St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty could be evolving into an ace

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ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 19: Jack Flaherty #32 of the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on September 19, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 19: Jack Flaherty #32 of the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on September 19, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /
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While St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty hasn’t been overpowering so far this season, his recent performances have been very promising for the potentially blooming ace.

The starting rotation of the St. Louis Cardinals hasn’t been all it was cracked up to be this season. Nearly all of the starting pitchers have taken steps back, including Jack Flaherty. But Flaherty could be starting to solidify himself as a cornerstone in the rotation.

A first-round pick in 2014, Flaherty created high expectations during his time in the minors and was one of the Cardinals’ top prospects. Flaherty debuted in 2017 and struggled, but the next year was a different story.

Flaherty was outstanding in 2018, his first full season. He had an ERA of 3.34 in 151 innings and finished fifth in the National League Cy Young Award voting. Cardinals fans were obviously hoping he could build on that and become one of the premier pitchers in baseball. However, Flaherty hit the “sophomore slump” in April, and his overall stats haven’t been as impressive as last year’s. But that looks to change.

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Flaherty had three solid starts in April and two that were quite poor. His best start in April was on the 28th, when he pitched seven innings and allowed four hits and no runs against the Cincinnati Reds. Both of his poor starts were against the Milwaukee Brewers, his worst being on April 16. In that game, he surrendered nine hits and five runs in 2.2 innings.

Since his last game in April, Flaherty appears to have figured out one of his biggest bugaboos: the home run. After giving up seven in 31 innings in April, he has only allowed two home runs in May in 28.2 innings. Additionally, Flaherty performed progressively better in his last four games. If one goes by sabermetrician Bill James’ game score statistic, May 26 was Flaherty’s best game. He pitched six innings and allowed three hits and no runs, racking up a game score of 73.

Flaherty could be taking the reins from Carlos Martinez, who hasn’t become the dominant ace in his career that many fans hoped he would be. Martinez is now pitching out of the bullpen, and the door is wide open for Flaherty to cement his role as a No. 1 starter.

Flaherty is learning from two superstars. Not only is he under the guiding hand of catcher Yadier Molina, but it is also known that he has developed a friendship with Cardinals pitching legend Bob Gibson. Flaherty should be in a phenomenal position to succeed with these players mentoring him.

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If Flaherty can continue on this path and build on his recent solid starts, he could be an unquestioned ace and make multiple All-Star teams. If Martinez returns to the rotation and does well and Alex Reyes can stay healthy and show what made him a top prospect, the Cardinals could have a formidable rotation again soon.

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