You can’t win in the postseason without pitching. An intriguing mix of veterans and young power arms, the Cardinals boast an extremely flexible pitching staff.
Starters: Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Jose Quintana
This may be a contentious selection, but as it stands, these are my three starters for the wildcard round. Wainwright is your guy; have a quick hook in case he struggles, but you have to trust him if this team is going to make a deep run.
Mikolas is stellar at home and pitched deep into ball games all year. He’s also unflappable and performs well in big moments.
Lastly, I picked Jose Quintana as the game three starter simply because he’s pitching the best of the group right now. Hopefully you don’t need a game three starter at all, but it’s nice to know the Cardinals have a multitude of options (as I’ll discuss in more depth later) in case another starter is needed.
Bullpen: Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley, Jake Woodford, JoJo Romero, Andre Pallante, Steven Matz, Jordan Hicks*
*If Hicks is hurt, his spot will go to Chris Stratton
Gallegos and Helsley are pitching the eighth and ninth innings, but who is the bridge between the closers and the starter? JoJo Romero has shown flashes, Andre Pallante had a brilliant middle of the season, and Steven Matz is a wily veteran. But without Jordan Hicks, this bullpen looks a lot weaker.
Zack Thompson was considered for this group, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him take the place of Woodford, Romero, Pallante, or Matz. A lot is going to depend on matchups and which pitcher the Cardinals feel is best suited for each of the Padres, Brewers, or Phillies.
Lastly, if Hicks is a no-go, I’d mark Chris Stratton to take his place. Could the Cardinals call-up Packy Naughton or James Naile? That feels unlikely. Either way, it goes without saying that a healthy Jordan Hicks is massive for a successful postseason.
Long-relievers: Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Jordan Montgomery
These three might be the secret weapon of these Cardinals. While lacking in the traditional bullpen firemen, the sudden emergence of starting pitching depth is a unique option. I could easily see whichever starters are not tabbed to begin games one and two can be counted on for two, three, even four or five innings.
These three are almost “back-up starters.” Sort of the opposite of an opener, could the Cardinals approach a playoff game with a plan normally seen in spring training or minor league rehab starts? If these are the most talented hurlers on the ball club, I don’t see why not.