St. Louis Cardinals: Which Starting Pitcher Is Most Important?

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ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 10: Starter Carlos Martinez
ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 10: Starter Carlos Martinez /
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St. Louis Cardinals
ST. LOUIS, MO – JUNE 10: Starter Carlos Martinez /

The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping their pitching development game is stronger than their rival’s big money rotation. Whose individual success will translate to team success?

Yu who? In case you haven’t heard, the St. Louis Cardinals have regressed in the NL-Central standings the last few years, and lately they’ve had to swallow the unsavory reality of looking up at the rival Chicago Cubs.

And while Cards fans salivated at the possibility of adding Giancarlo Stanton this past December, they happily “settled” for the addition of Marcell Ozuna, a welcome first bite in what promised to be a Winter feast of roster improvements.

Surely the front office — after repeated overtures of investing their embarrassment of “dry powder” riches — was finally going to make good on their stated desire to turn prospect quantity and financial strength into a group of 25 that would reassert the St. Louis Cardinals as the class of the division. Surely they would show some urgency to close the gap between themselves and the Cubs, right?

Then the frost set in…

The Winter feast became the thinning of the herd in exchange for replacing prospect depth and adding a needed, if a tad uninspiring, bullpen piece in Dominic Leone. A bizarrely cold hot stove had frozen not just the Cardinals front office, but the entirety of Major League Baseball.

Fans hoped that President of Baseball Ops John Mozeliak and GM Michael Girsch were just waiting in the weeds as the prices lowered. They were just being smart.

But when the ice thawed and St. Louis Cardinal equipment trucks began their drive to Jupiter, Florida, fans wiped off their own foggy windshields to see that the Milwaukee Brewers had made their own bid for “Best Outfield in the Central,” and those pesky Cubbies had added the top starting pitcher from this crop of free agents: Yu Darvish. Had the gap somehow widened? What exactly is the plan here?

Barring an unexpected, potentially painful trade for Chris Archer, a market collapse for Jake Arrieta, or an unlikely return of Lance Lynn, it seems like the one advantage the Cardinals might have held over the Cubs has evaporated. Mozeliak and Girsch are going “all-in” with the starting pitchers they have, and boy does that seem risky!

So, what do the guys who make the big bucks see that fans, analysts, and writers across the country just aren’t seeing about this pack of Cardinal starting pitchers? What are they banking on “going right” in order to prove that this group of question marks can turn into an emphatic exclamation point?

And of those question marks, whose success is the most vital to the success of the 2018 Cardinals? Let’s take a look…

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