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MLB: A way-too-early look at the Cardinals 2019 rotation

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With the Cardinals’ season ending just two weeks ago and the Postseason just under half over, it’s a little early to start talking about their 2019 roster. A lot can happen between October and March. Players will be traded, free agents will be signed and some guys will be let go. However, the Redbirds’ rotation might not change much. Only time will tell, but for now, this is most likely what it will look like.

Cardinals 2019 Rotation

There would seem to be a few locks for the rotation next season. One through three will likely be some combination of Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty and Carlos Martinez. Obviously, this changes if one or all of these guys is hurt or traded. However, barring either of those situations, those guys are the safest bets to make the rotation. The other two spots could go a few different ways, but the top candidates right now are Michael Wacha, Alex Reyes and Adam Wainwright.

Miles Mikolas

Mikolas
Chris Lee/Post Dispatch

Mikolas had an amazing year for the Cardinals. He pitched like a true ace, made his first All-Star team and probably won himself a Comeback Player of the Year award. Miles led the National League in wins, winning percentage, shutouts and walks per nine. He posted an 18-4 record, 2.83 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 1.071 WHIP and a 4.3 WAR over 200.2 innings this past season. Had it not been for Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom, Mikolas would be in the conversation for Cy Young.

Almost no one predicted Miles would have the level of success he did in his first year back from Japan. After struggling in spring training, though, he came into the regular season on a mission. His performance this year has all but guaranteed him a spot in the rotation next season, and he’s set to be the team’s number one right now.

Jack Flaherty

Flaherty started the 2018 season in Triple-A Memphis. He only made five starts there, though, going 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA, before being called up to help the big league club. Jack wasn’t expected to get a ton of innings this year, but he made 28 starts for St. Louis. Over those 28 outings, Flaherty went 8-9 with a 3.34 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.106 WHIP and 2.6 WAR. He even led the Cardinals in strikeouts with 182 in 151 innings. On top of all that, he became only the second Cardinals pitcher ever to have two 13 strikeout games in the same season. The other was Bob Gibson.

A look at the numbers makes it easy to see why Flaherty, who’s only 23, is a clear candidate for the 2019 rotation. He’s even got a real shot at starting the season as the number two guy also, behind Mikolas. Next year will be Flaherty’s all important sophomore season. It will be fun to see if he can top his impressive rookie campaign.

Carlos Martinez

Martinez
John Hefti/USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Martinez was supposed to be the Cards ace coming into the 2018 season. Unfortunately, a combination of bad pitching and injuries held him back from wearing that title. Regardless, he had a solid season. He only made 18 starts, though, going 8-6 with a 3.11 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 1.348 WHIP, 117 strikeouts and a 1.8 WAR. After his last stint on the DL he did come back as a reliever. He made 15 appearances out of the pen, posting a 1.47 ERA.

Although he has dealt with the same injuries for a few years now, and he did pitch well in relief towards the end of the season, Martinez is set to be in the starting rotation next year. He almost definitely won’t be looked at as the ace, though, as Mikolas has earned that title. However, he will have the opportunity to be in the second or third spot, depending on how he and Flaherty pitch in spring training.

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha made his last start for the Cardinals this year way back on June 20th. He left that game with an oblique strain that would sideline him for the remainder of the season. The timing for the injury couldn’t have been worse either. Wacha was off to a good start after underachieving in the previous season. Through his 15 starts Wacha went 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 1.233 WHIP and 0.9 WAR.

Given he makes a full recovery from his injury, Wacha will more than likely be in the rotation next year. He’ll be entering his seventh big league season, and the Cardinals still like what he has to offer. This time his role won’t be as big, though. He’ll almost definitely be in the back end of the rotation spot, but his innings might be limited to prevent another injury.

Adam Wainwright/Alex Reyes

Wainwright
Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports

The fifth and final slot is the most uncertain at this point. However, with the resigning of Adam Wainwright, it seems as though he’s going to have a shot at it. Waino had another disappointing season in 2018, only making eight starts and putting up a 4.46 ERA. He lost a lot of the season to the same elbow injury that has been nagging him for a couple of  years now. If he can get healthy, though, he could be a good innings eater at the back end of the rotation.

Wainwright won’t be the only pitcher bidding for the final spot though. Alex Reyes will hopefully be ready to go after missing almost two entire seasons due to Tommy John surgery and a torn lat muscle. He was supposed to be a big part of the Cards pitching staff this season, but that didn’t work out. That said, the confidence the front office put in him before his injury this year will likely still be there come next season.

Reyes and Wainwright might split the fifth spot in the rotation next season, in an effort to keep both of them from being re-injured. This wouldn’t be the worst case scenario. The Cardinals need a way to ease Reyes back into starting. He’s one of the most talented pitchers they’ve had in years and could be a future Cy Young winner. On the other side, even at 37, Waino still has some good starts left, like the one he made in LA on September 16th, and this could be the best way to get the most out of him.

Spot Starters

Those six guys won’t be the only ones battling for rotation spots. The Cardinals have a lot of young arms, and some who already have shown they can have success at the big league level. Even if they don’t make the rotation, though, they will make invaluable spot starters when injuries happen or guys just need to skip a start.

Luke Weaver

Weaver came into this season in the rotation. He had a good 2017 season and the Cards expected more of the same this year. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. He made 25 starts and pitched his way back to Triple-A with a 7-11 record, 4.95 ERA, 4.45 FIP and -1.1 WAR. This doesn’t mean he won’t be given another chance, though. Weaver will be near the top of the list when the Cardinals need a spot start.

John Gant

Another guy at the top of the list to make a spot start will be John Gant. Gant wasn’t expected to make a big impact in St. Louis this year, but he was thrown into the fire after all the injuries. He did a solid job, too. Over 19 starts he went 7-6 with a 3.47 ERA and a WAR of 0.6. You can bet he’ll see some time in the rotation next season.

Austin Gomber

Being the only left-hander amongst this group and having made 11 starts this year in the big leagues, Austin Gomber is a good candidate for a few starts next year as well. He went 6-2 this year with a 4.44 ERA and a 0.1 WAR. It was his first taste of the big leagues, and it won’t be his last. It’s likely that he’ll start next season at Triple-A, but don’t be surprised when you see him scheduled to make a start for St. Louis in 2019.

 

Featured Image by @baseball_ref/Twitter

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