St. Louis Cardinals: In house lefty bullpen options for 2019
By Trevor Hooth
As the 2018 season is winding down for the St. Louis Cardinals, fans are looking forward to hopefully finding a bat for the middle of the order in the offseason. There is also a need for a lefty out of the bullpen.
Likely, the team will have to look outside of the organization to find this. Currently, the St. Louis Cardinals have Brett Cecil, Chasen Shreve and Tyler Webb to call upon when needed. Two of the three are not trustworthy, and the other is Shreve. And some might even consider that a stretch.
So, if the Cardinals do not seek outside help, who in the organization can serve as a southpaw out of the bullpen? There are not a ton of options, as you might guess. Although, there are enough to where we should never have to see Tyler Webb again. That is a silver lining.
The St. Louis Cardinals got Genesis Cabrera as part of the return for Tommy Pham. He spent most of 2018 in Double A as a starting pitcher. He did get promoted to Memphis at the end of the year, and struck out three batters over two relief innings during the regular season. In the playoffs, he allowed a single run across four innings while striking out seven.
Cabrera is the number 13 prospect in the Cardinals organization according to MLB Pipeline. Even though he did not get much experience in Triple A, his fastball is MLB ready in terms of velocity. It has topped out at 97 MPH, and he couples it with a 55 grade slider.
Prediction for 2019: Cabrera will not be in St. Louis, but he will take a rotation spot in Memphis and continue to develop as a starter.
One of the most fun stories in the Cardinals organization is Austin Warner. He signed with St. Louis last year out of the Frontier League. In a short amount of time, he worked his way up to Memphis to start seven games with a 4.33 ERA. Keep in mind, this is after starting 2018 in Single A.
This is another guy who has been in the rotation at every level. Warner pitched 25 games total in 2018, and started every single one of them. With all of the potential vying for a rotation spot in St. Louis, relief is Warner’s path to the majors.
Prediction for 2019: Much like Cabrera, Warner will be in the rotation in Memphis. Depending on a few other factors, he might even start with Springfield after posting a a 5.34 ERA in six starts in Double A.
I am aware that Austin Gomber is a starting pitcher right now, like the other two. However, Dakota Hudson needs to enter the rotation at some point. So, when that happens, Gomber might be able to swap out and join the bullpen. That would remove the only lefty from the rotation.
This season, Gomber has started 11 games in the majors, and was a reliever for 17. His numbers were okay. That being said, he does not pitch that much better against lefties. As far as those splits look, he strikes out righties at a higher rate, but his walks are also higher. According to Fangraphs, his FIP against lefties is 3.07, as opposed to 4.25 against right handers.
Prediction for 2019: There is a solid chance that Gomber ends up in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation. He will certainly be in the running.
Any one of these three would be worthy of a shot in the bullpen. However, between Cecil’s contract and Shreve, who is still arbitration eligible, there will likely not even be room for someone who is brought in externally. There are decisions to be made.
That being said, there are really not many in-house options. My favorite for the job is Genesis Cabrera. That being said, I doubt he even gets the chance. It is a thin crop.
The issue of the reliable southpaw is one to watch as we head into the offseason. It is a role that does not seem to have an immediate answer in the organization.