Pen on Paper: Mapping the 2016 Cardinals Bullpen

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Tim Cooney

is one of three viable middle relief options from within the organzation. Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot of chatter online about bringing back Carlos Villanueva for another season. After starting the year in Memphis, the 31-year-old Dominican righthander struck out 55 in 61 innings of relief for the Cardinals. He also pitched two innings of shutout relief in the playoffs. At this point in his career, Villanueva is pretty much a fastball/slider guy. He’ll use a changeup against lefthanders, but mixes his rising four-seamer and slider, both in the upper 80s, most of the time. Nothing spectacular. Meanwhile, this role is ripe for a few farmhands:

  • Marco Gonzales. Look, I think last year was a reality check for the 2013 first-round pick. He made 18 starts in the Pacific Coast League last year, and hitters there batted .311 off him. Gonzales is no world beater. He has a plus changeup and great command, which is enough to get through a batting order once or twice. But for a third time? It helps to have swing-and-miss stuff. Sure, you can argue Greg Maddux did just fine without classic out pitches, but that dude is an anomaly.
  • Tim Cooney. We saw the 2012 third-rounder for six starts in 2015, and he acquitted himself pretty well. If not for a horrible start against San Diego on April 30, his stats would have been much better. But, like Gonzales, the lefty is a finesse guy who gets outs primarily with his sinking changeup. His four-seamer sits right around 90.
  • Zach Petrick. Just go back and read what I wrote about Gonzales and Cooney. Like them, Petrick has good command of the strike zone and gets outs with a two-seamer that has good sink to it.