St. Louis Cardinals: Starting pitching will be the Cardinals’ crutch in 2019

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 30: Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 30, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 30: Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 30, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals have been known for their ability to produce big league starting pitching, but projecting into 2019, it may be the club’s biggest weakness.

The St. Louis Cardinals have already significantly improved upon their 2018 roster just three months into the offseason. The additions of Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller make this team a much better squad than in 2018.

The Cardinals may not be done with their offseason, but analyzing the team as it stands to start the new year, the starting rotation may be the biggest weakness to the 2019 team, and that’s a good thing.

St. Louis will begin the year with a similar rotation to the one that ended 2018 as the only player lost was Luke Weaver. Carlos Martinez will return to the rotation after finishing out the year as the team’s closer while recovering from injury.

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Although Martinez excelled with a 1.47 ERA and five saves in the closer’s role at the end of last season, the new addition of Miller should rule out the Cards’ ace from returning to the pen.

The increased development of Jordan Hicks also helps make the decision to move Martinez back to the rotation a natural choice for the club.

Miles Mikolas should have won National League comeback player of the year last season after returning to the United States after a four-year hiatus overseas.

Mikolas went 18-4 last season in his return with a 2.83 ERA and was nothing short of sensational in his first year wearing the Cardinal red. He was an All-Star and to the major leagues and finished sixth in the Cy Young voting as the unexpected leader of the rotation.

The 1-2 punch of Martinez and Mikolas may not look sexy on paper compared to teams like Washington, Boston, or Cleveland but the two should anchor the starting rotation nicely next season.

Jack Flaherty is also coming off a strong season and will definitely play a large part in 2019. In his rookie year, he threw 151 innings over 28 starts for the team while posting a 3.34 ERA with 10.8 K/9. As he continues to mature, there will be more ups and downs for Flaherty, but this strong rookie season is a fantastic start.

Michael Wacha was having a breakout season in 2018 before being injured and put on the shelf for the remainder of the year. Before the injury, he was 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA and was well on his way to an All-Star game appearance.

Wacha has always battled health problems, he has made 25 starts or more just twice in his career and the 27-year-old could be an intriguing candidate to get traded. With the influx of young pitching talent the Cardinals have, the front office could be inclined to move him before his free agent year in 2020. However, if he performs similar to the Wacha of last season, then the Cardinals will be glad they hung onto him.

The five spot in the rotation is intriguing. There may be three or four different players battling for the final spot in the rotation. Names like Austin Gomber, Alex Reyes, John Gant, and Dakota Hudson could all make the rotation out of spring training.

Hudson was called up in August of 2018 and excelled out of the bullpen. He was named the pitcher of the year in the Cardinals system for his work in AAA as a starter, but came into St. Louis in the bullpen and flourished.

Gomber was immediately inserted into the rotation and did very well with his first taste in the big leagues. Gomber went 5-3 with an ERA just over four but still gave the Cardinals plenty of quality starts in big games down the stretch.

The Cardinals also brought back Adam Wainwright for another season and could be another option in the rotation for 2019. Waino is coming off an injury-plagued season and even if he does not secure a spot in the rotation by the time camp breaks in late March, he should still stick around in the bullpen and help mentor the younger players on the roster.

If I had a say in who makes the starting rotation next season, I would give Hudson the opportunity to get a full season under their belts in the starting rotation and allow Wainwright and Gomber to be his backup plan for the 5th starter.

As for Alex Reyes, a chance to fully recover from another upper-body injury in the bullpen, possibly as the Cardinals closer would be best. Gant would be great either in AAA or using him in long relief in the bullpen.

Next. No matter how you look at it, 2019 is pivotal. dark

The starting rotation for the Cardinals should be very good once again in 2019, but with the influx of young talent and injuries, it may be the Cardinals biggest weakness. However, it’s nothing that cannot be fixed with another trade either before the season starts or in July.