ESPN senior writer Buster Olney has ranked the St. Louis Cardinals with the 3rd-best pitching rotation in Major League Baseball. The Cardinals are third to both the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers.
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The ranking is one spot higher than prior to the 2014 season when Olney gave the Cardinals rotation a fourth-place ranking. The top ten rankings have come slightly later compared to last offseason when they were published before the new year started.
The rotations were ranked with “input from talent evaluators around the majors.”
One of the key reasons that the Cardinals are ranked in third is because of Lance Lynn climbing “into the upper echelon of pitchers.” For Olney, this “is a difference-maker in these rankings because of the elite depth he provides in the Cardinals’ rotation.”
Lance Lynn posted a 15-10 record two seasons in a row and made 33 starts in both of the past two seasons. However, the biggest difference is that Lynn owned a 2.74 ERA in 2014, down from 3.97 ERA the season before. His ERA+ went from 94 to 134 over the last two seasons.
The core of the rotation includes Lynn, Adam Wainwright, and John Lackey. It’s not without some questions for the starting rotation, amidst the rumors of late involving David Price, Cole Hamels, Max Scherzer, and James Shields. Olney wants to know “whether Michael Wacha will be able to come back from his shoulder trouble, and if Carlos Martinez can build enough of a three-pitch repertoire to win a spot.” Marco Gonzales is in the mix as well when it comes to the rotation.
Perhaps the biggest worry for Cardinals fans that Olney questions is this:
"Is Wainwright going to be OK? Elbow trouble affected him at the end of last season, and while he was able to take the ball, he was diminished in the playoffs against the Dodgers. If we’ve learned one thing about pitching injuries in recent years, it’s that those who suffer problems one year are at a heightened risk for a setback the following season."
No matter the health concerns, Olney writes that the Cardinals rotation is “among the best.”