. This will be an important year in the development of this young but talented pitcher.
3.) Miles Mikolas
Miles Mikolas went from winning the most games in the MLB in 2018 to losing the most games in 2019. While he was not bad last season he was definitely not good. On top of this, the Cardinals are about to start paying him $17 million per year until his age 34 season.
Even though he gave up nearly 200 hits last season, he still was able to keep his walks down to only 32. This also helped him to only have a 4.16 ERA and similar to last year he was able to make it through the entire season and almost hit the 200 inning mark.
St. Louis will have to come into the 2020 season wondering if they are getting the 2018 or 2019 Mikolas. If they can get the 2018 version then this may be not only one of the top rotations in baseball but possibly the best top three pitchers in a rotation in all of baseball.
4.) Adam Wainwright
After an injury-plagued 2018, Waino was back to being the pitcher Cardinals fans remembered. He is a man who wins games and in many rotations, he would be one of the top pitchers. Fortunately or possibly unfortunately, Wainwright sits fourth in what is one of the top rotations in baseball.
Waino was still able to win 14 games last season and keep his ERA down to 4.19. This is because the man is still one of the best starting pitchers at going deep into games and keeping the ball in the ballpark. He still is also able to nearly strikeout a batter per inning.
This may be Wainwright’s final season in St. Louis and he will be looking to give Cardinal’s faithful one more memorable season.
5.) Gwang-hyun Kim
Should Carlos Martinez stay in the bullpen, Gwang-hyun Kim would become the only new addition to the starting rotation. Kim has been a pretty impressive starter in Korea for a little over a decade. He comes with a lifetime record of 136-77, an ERA of 3.27 and over 1,400 strikeouts. Safe to say, he is not a real rookie.
With that, he is making the move over to the MLB at an older age and comes with some unknowns and questions. To start, he has only pitched in at least 30 games three times in his 12-year career. Also, while he has been better recently, he has had two seasons where he walked at least 80 batters.
That said, if Kim can be the pitcher he has been the past two seasons, a 2.74 ERA, 28-14 record and 1.190 WHIP, then there is little doubt that this is the deepest rotation in baseball. Safe to say, teams in the AL and NL central should know that they will have a battle on their hands every day.
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