The addition of Matthew Liberatore to the Cardinals' rotation has excited many, but what are fair expectations for the left-hander?
With just how bad the St. Louis Cardinals rotation has been this year, it's almost a blessing and a cure to be asked to be a part of the solution. There is a very low bar to cross in order to provide an improvement for the rotation, but there will also be those who are disappointed by arms not producing like the ace they still need. For Matthew Liberatore, fans need to make sure they have proper expectations for the top prospect.
Liberatore has a bright future as a starter in this league. 2022 was not the finest year of his career, and many began to cast doubt on what he could be as a starter, but Liberatore bounced back in a huge way this year.
After seeing major improvement in his velocity, strikeout rate, and lowering of his WHIP, Liberatore posted a 3.13 ERA in eight starts for the Memphis Redbirds this year. Upon his call up to St. Louis this year, he spun five shutout innings with six strikeouts while allowing three hits and three walks.
Matthew Liberatore should give the rotation higher upside, but he's not going to be the ace they need
Many have clamored for Liberatore to replace Steven Matz in the rotation, and it appears that he may be getting his shot to do so. After being unfairly asked to be a bullpen arm this last week, Liberatore got his second start of the season and may get a bit of an extended run in the rotation to prove he belongs.
Liberatore was not sharp in his second start, going five innings once again, but allowing four runs on five hits and two walks while striking out only two from one of the league's worst offenses in the Cleveland Guardians.
Sure, there are scenarios where Liberatore ends up failing and being removed from the rotation, but if the Cardinals give him an extended look, I believe he'll prove to be an upgrade over what the club has been getting from Matz. Honestly, I'd expect him to be better than Adam Wainwright too, barring a major turnaround from him, giving the Cardinals a significant boost to their rotation.
But if fans begin to expect more from Liberatore, they'll be setting themselves up for disappointment. That's no knock again Liberatore, but rather an assessment of how fans can expect too much out of young players at times.
Not only would Liberatore becoming a solid number four or so starter in the rotation be a boost to this year's club, but it would be a significant development for the future of this club. If the Cardinals are going to be aggressive and upgrade the top of their rotation, they are going to need to have cost-controlled starters like Liberatore at the back of their rotation. The Cardinals need to be patient with Liberatore this year not just for the sake of their current rotation, but their future one as well.