I considered splitting this post into starting pitching but unless a prospect is primed to be an ace closer or shutdown setup man, he isn’t much to get excited about. The Cardinals have a surplus of pretty good right handed relief arms, but I don’t think they have the next John Axford or Drew Storen. That’s not to say there aren’t some talented bullpen arms on the farm. In today’s game, relief pitchers have become very overpriced, so the ability to produce a solid, yet unspectacular arm is still very cost-efficient for the team.
What the Cardinals lack in shutdown relievers, though, they make up for in high ceiling starting pitching prospects. You know most of the names, but here are some of the pitchers to look out for.
Shelby Miller – This is the name everyone knows. He is one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball and for good reason. Miller has lit up the minor league since being drafted. He has a tremendous K rate, has maintained a solid walk rate, and has kept his FIP below 2.75. He saw time at AA last season and will probably report there for a few starts to start the year. I see him getting promoted to AAA for a final test and possibly making the team in September or earlier.
Carlos Martinez – Another well known name at this point, Martinez has absolutely electric stuff. He’s another power arm like Miller with the ability to elude a lot of bats. His only knock at this point is control. His walk rate jumped upon his promotion to high A. He will need to show better control before he is promoted to AA and really sees the timetable on his major league debut start. I see a high A start with a promotion to AA this season and probably some season at AAA next year before he makes a mid-season debut in 2013.
Tyrell Jenkins – Jenkins is either the Cardinals third or fourth prospect depending on your thoughts on Oscar Taveras. He is still young and very green, but has shown great peripheral stats in short season baseball. 2012 will probably be his first full season and we will begin to see his potential really start to come to fruition.
Joe Kelly – If Dave Duncan were still around, Joe Kelly would be his favorite pitcher. He is a groundball machine. He has a good K rate and has improved his walk rate, but gives up too many line drives. Kelly will have to work on keeping the ball down in the zone to continue his success in producing grounders.
Trevor Rosenthal – With the big names in the Cardinals system, Rosenthal gets criminally overlooked. He has a tremendous K rate, an improving walk rate, and peripherals that suggest his ERA is a bit of a fluke. Rosenthal will start turning some heads this season. He could be a solid 3 or 4 starter for the Cardinals by 2014.
Jordan Swagerty – Swagerty was thrust through the system last season, hitting three levels in a single year. He was used primarily as a relief pitcher, but he has been tabbed for a return to the rotation this season. With his reportoire and command, he can do well at the major league level. The only question will be whether it is as a starter or a reliever.
Pitching is no doubt the strength for the Cardinals system. It’s a good position to be in as this really become the age of the pitcher. If anything, the Cardinals are producing a ton of valuable trade chips, although I firmly believe all six of these featured names will play a role in the future for the St Louis Cardinals.
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