St. Louis Cardinals: A way-too-early look at the 2019 rotation

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ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 10: Pitching coach Mike Maddux
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 10: Pitching coach Mike Maddux /
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The St. Louis Cardinals youth movement rotation shows a lot of depth. How good can they be next season?

Well, right now is a very exciting time to be a St. Louis Cardinals fan. The Cardinals are on pace to make their first postseason appearance since 2015 as a likely Wild Card team.

Jack Flaherty and Harrison Bader are in the race for the NL Rookie of the Year award, while Matt Carpenter has a chance to take home the NL MVP award. The Mike Matheny era is finally behind us and new manager Mike Shildt is here to stay as he signed a three-year deal earlier this month.

While most of you guys are getting your tickets purchased and gearing up for what could be an exciting October run for the St. Louis Cardinals, I thought I should let you guys know about how exciting this rotation could be next year.

The status of veteran Adam Wainwright’s spot with the team is up in the air. The 37-year-old is set to hit the market this offseason and could potentially retire as well.

There are a few solid options on the free agency market this offseason. Patrick Corbin will hit the market coming off a career season, with a 3.09 ERA and will likely hit 250 strikeouts by the end of the season, he could potentially be a top of the rotation arm for the Cardinals.

Another name to look out for is Dallas Keuchel, who was a huge part of the Houston Astros’ 2017 World Championship team. Though he was not as dominant as he was in 2017, he has still been very reliable, sporting a 3.71 ERA currently. He could come into the rotation and be that veteran piece for all of the young guys.

Clayton Kershaw could even hit the market if he decides to opt out of his current deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers (don’t get your hopes up).

The St. Louis Cardinals could even sign a cheaper rotation arm such as Nathan Eovaldi or Gio Gonzalez.

So, what if we decide to not sign a rotation arm off the market? Would the Cards be in trouble?

Maybe not. The Cardinals have a plethora of young starting pitchers in the Major League clubhouse and also in the farm system. The Cardinals have been known for their exciting young pitching talent coming up, and it makes you wonder. What could the rotation look like next season?

1. Carlos Martinez

ST. LOUIS, MO – AUGUST 30: Yadier Molina #4 and Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals return to the dugout after recording the final out of the seventh inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on August 30, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO – AUGUST 30: Yadier Molina #4 and Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals return to the dugout after recording the final out of the seventh inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on August 30, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

2018 hasn’t been the year Carlos Martinez and many other Cardinal fans thought it would be. After a dominant start to the season, where he was cruising with a 1.62 ERA before going to the DL for the first time of the season with a right lat strain in early May.

He returned to the rotation in early June, but struggled mightily with consistency. He allowed more than four runs in three of his seven appearances before going back to the disabled list at the end of July. He saw his ERA skyrocket to a 3.41 before being taken out of the rotation.

His season was now in jeopardy as rumors surfaced that he could be shut down for the remainder of the season. On August 13th, skipper Mike Shildt announced that Martinez will shift to the bullpen for the rest of the season. He looked dominant coming out of the bullpen, and when closer Bud Norris started to spiral out of control, Martinez stepped up and became the closer for the Cardinals during their stretch run.

He has three saves so far in his new role, including a huge two-inning save when the Cardinals needed it the most after a bullpen implosion against the Washington Nationals. Though his bullpen assignment will last for the rest of 2018, Shildt said he will be back in the rotation next season.

Some fans might question Martinez’s ability as an ace. Some fans are skeptical about his consistency, some question his control, and some claim that Martinez is not mentally prepared for his starts, which leads to early struggles. Well, over the last four seasons, the two-time All-Star has been superb as a starter for the Cardinals.

Even though you might not like his crazy hairstyles or think he is a “headcase”, he has earned his spot as the ace for the St. Louis Cardinals.

2. Miles Mikolas

ST LOUIS, MO – JUNE 07: Miles Mikolas #39 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Busch Stadium on June 7, 2018 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO – JUNE 07: Miles Mikolas #39 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Busch Stadium on June 7, 2018 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images) /

When the Cardinals announced that they have signed Miles Mikolas out of Japan, most of us had no clue who he was, or for the ones who did, remember his struggles in his last MLB stint with the Texas Rangers back in 2014. Though he was dominant in Japan, he was expected to be a bottom of the rotation guy, especially after his early Spring Training struggles.

Well, it’s safe to say he’s shocked all of us this season. He has a very solid 3.01 ERA and 16 wins to go with it. Those 16 wins put him tied for first place out of the entire NL. First place? Back to back Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.

Mikolas has a disgusting curveball, and is his go-to breaking pitch as well. A huge chunk of his success comes from being able to throw strikes and avoid giving up the free pass. He has only walked 29 batters in 2018, and has an incredible 5:1 K:BB ratio. His fastball velocity is also overlooked, in which his average fastball hovers around 94 mph and can top out at about 98 mph.

Mikolas made his first career All-Star team this season as well, but was not able to attend All-Star festivities because to his wife was about to give birth to twins during the week. Mikolas chose to stay with his family and Ross Stripling took his spot in Washington D.C. (if you ever read this, congratulations Miles!).

Mikolas, 30, would be the oldest arm in the rotation and a veteran presence for a young pitching staff. He has shown start in and start out that he belongs in the 2019 rotation, and he could also finish in the top-10 on Cy Young ballots for the season.

Mikolas is also the favorite to start the Wild Card game for the St. Louis Cardinals if they clinch a spot in the playoffs.

Oh the best part about Mikolas? He hits dingers. His two home runs are tied for first on the Cardinals along with John Gant. #PitchersWhoRake or #RakersWhoPitch?

3. Jack Flaherty

ST. LOUIS, MO – SEPTEMBER 14: Jack Flaherty #32 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at Busch Stadium on September 14, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO – SEPTEMBER 14: Jack Flaherty #32 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at Busch Stadium on September 14, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Jack Flaherty came out of the St. Louis Cardinals farm system as the number 3. prospect in the organization and was even on the MLB.com “Top 100 Prospects List.” He has proven his worth this season with a solid 3.08 ERA.

He started out the season as the Opening Day starter with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds, or was supposed to be. He was called up to the Majors to replace Adam Wainwright in the rotation against the Milwaukee Brewers, though he looked solid, they ended up losing the game off back-to-back homers in the bottom of the ninth. Must be heartbreaking huh?

When Wainwright returned to the rotation, Flaherty was sent back down to Memphis until the end of April, when the injury bug bit Wainwright again and resulted in Flaherty making a start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

He was optioned to Memphis once again, but once Wainwright took his third DL trip of the season, Flaherty was recalled and didn’t look back.

Flaherty has been brilliant for the St. Louis Cardinals so far this season. He has the lowest ERA out of the rotation and also leads the team in strikeouts with 174. He also has an astounding 1.08 WHIP on the season.

Flaherty has brilliant stuff including a nasty slider which makes opposing hitters look foolish whenever he utilizes it. He has about average command, as he has at least one walk in every start besides two of them, but he still has a very solid 3:1 K:BB ratio.

He has put himself on NL Rookie of the Year ballots with his dominant stuff and gritty pitching, and could also potentially start the Wild Card game if they clinch a Wild Card berth. (fingers crossed)

Flaherty will turn 23 in October, and is currently the youngest arm in the Cardinals rotation, and one of the youngest starters in all of baseball. Being a starting pitcher takes a lot of maturity, and most starters don’t settle into a starting role until they are 24 or 25 years old. He has what it takes to be what former ace Chris Carpenter was to Cardinals during his tenure with them.

Flaherty has emerged into a fan favorite with the Cardinals as well, with his ability and grit, there’s not much to dislike with Flaherty. He has what it takes to be the ace of the Cardinals soon, and could be with St. Louis for years to come.

4. Michael Wacha

ST. LOUIS, MO – JUNE 3: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals is doused with ice after taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on June 3, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO – JUNE 3: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals is doused with ice after taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on June 3, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Michael Wacha has been with St. Louis since their World Series appearance in 2013, and he has been a very reliable rotation arm. With a 3.77 career ERA, he has shown that he belongs in this rotation.

2018 was a tough year for Wacha. Like Carlos Martinez, he started the year out hot before being sent to the DL. In his first 13 starts, he looked like he could have a spot on the NL All-Star team. He had a 2.47 ERA and a 8-1 record to go with it. He even took a no-hitter to the ninth against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it was broken up by Colin Moran.

On a Friday night start against the Chicago Cubs though, things went downhill. Wacha allowed eight earned runs while only pitching for four innings. He allowed seven hits and walked four batters. In his next start, he only pitched three innings before getting pulled, and was sent to the DL with an oblique injury shortly after.

The Cardinals were optimistic that Wacha would be back before All-Star break. When All-Star break came around, they said he should be ready before August. When August came around, he was slated to make a rehab assignment on August 18th. Over four rehab starts in the Minor League system, nothing went right for Wacha. They announced he would be shut down for the season on September 10th.

I highly doubt that St. Louis will move on from Wacha. He is still young as he turned 27 in early July. Though he is not what he was panned out to be earlier in his career, he is still a reliable arm and could be one of the best No. 4 starters in the game. Just shows you how deep this rotation is.

5. Austin Gomber

DENVER, CO – AUGUST 26: Austin Gomber #68 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on August 26, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. Players are wearing special jerseys with their nicknames on them during Players’ Weekend. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – AUGUST 26: Austin Gomber #68 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on August 26, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. Players are wearing special jerseys with their nicknames on them during Players’ Weekend. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

There are so many choices for this spot. There’s John Gant, Daniel Poncedeleon, maybe even Dakota Hudson, but Austin Gomber stands out from these guys.

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The top four guys of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation are right-handed pitchers, and Gomber is a lefty. So he could give opposing hitters a different look, and I am a firm believer of having at least one lefty in the rotation.

Gomber was a top-10 prospect in the Cardinals farm system before being called up to join the struggling Cardinals bullpen in June. Gomber looked solid with a 3.77 ERA and was the top lefty out of the bullpen with Brett Cecil absent. He was sent down in early July, but was recalled in late July to join the starting rotation.

Gomber has been a great rookie arm in the rotation and has stepped up when the Cardinals have needed him most. In his first start, he tossed six hitless innings before the fire alarm went off while he was warming up for the seventh inning. He would allow two runs that inning, but it showed that Gomber could have a bright future in the Cardinals rotation, especially with the lack of lefty arms in the system.

In the rotation, he possesses a 5-1 record with a solid 3.71 ERA over ten starts. He did have one awful start against the Los Angeles Dodgers allowing seven runs in three innings, but bounced back the next start with a very solid outing against the Atlanta Braves, which helped them grab a huge series win on the road.

Gomber might have what it takes to be the lefty arm of the St. Louis Cardinals for years to come.

Next. Where are the 2014 prospects?. dark

Do you agree with this rotation for next season? Do the Cardinals need to go out and sign a guy like Patrick Corbin? Leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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