Home Baseball Cardinals Internal Bullpen Options

Cardinals Internal Bullpen Options

by Aaron Mullins

Do the Cardinals need to go out into the free agent pool for relief help? Do they need to potentially lose prospects in a trade? I’m here to find out whether this team could have enough internal options going into 2019. During this examination, I’ll determine the Cardinals realistic internal options based on how much relief experience they have and how much success they have had in that role. Let’s get started, because for the Cardinals to become a contender, the bullpen needs to be addressed. We will have three groups. Solid Contributors, Contract/Trade Arms, and Wild Cards.

Solid Contributors

Jordan Hicks – 77.2 IP | 3.59 ERA | 3.74 FIP | 1.34 WHIP |

Jordan Hicks went from rookie ball to the Major Leagues in the course of one season. Not only that, but he led Cardinal relievers with 77.2 innings pitched. He is known for his blazing fastballs. Hicks threw 7 of the top 10 fastest pitches, including a tie for the MLB Record with a 105.1 MPH sinker to Odubel Herrera. Hicks shows a lot of potential and his stuff will defintely give him a role with the Cardinals in 2019. His stuff surprisingly doesn’t miss many bats and his control leaves much to be desired, but he’s only 21 years old. He has plenty of time to fix that during his career. My biggest concern is that he is a Tommy John Surgery waiting to happen.

John Brebbia – 50.2 IP | 3.20 ERA | 3.02 FIP | 1.16 WHIP |

Brebbia had a strong 2017 campaign, yet for whatever reason, didn’t make the Opening Day Roster for the 2018 Cardinals. In hindsight, maybe they should have kept the guy around, because once again he was a solid contributor. He raised his strikeout numbers going from 8.9 K/9 to 10.7 K/9. I was a fan of Brebbia going back to last season so I was happy to see him have a solid season again in 2018. I am hoping that the Cardinals realize what they have here and let him start the year off with the big club. A few blown leads at the beginning of the year could have been avoided.

Dakota Hudson – 27.1 IP | 2.63 ERA | 3.86 FIP | 1.35 WHIP |

Hudson showed a lot of promise in 2018 and was used heavily during the second half of the year. If he has a flaw I’d say his walks need to go down… a lot. He does have a lower hit rate than either of the two men before him, but his walk rate is easily the worst. To go along with that, he doesn’t strike too many guys out, but I’d chalk some of this up to the fact that he doesn’t normally pitch this far into a season. If he has a full year in the bullpen, I’d say he can be a good piece to have. The Cardinals may have other plans with Hudson however, electing to use him as a starter. Either way, Hudson seems to have earned a chance to contribute.

John Gant – 16.2 IP | 2.70 ERA (as reliever) | 4.07 FIP (Starter/reliever) | 1.26 WHIP |

It’s tough to gauge exactly where Gant is the most useful for the Cardinals. He did make 19 starts this past season as well as 7 relief appearances. As you can see, he was used in a multi-inning role, typically coming in after an ineffective starter. As a reliever he was a good piece, limiting runs. Like Hudson, it’s possible that the Cardinals will use Gant as more of a spot starter either in the big leagues or in AAA.

Contract/Trade Arms

Brett Cecil – 32.2 IP | 6.89 ERA | 6.28 FIP | 1.96 WHIP |

At this point, the Cardinals have not released Cecil, so despite what most of you would want, he looks to be a part of the 2019 roster. I will defend what Cecil did in 2017. It was not as bad as many of the fans think, but last year was a clear disaster. Nothing worked for Cecil or the Cardinals. You could tell the Cardinals were in a bind because they kept throwing the guy out there, hoping to find some sort of value. He had his career worst in both walk rate and strikeout rate in 2018. He will have to show himself to be valuable very early on in the season for the Cardinals to keep him around.

Dominic Leone – 24.0 IP | 4.50 ERA | 3.62 FIP | 1.46 WHIP |

I was really excited by what Leone did for Toronto in 2017, but injuries kept us from seeing his true potential. He wasn’t awful in 2018, but certainly didn’t look to be on the same level as he was before. His strikeout rate and walk rate were both similar, but his hit rate rose dramatically going from just 6.5 H/9 to 10.1 H/9. Out of this group, I think he has the most promise and I’m looking forward to seeing him bounce back.

Luke Gregerson – 12.2 IP | 7.11 ERA | 4.74 FIP | 1.58 WHIP |

I feel a little bad for putting Gregerson here. He’s been a solid reliever in his career, but just like Leone, had some injury setbacks in 2018. But when he was on the field, it was pretty bad. It’s hard to defend a 7.11 ERA, but at least his FIP was a tad bit lower. His walk rate was a career high, and Gregerson will be pitching into his age 35 season. I’m hoping for the best, but it seems that this contract was a bust too.

Chasen Shreve (between NYY and STL) – 52.2 IP | 3.93 ERA | 5.12 FIP | 1.52 WHIP |

This is the primary pickup in the Luke Voit trade that seemed to cause a riot on the Cardinals Twitterverse. During his time in St. Louis, Shreve pitched okay. His ERA of 3.07 is overshadowed by a 5.48 FIP. There isn’t too much about Shreve that I’m particularly excited about. His walk rate is up, and his strikeout rate is down. You starting to see a trend here? Something about St. Louis causes these guys to lose effectiveness.

Tyler Webb (between SD and STL) – 20.1 IP | 4.43 ERA | 5.08 FIP | 1.53 WHIP |

Considering that we picked up Webb off of waivers, it could have been worse. His ERA with the Cardinals looks pretty strong at 1.76, but don’t let that fool you. His FIP was 3.94 and his strikeout/walk/hit rate leave much to be desired. His tenure with the Cardinals has been his longest in the Major Leagues. Will he contribute in 2019? Not a clue.

Wild Cards

Mike Mayers – 51.2 IP | 4.70 ERA | 3.95 FIP | 1.43 WHIP |

I almost included Mayers in the “Solid Contributors” section, but frankly I wasn’t that impressed with Mayers. He definitely wore down as the year went on, and he did show promise, but at the end of the day his numbers weren’t the best. He gave up over 10 hits per 9 innings and didn’t have a great walk rate or strikeout rate. I’m sure with another season in the bullpen his numbers will improve, but at this point he is defintely a wild card.

Carlos Martinez – 18.1 IP | 1.47 ERA | 3.53 FIP (starter/reliever) | 1.20 WHIP |

As a closer, Carlos is beginning to build a solid fan backing. I don’t expect Martinez to be in any type of relief role in 2019. I personally think that his potential is the highest as a starter and I think the Cardinals feel the same way, but this is a wild card pick solely based on his performance from the pen last season. If he is healthy, expect Martinez to be a solid 2-3 starter.

Genesis Cabrera (DOWL) – 14.1 IP | 1.26 ERA | 0.63 WHIP |

The Cardinals seem to be in the market for a lefty and they have a lefty who is tearing it up right now in the Dominican Winter League. Could he contribute just like Jordan Hicks did only a year ago? He currently has a 13.2 K/9 rate in the DOWL. That type of swing and miss potential would be an asset for the Cardinals in 2019. He has primarily been a starter in the minors, but is being used strictly as a reliever in the DOWL. If that is the case, maybe the Cardinals are ready to see what he can do.

MLB Pipeline on Twitter

22-year-old lefty Genesis Cabrera, who was acquired by the #STLCards from the #Rays in the Tommy Pham deal, has been lights-out in the @LIDOMRD: https://t.co/YWcTl480QM

Wrap Up

Just from this list, the Cardinals have 12 guys that could theoretically take a spot in the bullpen. If the Cards don’t make a move for a lefty reliever either through trade or free agency, they certainly have options. Are they the best options? That has yet to be seen. The relief market seems to be wide open, just waiting for the first domino to fall. Will the Cardinals push the dominoes themselves? It’s tough to say. Which guys would you like to see? If the Cardinals end up going after a lefty reliever, who would you like to see them pursue?

What are your thoughts? Send me a tweet @AaronArchCity

Thanks for Reading

Aaron M.

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