St. Louis Cardinals: Three predictions for spring training
Carlos Martinez wins the job as 5th starter
At this point, many fans forget just how good Carlos Martinez was from 2015-2017. His 3.24 ERA and 126 ERA+ over 92 starts in his age 23-25 seasons spoke to the huge potential the righty had, but his career has been hurt by injury and a lack of consistency since then.
Coming into 2020 (this time last year), Martinez was slotted into a starting role after coming in healthy and ready to go. Then the world got turned upside down. In his first start of the shortened season, Martinez got rocked in the final game before the team’s COVID-19 outbreak. As one of the first players to test positive, it wouldn’t have been surprising to guess that Martinez was positive during that start.
During the team’s 17-day break, Martinez was hospitalized, and even once he recovered he struggled for much of the season.
After the season, Martinez didn’t relax, he kept pitching. Making five starts in total in the Dominican Winter League and then in the Caribbean series, Martinez allowed just six runs over 26.2 innings, striking out 30 batters. Sure, the talent is lesser than the MLB, but there were plenty of MLB-caliber players sprinkled in the DWL and in the Caribbean series, including teammate Yadier Molina.
Those 26.2 innings were also a larger sample than the 20 innings he threw in the entire 2020 season. As someone who watched three of the five starts, Martinez looked dominant. Coming into spring, he’s going to be fresh and ready to reclaim his starting spot.
It’ll take a lot for the Cardinals to pick up Martinez’s $17M option for 2022, he has to be coming into spring training knowing that he’s going to have to earn that contract.