St. Louis Cardinals: The organization and left-handed pitching prospects

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Hunter Cervenka #73 of the St Louis Cardinals throws the ball against the Washington Nationals during a spring training game at The Fitteam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 26, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Cardinals defeated the Nationals 6-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Hunter Cervenka #73 of the St Louis Cardinals throws the ball against the Washington Nationals during a spring training game at The Fitteam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 26, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Cardinals defeated the Nationals 6-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals have struggled in recent years with left-handed pitching in the rotation and the bullpen. 2019 seems is shaping up to be no different.  Let’s look at what’s coming up in the minor leagues that could help the Cardinals this year and beyond.

In business schools across the country, you will learn that organizations must identify the problem, before coming up with solutions. The St. Louis Cardinals have a problem finding and keeping effective left-handed pitchers on their major league roster. The solutions may be in the Cardinals minor league system.

The Cardinals in recent years have worn out, by overuse, effective left-handed relievers such as Kevin Siegrist and Tyler Lyons. They have seen promising starters such as Jaime Garcia and Marco Gonzales inflicted with numerous injuries. Free Agent signings, such as Brett Cecil, haven’t worked out. Now the most recent FA signing, veteran Andrew Miller, is struggling early in this still young season.

As much as the Cardinals have tried to sign a left-handed FA for the bullpen, they have seemed reluctant to do the same for the rotation. Example, Dallas Keuchel is still a FA looking for work.

So what is the Cardinals plan? Maybe they’re looking toward their minor league system to address these issues in the future. And, it could be, at least some of the answers are there.

Let’s take a look at some of the minor league left-handed pitching prospects scattered through the Cardinals minor league system. I’ll look at some of the prospects in the lower minors who look promising and some in Memphis who could help this year.

Evan Kruczynski

Kruczynski was drafted by the Cardinals in the ninth round of the 2017 draft out of East Carolina University. The 24-year-old has gradually risen through the Cardinals minor league system rising from Peoria to Palm Beach and then finishing last year in Springfield.

However, Kruczynski raised eyebrows in the Arizona Fall League in 2018, with a 1.99 ERA in just over 22 innings pitched. Combined with his 2018 performance in AA Springfield (2.50 ERA in 39 innings), Kruczynski has risen to a Top 40 prospect in the Cardinals system.

Primarily used as a starter, the 6-5, 215 lb Wisconsin native, doesn’t have electric stuff and will probably eventually be used out of the bullpen when he arrives in the majors. Kruczynski has been assigned to AA Springfield to start the 2019 season.

Steven Gingery

The 6-1, 210 lb Gingery was drafted by the Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2018 MLB draft, in spite of having Tommy John surgery during his senior year at Texas Tech. The 21-year-old is currently working out at extended spring training and will remain in Jupiter until the start of short season league.

Gingery had a change-up in college that was considered to be one of the best in the 2018 draft. He also has a decent control with both his fastball and curveball. Because of this control, the Cardinals hope he will eventually be a starter.

Although he hasn’t pitched yet in the minors, Gingery is considered to be a Top 30 prospect for the Cardinals.

Jacob Patterson

Another Texas Tech Red Raider, the St. Louis Cardinals drafted Patterson in the 13th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. The 6-1, 200 lb has two-year minor league ERA of 3.15 in 76 games at Johnson City  Palm Beach, and Springfield. He starts 2019 at AA Springfield.

Patterson is considered a Top 30 prospect in the Cardinals minor league system. He has a good strikeout rate(10.1 K/9) in his first two years in the minors. However, he has some control issues, issuing 23 walks in 64 innings at Palm Beach. The 23-year-old, Patterson, is projected by the Cardinals to be a reliever due to his strikeout potential.

Hunter Cervenka

29-year-old Hunter Cervenka isn’t a prospect in the classic sense. After all, he was drafted in the 27th round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox, right out high school. He has already appeared in 73 games in the MLB with two teams, but won’t be arbitration eligible until 2021.

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However, the 6-1, 250 lb Texas native may be someone Cardinal fans see in the bullpen before the end of the 2019 season. Why? He had an impressive Spring Training with a 1.80 ERA in five games. He was assigned to AAA Memphis to work on reducing his walk rate, and if can do that, we may see him in St. Louis.

Cervenka knocked around the minor leagues with several teams, before being called up in 2016 with the Atlanta Braves. In 34 innings, he struck out 35, walked 23, and had a 3.18 ERA. He was traded in August 2016 to Miami and after a short stint in the Marlin bullpen, has been primarily in the minors.

The Cardinals signed Cervenka to a minor league deal in November 2018.

Genesis Cabrera

The 22-year-old Cabrera is the lefty the Cardinals hope will make a big contribution in the near future. If the 2018 Dominican Winter League means anything, he could be a significant contributor in the bullpen by next year, if not sooner.

Cabrera came over to the Cardinals from Tampa Bay in the Tommy Pham trade. The Rays had signed the 6-2, 190 lb Dominican as an international free agent in 2013. Playing between the minor league system of the Cardinals and Rays, along with the DWL, he has a 3.68 ERA.

The rap on Cabrera coming to the Cardinals was a very good fastball that clocked in at 98 mph, but also control issues. He just walked too many batters during his time in the Rays organization.

However, during the 2018 DWL, Cabrera pitched an impressive 1.26 ERA with 21 strikeouts and only two walks in 14 innings. This performance earned him a spot on the Cardinals 40 man roster and an invite to Spring Training.

Although he struggled in Spring Training with a 21.00 ERA in three innings pitched, Cabrera has become a top ten organizational prospect by many ratings. If he can cut down the walks, he could be in St. Louis as early as this year. He has started 2019 with AAA Memphis.

To Conclude

This list is not complete and doesn’t cover every lefty in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system. I didn’t include some currently in Memphis, such as Austin Gomber, Tommy Layne, and Chasen Shreve, who I don’t consider prospects. We’ve seen these guys and know what they can or can’t do.

The prospects I’ve mentioned are some who are highly regarded by the organization and have caught the attention of some of the prospect rating groups. None is unlikely to be the next Steve Carlton, but they could be the future left-handed options we need in the rotation or in the bullpen.

Next. Power ranking active former Cardinals. dark

Genesis Cabrera is considered the best lefty in the system, but the organization also has high hopes for Steven Gingery. If the St. Louis Cardinals aren’t signing FA lefties, hopefully, they will develop a few.