THE ROTATION

The Rotation

Starting today, 29 other General Managers hate John Mozeliak. 

No, not because he's a daper gent with a menagerie of exotic bowties and horn-rimed glasses. But because when Mr. Mozeliak steps out on to the practice fields in Jupiter Florida, he won't look upon his collection of starting pitchers and wonder just how in the hell he's going to make it through the year.

No.

He's got 7 guys for 5 spots. The Cardinals WILL have long-relief pitchers that would be in the top 3 of many other teams pecking order.

THE LOCKS:

SP1) Adam Wainwright: Amongst the most durable pitchers in the NL, Wainwright again logged over 30+ starts and 240+ innings in 2013. Barring injury, we can expect him to be the workhorse for the Cardinals in 2014. 

Even more exciting? His 6.26 SO to BB rate in 2013 was a huge improvement of almost 3 from his previous average, allowing him to pitch 5 complete games (2 CG shutouts) and give his team that little extra boost that comes off a huge pitching performance. 

He's also a Gold Glove winner and 20th in the NL MVP voting. 

SP2) Mike Wacha: Ok. Breath. Let's all pledge right here and right now to try and temper our expectations for Mr. Wacha. I know, trust me I KNOW. We all saw that post-season performance. It was mesmerizing. It was stupendous. It was lights-out. He made baseball's best pitcher (Clayton Kershaw) his play toy in the biggest game of his life. 

But he's still only played in 20 games and pitched less than 100 innings in his entire MLB career. 

Sure, Albert Pujols came up and started raking and we all thought there would be a cooling off period that never came. But this is a different beast. Wacha is going to have to learn…

You know what, nevermind… WACHA. WACHA FOR PRESIDENT. 

WOULD REALLY HAVE TO HACK SOMEONE OFF:

SP3) Shelby Miller: We're not getting the straight dope on what happened to Shelby Miller in the '13 postseason. He'll be asked about it this week. So will Matheny and Mo. But they'll all give non-answers and say they're concentrating on '14.

And in a way, they're all right. What's done is done. A post-season benching for a dude that was 15-9 with 169 strikeouts and a 3rd place in the Rookie of the Year voting was weird. But maybe the postseason just got away from Matheny in regards to Miller.

None of it changes the fact that Miler would be THE crown jewel of about 26 other teams farm systems and it sucks for him that Mike Wacha is on this staff… because we all forget just how much potential this dude has. Oh, and he's spent 4 months stewing about that postseason.

THINGS ARE GETTING INTERESTING:

SP4) Jamie Garcia: Doesn't it feel like forever since Garcia pitched for the Cardinals? It wasn't though. He got the W on May 17th of last year against the Brewers before getting shut down for the season with a shoulder injury.

Now he's back. And he's making 7.75M dollars this year. So the Cardinals are going to give him every opportunity to be in the starting rotation. He's a true wildcard in two senses:

1 – Is he actually healthy? He's only made 29 starts in the past 2 seasons going 12-9 over that span. 

2 – If he is healthy, is he the most likely trade candidate? His salary jumps to 9.25M in '15, but can be bought out of his contracts for '16 and '17 for 1M. So let's say he comes back and proves for a month or two that he's well. Now other teams are looking at that combined 23+ and sees what could be a front of the rotation guy they could gamble on with those aforementioned buyouts.

Garcia is 27 and entering the prime of his career. But there is no doubt that '14 is a crossroads. Is he the guy the Cardinals extended with hopes he'd be a solid fixture in the rotation for years? Or is he an unlucky player that wasn't destined to do something as odd to his body as pitching?

SP5) Joe Kelly: Mike Matheny is not a dumb man. He knows he's got the horsepower to win this race. And he's going with Joe Kelly as the 5th starter because he's the least likely guy to put the job into the wall.

He was 10-5 in '13 with 1.35 WHIP / 2.69 ERA / 2.6 WAR. Considering he was bouncing back and forth from the pen to the rotation, I'd argue that these numbers are damn impressive. But the fact that he said zero peeps about his uncertain role throughout last season and headed into this season?

That's the kind of stuff managers eat with a spoon. 

And hell, it's not like Kelly is some old-timer with no room for improvement. He's pitched 231 innings in his career total. He's been in 61 games. He's 25 years old. He can get better. He probably WILL get better. With all the super young guys wanting to be a starter, Kelly has kind of been pegged as some old-timer that's just pretty good.

Truth is – he might just be the surprise of the spring.

JUST MISSED:

SP6) Lance Lynn: Because Joe Kelly is getting the nod, Lance Lynn is the odd man out. 

34-18 doesn't get you what it once did, I suppose. 

Listen, Lance Lynn is a good MLB pitcher. A former All-Star pitcher. He's also only been in the bigs for 3 seasons (side: really?!). He's going to get some starts in 2014 because of some reason or another. He's got the fastball to let loose in relief appearances.

Actually, you know what. I just spent far too much time trying to look up stats that prove why Lynn shouldn't be in the rotation. But funk that. Dude is good. Really good. He's just playing on a loaded team with some guys that are bit better. Sucks for the (former) big guy.

WILDCARDS:

1) Carlos Martinez: Dude has electric stuff. If he comes out and can't be denied? Well decisions will have to be made. Can't be any slip-ups, though. He can't give any ammunition to keep him out of the rotation if he wants a spot.

2) Tyler Lyons: Don't think this is happening. He'll get a look, but for '14 he's destined to be the new Joe Kelly, getting used in all sorts of areas.

3) Injuries: If a bunch of dudes get hurt… then a bunch of new dudes get a shot. 

Now let's watch as none of this happens and we can all make fun of me for putting it out on the internet for everyone to laugh at. 

athooks

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