Prediction #9 - Cardinals finally have an internal starting pitcher emerge in the Major League rotation
If the Cardinals are going to have sustained success over the 2020s and find a way to compete with the Dodgers and Braves in the National League, then they'll need to find a way to fix their biggest issue over the last 5-10 years, which is raising up quality pitching from their farm system.
Alex Reyes, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and the aforementioned Jack Flaherty were all supposed to emerge as guys since 2013. I just reflected on Shelby Miller's fall from grace recently on the site. You can even look at names like Dakota Hudson and Matthew Liberatore as guys who haven't lived up to their potential thus far, and potential aces that got away like Sandy Alcantara and Zac Gallen. The Cardinals have to start developing their own pitching for their rotation soon, or else they'll keep having to sign the back-end options to short-term deals to patch together their rotation year to year.
I believe in 2024 we'll see at least one arm emerge as a legitimate rotation member for the 2025 season. Not just a guy who can compete for a role, but someone who can be penciled into their Opening Day rotation, barring injury.
Zack Thompson will likely have a chance to claim a spot this year. As things currently stand, he's likely the next man up for the Cardinals if an injury happens, and he had a very encouraging second half once he was placed in the rotation for St. Louis. Gordon Graceffo is in Triple-A currently, and after battling injuries in 2023, will look to regain the momentum he built in 2024.
Drew Rom, Adam Kloffenstein, and Sem Robberse could all make runs at being a back-of-the-rotation option for the Cardinals long-term, and Liberatore still has the talent necessary to throw his name into that conversation. The Cardinals have built up pitching depth organizationally as of late, but the real question is whether or not someone can emerge as a middle or top-of-the-rotation option from in their system.
Tink Hence and Tekoah Roby have the best chances out of anyone in their system right now. Both guys are in Double-A at the moment and flash the kind of stuff you want to see from a top starter. Both guys are entering pivotal years in their development, and could even force their way into big league action if things break right for them.
Both Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson have club options for 2025, so the Cardinals have the flexibility to bring back all five starters again after this coming season. But in an ideal world, they'd be able to decline at least one of those options and rely on a guy internally in 2025, and if they trade for a front-line starter like I think they will, they'll have a very different rotation in the near future. With Gray's contract rising from $10 million in 2024 to $25 million in 2025, it would be huge for them to not have to pay another starter big bucks next year.