St. Louis Cardinals: Lefty Replacements for Zach Duke in AFL

Sep 28, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Zach Duke (29) delivers a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 28, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Zach Duke (29) delivers a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals will lack their lefty powerhouse from 2016 in 2017 thanks to surgery. The Cardinals’ internal sleeper options are on display in the Arizona Fall League.

The St. Louis Cardinals must decide how to move forward in the wake of the Zach Duke news.  Should they go outside for a replacement?  My recommendation would be that the club would be wise to use an internal option and, lucky for Mozeliak, two of these options are on display in the AFL.

Tyler Lyons and Marco Gonzales are considered internal options to replace Duke.  Neither of these two names are pitching in the AFL.  Before digging into the AFL stats of the younger candidates, let’s take a moment to look at these two arms.

While Lyons has contributed to the club in the past four seasons, Gonzales was sidelined in 2016 due to injury.  Before his injury though, Gonzales was an arm on the rise.  Can he return to form in the Zach Duke role?  Will Lyons transition from a long relief arm to a shut-down arm in the Duke role?

Let’s look at the numbers for a glimpse of hope. First up, Lyons:

4 Yrs794.0570197.21768930561854.161.174
162 Game Avg.574.05531491336723421404.161.174

Lyons is a great left-handed pitcher for the Cardinals and has shown wonderful improvement over the course of his St. Louis Cardinals career.  His ERA is becoming better each season.  His strikeout numbers are good and his surrendered-run counts are becoming solid.

As was mentioned above, Lyons has been used in long relief of late even taking over games when the likes of Jaime Garcia has faltered.  Lyons could well be a starter on a different team.  Will he be a better solution in the Duke slot?  Can he use his stuff to come in and shut down lefties and righties alike?

Have a quick look at Lyons’ splits:

vs RHB261071625707932.234.293.495.788.265
vs LHB2764410002514.
vs RHB as LHP261071625707932.234.293.495.788.265
vs LHB as LHP2764410002514.

Remember these numbers as we will examine them with the others too.  Batters hitting in the .150-.240 range excites me and makes me think that Lyons certainly affords the team the chance to NOT shop the market for a Zach Duke replacement.

How about Marco Gonzales?  It will be great to have Gonzales return in 2017 but will he be back to form or will he need a season to re-season his arm?  Let’s look at his performance before his injury:

2 Yrs424.821137.13920522325.011.634
162 Game Avg.1684.82441491568020881285.011.634

Marco is a great pitcher so we would be wise to ignore the singe game blow-up that occurred in 2015 especially in light of the fact that this game indicated the first warning signs of injury. Move past that and you see a pitcher who was beginning to dominate the minor leagues.

How about his splits?  While the sample size is relatively small, we can see that Gonzales has a bright future but might need more exposure before the organization can make decisions.

vs RHB1143710101.500.500.7861.286.500
vs LHB101000010.500.000
vs RHB as LHP1143710101.500.500.7861.286.500
vs LHB as LHP101000010.500.000

The questions surrounding Marco is whether he is better suited for the Duke role or better suited for AAA play for a full season to replace Jaime Garcia beyond 2017 (should the St. Louis Cardinals pick up Garcia’s option).  I personally feel that Marco gives greater worth as a starter than as a relief role.

Two pitchers in the St. Louis Cardinals system are interesting options that Derrick Goold calls the Cardinals’ sleeper options: Corey Littrell and Ryan Sherriff.  Both Littrell and Sherriff are playing in the Arizona Fall League.  Let’s look in on them.

More from St Louis Cardinals Prospects

First up, Littrell.  Littrell will turn 25 at the start of the 2017 campaign and thus far in his career has climbed to the AAA level.  How has he fared in the AFL?  In four games, he has a record of 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA.  He has allowed four hits over seven innings while striking out seven batters and allowing two earned runs and one home run.

In AFL play, Littrell has a 0.00 ERA when facing lefties and a 4.15 ERA against righties.  Against lefties, he has struck out four batters and against righties has struck out three.  These are promising numbers to consider if he would replace the Duke spot.

How about Ryan Sherriff?  Sherriff will turn 27 after the start of the 2017 campaign and thus far in his career has- like Littrell above- climbed to the AAA level.  In AFL play, he has appeared in four games and has an 0-1 record with a 8.31 ERA.  Ouch, right?  Nine hits, four earned runs, one home run, and seven strike outs across 4.1 innings.  Ouch.

Sherriff performed much better in Memphis, however, and showed great promise there.  Have a look here:

All Levels (6 Seasons)29203.011695427.1409143271102871.215
AAA (3 seasons)Minors712.9656376.07825627611.382

Should we judge off of his Memphis time or the AFL time?  What do you think?  I believe that Sherriff could spell many things for the St. Louis Cardinals including serving as a replacement for Duke.

Next: Indians in Six

Of the options, I like the idea of Sherriff the most if the Cardinals would like to find an internal solution.  I simply think that Littrell needs more time, Gonzales is a better option to start, and Lyons is a better long man.  I’d rather have the team focus on using Sherriff.