Spring Training is here, and that means that Cardinals nation is buzzing in anticipation and excitement as the season fast approaches. Baseball is back! Minor league prospects are battling for roster positions. Coaches and players have all reported and are working hard to prepare for the upcoming season. There are new names, faces, and talents on full display as the Cardinals prepare to go “all in” in 2019.
Pitching depth is a wonderful thing, and the competition to make the 25-man roster is really heating up. Mike Shildt has announced the opening day starter will be Miles Mikolas. Outside of that, there are several arms vying for their place in the rotation and bullpen.
Offseason Additions and Subtractions
If you haven’t been following closely this offseason, there have been some major roster changes. One of the additions, Andrew Miller, is a veteran left-hander who is a back of the bullpen arm. He features an effective four seam fastball with some sinking action, and a slider that is nasty. He is coming off of injury in 2018, however he has closing potential, and is perhaps the Cardinals most effective left-handed pitcher on the roster.
Another addition to note is Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals extended a modest and heavily incentivized contract to their longest tenured arm. Adam’s contract right now reflects a pay cut of over 17 million dollars from last year. Adam will also be competing for a spot in the rotation, but faces competition from John Gant, Alex Reyes, Daniel Ponce de Leon, and others.
The notable pitching subtractions include Bud Norris, Luke Weaver, Tyson Ross, and Matt Bowman.
Luke Weaver was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks along with top catching prospect Carson Kelly, and second baseman Andy Young in exchange for Paul Goldschmidt.
Luke Weaver’s departure creates an opening for young and hungry arms in the rotation. Weaver had been pushed into the bullpen after struggling to find his rhythm last season. Hopefully he can get back to form in Arizona.
Tyson Ross was a veteran pitcher who wanted to start had found himself filling the role of long reliever/ spot starter with the Cardinals last season. He entered free agency, and elected to sign with the Tigers.
Matt Bowman was placed on waivers, and claimed by the Reds.
Finally, after providing 57 innings and 28 saves in 2018 Bud Norris is still a free agent. This leaves the closing role wide open entering 2019. Norris rose up and filled that role nicely last season, but doesn’t look to fit into the Cardinals scheme this season.
Carlos Martinez will not be starting for the Cardinals on opening day 2019. His off-season preparation was either ineffective not adhered to properly. It has been announced that Carlos will be on a “non-throwing program” while he rebuilds strength in his shoulder.
Carlos Martinez was not at #Cardinals camp Monday as he sought a second opinion on his shoulder issues. Results to be clearly Tuesday, but team has already prepared for possibility he’ll contribute as a reliever or his throwing program will be delayed. https://t.co/xiWXfkt7xu
What does this mean for Carlos?
The shoulder issue seems to have stirred up some debate. Is Martinez a starter, or does he get moved to the bullpen? His arsenal is extensive as he carries six different pitches. Batters really don’t know what pitch might be coming next and this plays well no matter his role. His experience and resume show that he is an effective starter. In fact one of the best in the league when he is healthy. He has pitched as many as 205 innings (2017) and has been just shy of 200 two other times.
Preferably, the Cardinals work Martinez into the rotation. The difference is 200 innings versus 50-80 as a reliever. Carlos did very well as a closer at the end of last year, and the chance of success could be very high. However, he is simply too good to place in the bullpen. Is this the season we see him reach the potential we always hear he has? Look to most likely see him recovering and entering the rotation, early in the season. Possibly also look to see him spend some time on the Injured List.
Names to watch
John Gant- After riding the Memphis Shuttle last season Gant finally found himself starting with the big-league club. With injuries to Wacha, Reyes, and Wainwright he received his opportunity and rose to the occasion starting in 19 games. His pitches typically lead to a high amount of ground balls, and his walk rate was reasonable.
Mike Mayers- This seems to be the guy a lot of people wanted more of last year. His velocity at the end of last year climbed to an impressive level, and intriguing is his curveball. He only threw four of them last year and all of them were against the Cubs. The legend is that Mike Maddux told him he was going in, and he was required to throw a curveball. Since last year, Mayers has added an absolutely filthy curveball to his repertoire. He is out of options, and along with Gant and Shreve, cannot go back to Memphis.
The new Mike Mayers curve requested by: @KeeferDeanRoach #trails #stlcards https://t.co/X0s7KW0q45
Ryan Helsley- A big bodied pitcher who was throwing 100 mph in his 2019 spring training debut. This is a guy who has strong legs, and a powerful delivery. He is someone who has a real chance to make his rookie debut this year, but probably won’t make the roster out of camp. Watch for his name this spring, he is pretty impressive.
Genesis Cabrera- After an ugly appearance, the lefty power arm has the potential to burst onto the scene this year. If Brett Cecil doesn’t improve, potentially this is the guy on his way up to replace him. Genesis throws a fastball around 97 mph and joined the club as a part of the Tommy Pham Trade. Based off of some of his numbers it’s safe to assume he will get better later this spring and could really impress.
There are a lot of possibilities here. The rotation isn’t solidified, and recently there has also been debate on how many relievers St. Louis will carry into the season. John Mozeliak seems to want to carry an extra bench bat instead, but it isn’t clear at this point what route they will take.
Below is a reasonable outline of what the pitching situation is. There are other pitchers in the hunt, however the ones here seem to be who is vying for a spot. As spring progresses, pitchers will move towards bullpen roles if they are still competing, or may be sent to the minors. It makes more sense for them to continue to prepare for starts until they are no longer competing for those spots. There is also potential for others to impress and earn their way onto this list later on.
- Miles Mikolas
- Jack Flaherty
- Michael Wacha
- Carlos Martinez
- Adam Wainwright
Competing for Rotation Spots
- John Gant (out of options)
- Daniel Ponce De Leon
- Alex Reyes
- Austin Gomber
- Dakota Hudson
- Mike Mayers (out of options)
Most likely in the Bullpen
- Jordan Hicks
- Andrew Miller
- Brett Cecil
- John Brebbia
- Dominic Leone
- Luke Gregerson
In the Hunt
- Ryan Helsley
- Chasen Shreve (out of options)
- Genesis Cabrera
*A player who is out of options cannot go back to the minors, if they do not make the roster, they are placed of waivers.
Possible closers- The closer role looks to be open to who impresses the club the most coming out of spring training.
- Carlos Martinez
- Jordan Hicks
- Andrew Miller
- Alex Reyes (this one is a long shot, but later in the season it’s a possibility)
- Dominic Leone
Many fans cringe at the thought of Brett Cecil entering a game to pitch. Cecil and Fowler both battled last year to overcome personal situations and injury and were largely unsuccessful. Cecil had circumstances that prevented him from preparing properly for last season. Long story short, he showed up to camp looking to be in good shape and focused on pitching well. He admitted to being terrified of pitching last year. He also admitted to knowing fans hated him. Don’t count him out yet, if he does well this spring, it is likely he will make the roster.
Nothing crazy going on here. Alex is in perhaps the best shape of his life and taking to his rehab very well. He is ready to shed the title of “prospect” and eager to start pitching. His road back to the mound has been a long one with many bumps along the way. Yesterday he threw his first bullpen, and the ball was coming out of his hand extremely well. Mike Shildt watched from the outfield and as he said, “was just cackling to myself.” No doubt, all who observed the bullpen were impressed. Now we all wait for him to make one more rookie debut.
Thanks for reading as always. Feel free to the Arch City Media writers and me on twitter for news, opinions, updates and other nonsense.