The St. Louis Cardinals will have a strong bullpen already in 2020 but Angel Rondon could be a player who comes out of nowhere to have an impact.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching factory never seems to stop. For the past decade, the majority of the team’s pitchers have been homegrown talents that always seem to outkick their projections and prove the team hasn’t lost their good old “devil magic.”
Even the pitchers the team trades for seem to outplay what people think they’ll do. Giovanny Gallegos and John Gant and more were never seen as such a good pitcher, then they turn into the solid high-leverage studs they were in 2019.
It’s a good time to be a Cardinals fan, and the good times shouldn’t soon end.
In 2019, the Cardinals got the second-most fWAR of any NL team from their bullpen. That doesn’t mean that for sure, the Cards had the second-best bullpen in the league, but ya know, it kind of does. WAR isn’t a perfect stat, but they were also second in FIP, third in ERA and fourth in strikeout rate.
Needless to say, the bullpen didn’t skip a beat after losing young stud Jordan Hicks to Tommy John surgery. Heading into 2020, the Cards’ bullpen is mostly the same. The only major addition is Kwang-Hyun Kim, but other than that it should look mostly like it did in the second half of last season.
However, the bullpen at the beginning of the season in 2019 looked very different than at the end. Mike Mayers and Dominic Leone began the year with the club and guys like Chasen Shreve and Luke Gregerson had their chances.
Those four were moved on from and it allowed guys like Genesis Cabrera and Ryan Helsley to step up. Things change often as the season goes on, and looking ahead, the bullpen at the beginning of 2020 won’t be the same as the group at the end.
One name to watch as a player jumping into that group is Angel Rondon.
Rondon made it to AA in 2019 at the age of 21. The right-handed pitcher is a starter currently, but his quickest way to impact the bigs will be as a reliever, even if he doesn’t transition there forever.
On the year last year, Rondon had a 2.93 ERA and a 3.97 FIP over his 160.0 innings with a 1.150 WHIP. He needs to work on control, as his 3.3 walks per nine are going to need improvement, but he really should be getting more attention.
Rondon has a four-pitch mix of a fastball (can hit the mid-90s), slider, cutter, and changeup, with the best of those being the slider.
Plenty of players make the jump from AA to the MLB, so he’s in the wheelhouse of time where he could be up in the Majors whenever a need arises.
Rondon won the Cardinals’ award for the Minor League Pitcher of the Year, but he still isn’t getting much attention in many prospects lists. According to MLB.com, Rondon is the Cardinals’ 13th-best prospect, which is a great jump from being unranked last season, but there is plenty to go on to argue he should be higher.
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Rondon will likely hit the league at some point during the 2019 season and could have some serious staying power when he does. Rondon could always return to starting after a trip to the bullpen, but he is definitely a name to watch in 2020 and beyond.