The St. Louis Cardinals’ 2024 rotation needs work

gsimons
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 03: Steven Matz #32 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on October 3, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 03: Steven Matz #32 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on October 3, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 21: Matthew Liberatore #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch in the second inning during his MLB debut in the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 21, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 21: Matthew Liberatore #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch in the second inning during his MLB debut in the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 21, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Rotation options with MLB experience

Matz is likely to continue to be a starting option given his prior experience and the $25 million he will be owed for the 2024-’25 campaigns.  Hudson also has mostly been a starter since the beginning of the 2019 season, so he’s probably going to be in the ’24 rotation.

If neither of those pitchers excites the fanbase, well, that’s completely understandable.  Every team needs No. 3-4 starters, and that’s probably the best Cardinals fans can hope for from those two hurlers.  The question marks come into play when trying to figure out who will be atop the starting staff the year after next.  There are plenty of internal options that could (emphasis on could) step up.

Matthew Liberatore was the big return in the January, 2020 trade that sent Randy Arozarena to the Tampa Bay Rays.  While Arozarena made a name for himself that fall with a huge power surge in the playoffs, Liberatore has yet to firmly establish himself in the majors.  He made his big-league debut last year, starting seven times with a 5.46 ERA and making two poor relief appearances (five earned runs in five innings).  He’ll be just 23 next season, so there certainly is plenty of time for him to develop into a top-of-the-rotation arm, but he has a long way to go to get there.

Andre Pallante made his big-league debut last season, starting 10 games (54-1/3 innings pitched) and appearing in relief 37 times (53-2/3 IP).  His cumulative ERA of 3.17 was very solid, but that number consisted of a 3.98 mark as a starter and 2.35 as a reliever.  Pallante’s strikeout and walk rates actually were better as a starter (17.5% and 7.0%, respectively) than as a reliever (14.4% and 10.5%).  However, his WHIP of 1.42 in each role indicates something less than dominance.  While Pallante has room to grow as he pitches in 2023 at 24 years old, he’s more likely to be another No. 3-4 starter rather than an ace.

Jake Woodford has started 10 times out of his 65 major league appearances over the last three seasons.  However, only one of those started occurred in 2022, while he was used out of the bullpen 26 times last year.  Woodford’s season ERAs have decreased in the 2020-’22 time frame from 5.57 to 3.99 to 2.23, demonstrating significant progress.  Unfortunately, Woodford’s K% is an uninspiring 15.9% for his career and only 12.8% last season.  His BB% and GB% are stronger, but it will take a well-defined plan for Woodford to grow into a strong rotation member.

Zack Thompson also made a single start for St. Louis in 2022, with another 21 relief appearances.   Though his ERA of 2.08 was very good, Thompson’s minor league performances imply he’s yet another likely candidate for the back end of the rotation unless he experiences a breakthrough.

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