St. Louis Cardinals: Preseason Roster Prediction Part One
This is going to be the Cardinals’ greatest strength this coming season. The Cardinals have a total of three former closers vying for roles in the Cardinals’ pen for this season. At least two of them will make the roster, and the third has a good shot. That’s not to mention the others who have either major or minor league experience in closing games who will either be on the roster or close to making the roster.
Closer – Trevor Rosenthal
This one is pretty obvious. We all know how effective Rosie has been as the Cardinals’ closer. Last year he set the record fro the most saves in a single season by a Cardinals’ reliever. Proving that he is without a doubt one of the best closers in the game.
The best thing for Rosenthal this year is that he is going to finally have “backup” in the event that he won’t be available. Last season, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness saw time as the closer and it wasn’t ideal, it led to them wearing out late in the season and into the playoffs.
2016 will be a different year for Rosenthal, as he could see his workload drop a little bit, with the debut of a more effective bullpen. I could see Rosenthal’s load dropping down to about 55-57 innings instead of 65-70 he has been tallying in his career. The saves will still be there for Rosenthal despite steamer’s projection of just 26 saves for the Cardinals’ closer.
The only reason I see his ERA going up is because of lack of appearances, not for effort. I think an ERA around 2.40-2.50 is a decent projection for him, finishing with around 40 saves.
Setup – Kevin Siegrist
After a year that saw Siegrist struggle with a shoulder injury and ineffectiveness, Siegrist had a great year last year. He came back with a vengeance, with an ERA of 2.10 through 81 appearances. However, as I mentioned before Siegrist sputtered down the stretch and in the playoffs — in part because the Cardinals had nobody else to setup Trevor Rosenthal.
This year Siegrist has a ton of help, and he should continue things from last season. I don’t see him continuing the 2.10 ERA, hopefully the 81 appearances never happens again, as he should be fine with somewhere around 65-70 appearances sporadically throughout the season.
With that said, like Rosenthal a 2.40-2.50 ERA should be doable. I have him slated in the setup role right now but I believe that role is going to be a revolving door based on situation.
Setup #2 – Jordan Walden
Walden has been talked about a lot here in the past few weeks, as he is healthy and ready to go this season. This is a huge addition for the Cardinals’ bullpen as not only does it add another dominant weapon out of the pen for the Cardinals, but it also helps Siegrist and Rosenthal do their jobs better, and Walden can step in for Rosenthal if needed.
Walden can strike hitters out with the best of them, as he has a 10.78 K/9 in his career. Steamer believes that will continue, as they have him projected to get around 10.05 K/9, with his 3.30 ERA. If he is healthy, I think that Walden could have an ERA much closer to his career ERA of 3.00.
Regardless, Walden will be a huge contributor for the bullpen for the Cardinals.
Setup #3 – Seung-hwan Oh
While we don’t know much about Oh yet, we know that he comes with a closers pedigree, coming away with 357 saves in his career in Japan and Korea. Eno Sarris of Fangraphs states that we can expect probably a low 90s rising fastball, combined with a plus slider. While there’s no telling what kind of results Oh will get against MLB quality hitters, the experience in pitching out of the pen in high leverage situations is a plus.
Combine this with the fact that the Cardinals have three elite guys ahead of him in Walden, Siegrist, and Rosenthal, with Seth Maness either behind or in front of him depending on the situation.
Middle Relief #1 – Seth Maness
Having the four guys ahead of him that he does, allows for Maness to return the role that he his best at. That is the “fire-man” role. This is a great thing because it take Maness out of regular use. While Maness only pitched in 63.1 innings last season, as opposed to the 80.1 before hand, he was used a career high 76 times.
This and the 80.1 innings the previous year played havoc on his arm, as he finished the season with an ERA of 4.26. The hop is that with the Cardinals’ bullpen as is, Maness should see a bit of a relief in terms of appearances this season. While I don’t think he’ll be as low as 45 appearances, he should see somewhat of a dip, probably somewhere in the area of 60-65 appearances.
Look for Maness to continue to get hitters to hit the ball in the ground, as Maness has a career 59.7% ground ball rate. If that number can go up at all and the appearances go down, Maness should return to the sub 3.00 ERA that he had in 2013-2014.
Middle/Long Relief #2 Tyler Lyons
This may be a crazy idea and may not work out. However, with the Cardinals reportedly going with just 11 pitchers to start the season, the team will have a decision to make regarding this spot. Do they value the guy who has come up with the organization and is still young, or are they going to go with the guy who is a washed up version of himself in Jonathan Broxton.
Look, I don’t mean to be mean, but Broxton is not who he once was. He gave up a ton of long balls last season with both the Cardinals and the Brewers. The Cardinals won’t need another right-handed option out of the bullpen with Oh and Walden both ready to go. However, as an option to be a long reliever and the go to guy against lefties, Tyler Lyons is absolutely the better play here.
Lyons in a bullpen only situation for a year, should have an ERA lower than the totals he has put up as a starter. Lyons has shown to be effective in this role and should get the nod over Broxton, despite the contract.
Next: The Reinforcements