St. Louis Cardinals: A Plan From Within To Save the Bullpen
By Nathan Grime
These are some in-house bullpen options the St. Louis Cardinals have in their minor league system.
It’s time Ryan Sherriff gets his shot with St. Louis. He got his first invitation to Major-League Spring Training earlier this year. He was an All-Star reliever from the left side with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds last season.
This year, he leads the Memphis staff in appearances, with nineteen. He’s 2-0 with a 4.29 ERA, and in the midst of a streak of 6 1/3 scoreless innings after a slow start. He’s collected three saves, and has experience as a left-handed specialist as well as a high-leverage reliever.
Given the struggles lefties Brett Cecil and Kevin Siegrist have had at the major league level with the Cardinals, it makes even more sense to bring the Sherriff to town.
John Brebbia has excelled as a multi-inning reliever with the Memphis Redbirds this season. He, like Sherriff, also has three saves. In 25 2/3 innings (14 games), the right-hander has a 1.75 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and opposing batters are hitting just .178 against him. He’s also struck out 27.
The Cardinals don’t really have a long-reliever in their bullpen. Miguel Socolovich has gone multiple innings in a couple of outings, but he’s struggled. Given his strong start to the year at Triple-A, Brebbia at least deserves some consideration for a promotion sometime this season.
Lyons pitched in two games for the St. Louis Cardinals before going back on the Disabled List. He’s currently at Triple-A Memphis on rehab. Last season, he was used exclusively as a reliever in St. Louis, making 30 appearances and holding hitters to a .205 average.
When right, Lyons can be an effective lefty out of the bullpen either as a specialist or a multiple inning option. Like Sherriff, Lyons’ case for a promotion is bolstered by the struggles the left-handed relievers have had at the major league level this year.
Gonzales is a third option from the left side the organization has at Triple-A. A first-round pick in 2013, he made it to St. Louis in 2014 and 2015 but missed all of last year because of Tommy-John surgery.
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He’s currently a member of Memphis’ starting rotation, but he pitched in big games out of the bullpen for the Cardinals during the 2014 season, so he has that experience. The fact that he’s had an injury-riddled couple of years adds to the case that perhaps a relief role wouldn’t be too bad for his career for the time being.
The other side of that argument is that Gonzales is still young, and a relatively well-regarded prospect. The St. Louis Cardinals still want to see if he can reach the potential they saw in him as a starting pitcher when they drafted him as their first pick four years ago. In three starts this season, he’s 1-0 with a 0.93 ERA.
Gonzales probably isn’t the first left-handed relief option in the organization.
Weaver, like Gonzales, is a former first-round pick and in the Triple-A starting rotation. He, too, has had his fair share of injuries the past couple of years. He made his major-league debut last season and appeared as both a starter and reliever.
He’s off to a great start with Memphis. In four starts, he’s 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA. He’s the organization’s top pitching prospect with Alex Reyes out for the year. The organization probably wants to keep him stretched out should the need for a starting pitcher arise.
Related Story: Possible Midseason Moves For the Cardinals
Perhaps the St. Louis Cardinals dip into their minor league system to shore up the bullpen. Perhaps they scour the trade market for a game-changing reliever. The most likely scenario is that they do both.
They’ve got some arms at Memphis and even some pitchers at Springfield who are on the radar for a promotion. Whether it will take an injury or continued under-performance to make that happen remains to be seen.
But as the summer moves in and the trade deadline approaches nearer, expect to hear that the Cardinals are searching for some relief pitching help. They’ve got a fairly strong farm system, and if they’re contenders, they have pieces to make deals happen.
Next: Magneuris Sierra Should Stay In the Majors
That the St. Louis relievers are off to a rough start a quarter of the way through the 2017 season is undeniable. What will become of the bullpen is a story worth keeping an eye on as the year rolls along.