Just as the bullpen was finally settling in, an injury to closer Trevor Rosenthal seems catastrophic. With the bullpen looking as thin as ever, now is the time to look within the organization for answers. Here are 3 potential solutions to the tumultuous St. Louis Cardinals bullpen.
Since the St. Louis Cardinals organization is supposedly having a great deal of trouble acquiring a relief arm, they should begin to focus on the minor league talent that has the potential to fill that crucial spot. While the Cardinals minor league pitching talent is somewhat thin, it is very talented at the top, with players who have contributed at the major league level.
Now let me say this: if the Cardinals had a long-term potential closer not named Trevor Rosenthal, this article would have no point. Here are a few potential situations that can fill the closer role just for the remainder of the year. Each of these players have different merits, and a choice between them reflects the Cardinals direction for the rest of the year.
Tyler Lyons: Readiness for a push
On paper, Lyons has had the most well-rounded season in the bullpen for the Cardinals. He carries a solid 2.77 ERA over 39.0 innings, and has made a personal leap this season. His strikeout rate this season is acceptable from a closer at 10.62 K/9, much improved from the 8.63 he had in 2016. It is also important that he has the most experience of the young pitchers.
Lyons has a more versatile pitching arsenal than people think, carrying several breaking pitches to compensate for a velocity in the low 90’s, much lower than your typical closer. In particular, Lyons has found his strikeout pitch in his slider, with players whiffing on it over 14 percent of the time, according to Brooks Baseball.
While his stats look solid on paper, Lyons’ BB% of 8.8% is quite concerning and about a third of his fastballs thrown have been balls: results of a lack of consistent control in a game. In the ninth inning, such inconsistency can lead to disaster, as St. Louis Cardinals fans have witnessed all year.
More from St Louis Cardinals News
- Cardinals Rumors: 3 pros and cons of signing Carlos Rodon
- Cardinals: Here is Willson Contreras’ first message for St. Louis fans
- How do the St. Louis Cardinals stack up with Willson Contreras?
- Cardinals: The insane asking price the Athletics had for Sean Murphy
- St. Louis Cardinals: Ask me anything with Josh Jacobs – 12/8
Despite being wild, he has the best combination of talent and overall experience at the major league level, and would require the least amount of adjustment within the bullpen. This would be a high-risk, high-reward move, but it would also be a move made to really make a push this season.
John Brebbia: Safety
Brebbia has pitched well this season and has proven to be one of the most consistent pitchers in the bullpen when given the chance. His ERA beats out Lyons’ at a sparkling 2.16, and he is an essential opposite of Lyons this year. While his strikeout rate is paltry, he has only walked five batters in 33.1 innings this year.
Brebbia has simply hit his spots at an exceptional rate, but there is a caveat. While his control has been solid, the mistakes he has made have been costly to the tune of four home runs allowed. On top of that, not being a strikeout pitcher simply puts less pressure on an offense in the ninth inning.
In spite of this, I still think Brebbia would be the safest option. With solid velocity at around 94 miles per hour paired with solid control, Brebbia would give the Cardinals a closer that wouldn’t walk a loss in. However, I don’t think that Brebbia is the best option Cardinals can look to as a long term closer solution should Rosenthal be derailed.
While Brebbia is consistent, pitchers who pitch for contact inherently have a more difficult time closing than strikeout pitchers do, but Brebbia has the velocity to become a solid closer. While Brebbia does have some long term potential, this would be a pick made because Brebbia is the safest option at closer.
Sam Tuivailala: Future
Personally, I am a huge fan of Tui and a proponent for him to be a candidate to become a regular late inning pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen. His stuff has impressive bite, and he has the most prototypical closer build in the Cardinals system at the moment outside of Rosenthal. Turning just 25 in October, Tuivailala has the best long-term potential for St. Louis.
Tui has preformed well this year in the few times we have seen him, to the tune of a 2.39 ERA. Just like with Lyons, control is a problem. He has an abysmal 10 walks in 26.1 innings. He has a prototypical closer fastball averaging 96.5 miles per hour and causes foul balls with it about 20 percent of the time, but they are also thrown for balls 34.25 percent of the time.
On top of that, he has a nice slider that has stifled hitters, partly due to the stark contrast from the fastball. Despite being thrown for balls at about the same rate as the fastball, batters swing at the slider over 48 percent of the time. Mix in a developing curve ball, and you have a deadly arsenal for a closer.
The argument that Tui is too young has its merit, but he has the most potential to develop from being the closer, and would be the pick most geared towards building the Cardinals’ future. While it may have mixed results at first, Tui has the highest upside and the most potential to be a set up man or closer over the next 5-to-10 years.
While there have been complaints about not getting any new arms from outside, there are an assortment of minor league pitchers who can fill middle relief roles for the Cardinals for the rest of the year. It is only the late innings that may present a problem, but as I’ve said, there are definitely solid potential solutions.